So What Can You Do To Calm Down So You Can Actually Sleep
Well, first off, theres no substitute for seeking help from a mental health professional.
An anxiety or trauma therapist, in particular, can help work with you to reduce your anxiety and panic symptoms.
According to Hahn, there are specific treatments, like EMDR or sensorimotor psychotherapy, which can be helpful in resetting your nervous system and settling your overactive amygdala thats causing your anxiety disorder.
How To Stop Night
Its been a long, tiring day and youre feeling shattered. Finally you crawl into bed, physically exhausted and ready for a good nights sleep only to find your mind has other ideas. Instead of drifting off into weightless slumber, your brain fires up, your pulse quickens and your head becomes crowded with endless worries you thought had been parked for the day.
Around 80% of people say their worries whirlwind out of control at night, says Nicky Lidbetter, chief executive of support group Anxiety UK. With stress, we tend to worry about a specific, tangible problem. But with anxiety, were less aware of what were worrying about, so our reaction becomes the problem and we start feeling anxious about being anxious.
And even if we do initially drop off, those worries can still crowd in if we wake up during the night. The classic time to wake up seems to be between 2am and 4am, adds Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, author of Fast Asleep, Wide Awake. Suddenly your brain starts to became very active, and problems that may well be solvable during the day become huge worries at night made worse by the fact you cant sort them out there and then.
Heres what to do when your body says sleep but your minds not listening.
1. Sleep by the clock
When it comes to sleep, timing is everything, as Dr Michael Breus reveals in a new ground-breaking book. Our circadian rhythm also known as the biological clock affects every aspect of our life, including our ability to sleep well.
But To Avoid Having Those Nights Altogether Treadway Suggests Developing A Sleep Routine That Can Help With The Transition From Day To Night
This might include taking a 15-minute shower every night, using lavender essential oils, journaling, and meditating. That way were more likely to shift into sleep, and to have better quality sleep.
Ill admit, this is an area I could improve. As a self-employed freelance writer, my bedtime routine often includes working until I feel too tired to type another word and then shutting the lights off and leaving myself alone with my broken thoughts.
But after over two decades of dealing with anxiety, I also know shes right.
The harder I work to take care of myself and stick to routines that help me relax, the easier my anxiety even my nighttime anxiety is to manage.
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Set An Intention Early
Many of us go from one activity to the next throughout our day without really considering how we are feeling, let alone how we would like to feel. For example, do you ever come home after a long day of work and think to yourself, I really want to relax and enjoy this evening?
Most likely you are far too busy or preoccupied to stop and ponder how you want your evening to be. However, by setting an intention early, you are more likely to get the results you want.
If you remind yourself each day that you are determined to have a peaceful evening, you are more likely to actually experience it that way.
Remembering to set an intention is easier when you mark a certain point in your day for it. For example, while driving home from work, you may be going over in your mind all the stress that you went through that day.
At a certain point during your drive home, such as when you drive over a certain bridge or pass a particular landmark, you can set the intention to let go of work stress from that point forward and enjoy the rest of your evening. Another option can be to set an alarm that reminds you to set your intention for a nice evening.
Regardless of what type of prompt works for you, get in the habit of setting your personal objective of how you want to feel each evening.
Habits And Life Changes
Learning to deal with anxiety at night when it arises is useful, but you can also work toward having less bedtime anxiety overall. Research has shown that there are many things you can do to encourage healthy sleep and decrease anxiety during your day. Here are a few things that I have found useful in my work.
Avoid Screens Before Bed
This is one thing you probably already know is bad for you before sleep. Multiple studies have found that screen usage can hurt sleep quality. The blue light of a screen can prevent you from falling asleep and leave you feeling more groggy in the morning. Steer clear of screens for at least an hour before bed. Try reading a book instead, or even listening to music.
What you eat during the day can have a dramatic impact on anxiety levels, especially in the evening. There are nutrients that can reduce anxiety, such as zinc, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. Foods high in sugar and trans fats may worsen symptoms of anxiety. Tune into what you eat, and try to turn toward less-processed, more natural foods to help quell feelings of anxiety in the evening.
