The moment your head hits the pillow, your mind begins to race. You’re thinking about everything. Your job, finances, that thing you said (or didn’t say), and a long list of other things that make you anxious. Then, you check the time and it’s much later than you thought. Sound familiar? Anxiety and sleep are intertwined, and one can affect the other.
How Are Anxiety and Sleep-Related?
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether you’re having trouble sleeping because you’re anxious, or you’re anxious because you’re having problems falling asleep. Stress or anxiety can cause sleeping problems or worsen the ones you already have. Researchers have found that the relationship between sleep problems and anxiety are bidirectional, which means sleep problems can cause anxiety and anxiety can disrupt your sleep.
Both anxiety and sleep problems can impact how you function emotionally, physically, and mentally.
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Anxiety and Insomnia
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that’s characterized by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep for extended periods of time. Anxiety is characterized by intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Occasional anxiety is normal and not a cause for concern, but many people develop more acute, recurring, and overpowering anxiety, which can affect overall health and ability to sleep well.
Some people suffer from both anxiety and insomnia, with each symptom being independent of the other. Because these two conditions can exacerbate each other it can be difficult to treat both independently.
9 Tips for Managing Night-Time Anxiety
If you’re experiencing anxiety at night and it’s hampering your ability to sleep, here are some things you can do relax your mind:
- Meditate. Even a few minutes of sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing can help calm your mind. You can also explore apps that can guide you through the process.
- Exercise. People who exercise regularly fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. Even moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, can help you sleep better.
- Take time to wind down. Having a bedtime routine allows your body and mind to calm down before you turn the lights off and prepare to sleep. Try to take at least 30 minutes to read, listen to quiet music, or take a bath.
- Avoid stressful activities before bed. Avoid watching the news, paying bills, or engaging in heated social exchanges just before bedtime.
- Make a to-do list. Making a list of what you need to accomplish the next day can help you avoid worrying about it when you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep.
- Tense and relax. While you’re in bed, try squeezing your toes for several seconds, then relax them. Then do the same thing with your legs and the rest of your body. Doing this can help your body relax and make it easier for you to fall asleep.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you’re still awake after 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing like reading or having an herbal tea. Avoid watching tv or checking your phone because the light they emit can signal your brain that it’s time to wake up.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol. Consuming too much caffeine or having it late in the day can increase anxiety and inhibit sleep. Having alcohol close to bedtime can increase your heart rate and keep you awake.
- Seek help. If trying the above tips isn’t working and you’re still having trouble with anxiety and falling asleep, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor or a counselor. Sleep problems and anxiety are very treatable.
Learn More About Sleep Disorders at Baptist Health
For more information on common sleep problems, contact the Baptist Health Sleep team today.