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The Curse of Nighttime: Anxiety and Sleep

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Anxiety and Sleep

Anxiety and sleep often go hand in hand.  A side effect of anxiety can often be difficulty sleeping.  Do you ever lie in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, every scenario and worry running through your mind? Do you wake up at 3am with your thoughts racing? This cycle leaves us feeling exhausted and our energy levels on empty.  Often, lack of sleep creates more anxiety and the pattern repeats.

Anxiety and sleep are treatable. Just as we nurture and tend to our physical hygiene, we can introduce behavioral changes to improve sleep known as sleep hygiene. 

  • Create a routine: 30-minutes to an hour before you want to be in bed start preparing your body to reduce the effect of anxiety and sleep.  Some examples include: taking a bath, putting on pajamas, drink some tea, wash your face, brush your teeth, and read in a comfortable place.  Strive to go to bed and wake up at the same time daily (plus or minus 30-minutes).
  • Avoid screens: This includes T.V., tablets, phones, and computers 30-minutes to an hour before bedtime.  The blue light emitted from screens stimulates our brain, impacts our natural circadian rhythms, and suppresses melatonin, a necessary hormone for restful sleep.  Avoiding screens can help to minimize the effect of anxiety and sleep.  To learn more click here.
  • Your bed is for 2 things: Sex and sleep. While many of us enjoy reading in bed and browsing our phones before dozing, stick to this rule to improve sleep hygiene and decrease the impact of anxiety and sleep at night time.  If you like to read, do so in another area or room.  This trains your brain and body what to expect when you get into bed. Also, keep your bedroom a comfortable, cooler temperature with a supportive mattress and pillows.
  • Avoid foods that keep you awake: Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, nicotine, heavy carbohydrates, and protein.  This can impact you lying awake at night increasing anxiety and sleep difficulties.  Try to eat a couple hours before you would like to be in bed and if you need a snack choose something that you know your body responds well to.
  • Don’t clock watch: When you find yourself staring at the clock, mind racing, or worrying get out of bed.  Go sit somewhere else, in a dark or dim lit room, and utilize some relaxation tools or journal until you get sleepy.  Avoid screens during this time to minimize challenges related to anxiety and sleep!

Sleep is one of the building blocks of life (along with exercise and eating).  Not getting enough or restful sleep impacts our emotional, physical, and psychological well being.

Fortunately, utilizing these tools can create lasting change. 

It may be important for you to see a medical doctor to rule out any medical issues that may be impacting your sleep.  As always, I encourage you to reach out to a trained therapist for anxiety treatment in addition to improving your sleep hygiene.  Anxiety and sleep do not have to be a curse.  I wish you sweet dreams and restful sleep!

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