Leave the Stimulants
Get Up and Move
Relax Before Bedtime
Dont Spend Time in Bed
Create a Sleep Schedule
A healthy sleep routine is incredibly beneficial. Sleeping and eating on a regular schedule can help give the mind and body the consistency it needs. According to Dr. Natalie Dautovich, the National Sleep Foundations Environmental Scholar:
Get Some Sunshine
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Establish A Bedtime Routine
Establishing a bedtime routine lets you focus on taking proactive steps for yourself instead of ruminating in your anxiety. Your bedtime routine may include activities such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, changing into pajamas, reading from an inspirational book, prayer, or listening to music.
Your bedtime routine should be established to help set you up for better rest. Dont include any activities that may be too overstimulating, such as scrolling through social media or watching TV.
Instead, make your routine calming and quiet, leading up to you falling asleep. This will signal to your brain that it is time to rest and will allow you to go to sleep without an upset and anxious mind.
What Is Anxiety What Are Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a feeling of worry and unease. Its normal to experience anxiety occasionally in response to fearful or stressful situations.
In anxiety disorders, this distress becomes excessive. Fears are not proportional to the situation, and worrying interferes with everyday life. These feelings become persistent, occurring most days for a period of six months or more.
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Set Aside Time For Winding Down
If youve been struggling with sleep anxiety, Dr. Fran Walfish, family and relationship psychotherapist, suggests creating a routine that winds you down and gets you in the mood for sleep. This can include things like dimming the lights, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath.
Walfish also suggests opting for activities like light reading in place of a TV or computer, as using a screen can tend to rev up anxiety and excitatory thresholds versus relax and calm you down.
The best nighttime routine allows your mind and body time to slow down before you turn off the lights. Allot at least 30 minutes to take a bath, read a book, listen to a podcast, or play quiet music. These transition rituals can condition your brain to associate certain actions with preparing for sleep.
Meditation And Calming Techniques
Many relaxation techniques can help you calm your mind before bed and improve sleep. For example, meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises can help you relax, reduce stress and increase inner peace. When unpleasant thought appears, some people who meditate use a mantra or count breaths to manage anxiety. If you practice these calming techniques during the day or in the evening, it will be easier to fall asleep and possibly not to feel anxious at night. Meditation will help you control your thoughts, address the negative ones, and not take them as seriously.
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Mind Mapping For Peace Of Mind
Similar to journaling, mind mapping is one of my favorite ways to declutter my thoughts. This practice blends the artistic/creative side of our brains with the logical side for a powerful organizing tool. I do my mind mapping on paper so that its super easy to make connections in my jumble of thoughts. Its then easier to record or journal things in Notion.
Mind mapping uses the effective combination of pictures + words to get thoughts out onto paper. This decreases stress and anxiety to help our brains chill out and relax at night.
Personal experience: Mind mapping is always the first thing I turn to when my brain is completely overwhelmed. You can learn more in my blog post about how to use mind mapping for clarity, calm, and sleep anxiety.
Establish A Sleep Routine
Developing a ‘wind-down’ routine before bed helps your body recognise when it’s time for sleep.
“Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Even at the weekends, try to get up at a time that isn’t too different to when you get up during the week,” Bijlani advises.
It’s also important to make sure you give yourself time to get the sleep you need, too.
“Going to bed too late and not leaving enough time for sleep may result in you constantly checking the clock and worrying that you’re not going to feel rested the next day,” Bijlani explains. “These negative thought processes can fuel anxiety.”
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Make Wake And Sleep Times Ritualized And Routine
According to a release from the National Alliance on Mental Illness that outlines mental-health coping strategies to invoke during this pandemic, having regular routines can be crucial for combatting stress and feelings of anxiety. That means, regardless of whether youve committed yourself to one before or not, now is a great time to start a morning routine and bedtime routine. Likewise, having a regular bedtime, is absolutely essential, but theres a right and wrong way to go about it. Generally speaking, you want to make sure that youre only using your mattress for sleeping time.
