Difficulty falling and staying asleep is an all-too-common complaint. What many don't realize is how often sleep problems may be related to anxiety. Maintaining good sleep hygiene and managing anxiety don't always go hand-in-hand, leaving many feeling tired and frustrated in the morning.
Keep a Routine
One of the most helpful things you can do for your anxiety and sleep is to stick to a routine. Teach your body what to expect and when. Get in the habit of getting up and going to bed at about the same time, and schedule in regular exercise and mealtimes. Tackling anxiety is all the more challenging when your body's basic needs aren't being met.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Not only do television, cell phones, and computers keep your mind too active for too long, the blue light from electronics can interfere with sleep. According to the Harvard Health Letter, "blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night." To minimize the impact of blue light on your sleep, the Harvard Health Letter suggests avoiding screen time 2 to 3 hours before bed or investing in blue-blocking glasses, like these. Swap out blue night lights and clocks for those with dim red displays, which interfere the least with sleep. Finally, get as much exposure to bright lights as much as you can during the day. You want to work with your body's natural cues for sleeping since anxiety makes it hard enough.
Don't Stay in Bed Awake
Once you find yourself laying bed, wide awake, counting the minutes you have left until your alarm goes off, it's time to get out of bed. Take 20 to 30 minutes and go into another room and try reading, meditating, or writing, avoiding the internet and social media. When you feel yourself beginning to get tired, go back to laying down in bed.
Laying in bed at night, not sleeping, many of us find our brains won't turn off. Sometimes we're thinking of things we need to be doing, things we forgot to do today, or things we're worried we're going to forget to do tomorrow. Keep a notebook at your bedside! If you find these things rolling around in your mind while you're trying to sleep, jot them down for safekeeping until the morning. Making a list takes the pressure off of your brain to remember.
Incorporate Guided Meditation
Guided meditation is a form of meditation where a narrator guides you through relaxing your mind and body. There is a wide variety of guided meditations for sleep available online, like this one! Guided meditation gives the listener something to focus on besides anxious thoughts, relieving anxiety about having anxiety. Guided meditations often utilize calming sounds or music to accompany the narrator's voice to further induce relaxation. Find one that you find calming, and don't put any pressure on yourself to stay awake until the end. You can always listen again tomorrow!
Interested in learning more about this and related topics? Visit the Mental Health section of our blog.
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