Make sure to get up at the same time every morning sleeping in is only going to worsen things, says sleep specialist Shelby Harris, PsyD, author of The Womens Guide to Overcoming Insomnia. Dont get into bed until youre actually sleepy. If youre not sleepy or sleeping, staying in bed complicates things as well. Get up and do something quiet, relaxing, and in dim light with no screens until you are sleepythen get in bed. It might take some trial-and-error experimenting to set your new wake-and-sleep times , but once you find the two slots that youre comfortable with, stick with them.
Limit The Alcohol Intake
Alcohol is known to be a stimulant as well as a sedative. Many people drink alcohol before going to bed to fall asleep, it also metabolises very quickly, that it can leave the body craving for more. So, when you drink alcohol before bedtime, you are likely to wake up in the early hours, leaving you for a night-time anxiety attack. Thus, if you intend to go to bed at 10 PM, have a glass of wine at 7 PM.
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What Are The Types Of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a core element of a number of specific disorders, although not all are categorized strictly as anxiety disorders.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder : People with GAD have significant, looming worries about many different things that can cause an overarching sense of anxiety.
- Panic Disorder: Extremely intense episodes of fear, known as panic attacks, that usually last for a few minutes at a time are the defining feature of Panic Disorder.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: This disorder involves an extreme fear of social settings and potential embarrassment in front of other people.
- Specific Phobias: Specific phobias are intense fears caused by particular triggers. Some of the most common specific phobias include agoraphobia and separation anxiety.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder : In OCD, a person obsesses about an issue in a negative way such that it provokes anxiety, and this causes a compulsion, which is their attempt to control or eliminate that anxiety. Compulsions are repeated ritually and can directly impact everyday activities.
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder : This condition can arise after a person is exposed to a painful or disturbing situation. People with PTSD may relive the stressful event, feel on-edge, and have potentially debilitating anxiety.
Teapigs Snooze Sleepy Tea
Everyone has heard that chamomile tea can help you sleep. Why? Well, its commonly called a mild tranquilizer and has an antioxidant called apigenin, which binds to specific receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety and help make you sleepy.
This sleepy tea takes chamomile up a notch by also adding in lavender, another ingredient that has been used for centuries to help calm nerves. The tea is also naturally caffeine free and, well, its simply delicious.
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Get Rid Of Your Clock
Clocks can be a common trigger for anxiety, especially when youre trying to fall asleep. Instead of having a clock by your bedside where you can glance at it every time you struggle to fall asleep keep a clock outside your room instead. Looking at the clock will only cause your anxiety to get worse, so avoid it altogether.
Using Relaxation Techniques To Overcome Anxiety At Night
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Healthy Sleep Habits Helps Anxiety
Most doctors will also recommend using sleep hygiene techniques as part of your treatment for sleep anxiety. This simply means ensuring that youre preparing yourself properly for sleep each night.
You might start using a nightly routine where you take a bath before you go to bed and drink a cup of tea to calm your nerves. Other aspects of sleep hygiene include:
- Using a consistent schedule to keep your circadian clock in check.
- Keeping your bedroom cool and comfortable to soothe your body for sleep.
- Eliminating noise and distraction from your bedroom.
- Avoiding exposure to blue light before bed.
Practise A Calming Activity
During and after a panic attack there will be adrenaline pumping through your body so, to calm this response, it can help to get up and do something.
Simple activities like reading, a bit of gentle yoga, colouring in or knitting are ideal. Even just getting up to make a cup of herbal tea will give your mind something else to focus on. A gentle activity like stretching may also help to burn off the adrenaline.
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What Are Some Common Antidepressant Medicines For Anxiety
Two types of antidepressant medicines are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors . Some common SSRIs are escitalopram and sertraline. Some common SNRIs are duloxetine and venlafaxine, extended-release.
Possible side effects of antidepressant medicines include: feeling nervous, feeling tired or trouble sleeping, nausea, weight changes, headache, and sexual problems.
Antidepressants can help with sleep and anxiety. However, talk with your doctor if your difficulty sleeping worsens.
Practice Mindfulness Meditate Or Pray
Meditation, mindfulness and prayer all have similar goals get your mind off future worries and focus on the present. Try to put yourself in a mindful state when you first wake up. Objectively observe your feelings, thoughts and bodily state while trying not to react to them. Take some deep breaths, turning your focus away from what you cant control and turning it toward what you can.