Is Anxiety Keeping You Awake? 5 Tips To Get A Better Night's Rest
Getting the rest you need can give both your mind and body a chance to reset for the next day. So, when you're struggling to fall or stay asleep, it can make a lot of things in life seem more challenging. Difficulty falling or staying asleep, which is sometimes experienced as insomnia, can be just one sign of anxiety. If anxious thoughts and feelings are keeping you awake at night, there are ways to overcome your symptoms and get a better night’s rest. In this article, we’ll be exploring five different ways you can quell your anxiety to get more sleep.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response to stress and something many people struggle with. In fact, it's the most common mental health challenge in the United States. Most people experience worry and anxiety from time to time; however, if you don't know the right way to cope with the anxiety you have, it can turn into a much larger problem.
Uncontrolled anxiety can impact your mental, physical, and emotional health. When you are constantly under stress, it can be hard to focus on anything else. You may only be able to think about the things that are worrying you, and many times, these things are outside of your control. You may have anxiety over your health, your relationship, work, or financial struggles. When you leave anxiety unaddressed, it may lead to a long list of symptoms like:
- Digestive issues
- High blood pressure
- Irritability and lack of patience
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty concentrating
This list is not exhaustive, and you may only experience a few symptoms at a time or have all of them at once.
How Does Anxiety Impact Sleep?
Anxiety, especially at night, can impact your sleeping habits in several different ways.
Since your mind is constantly running while worrying about your current situation, past situations, or all the "what ifs" of the future, it's normal to feel exhausted when you are fighting anxiety. So, you might lack energy throughout the day. By the time night rolls around, all you may want to do is crash into bed and fall asleep, but even though your eyes are closed, your mind may still not shut off. In the stillness of the night, your anxieties can seem even worse. Or you may be able to fall asleep, but then in the middle of the night, you might be wide awake stressing over all the things you're anxious about. This is what the reality of anxiety can look like, but there are several things that you can try to start getting more rest each night.
Tips To Get A Better Night's Rest
1. Start Exercising
Exercise can help improve sleep by reducing the amount of time it takes to get sleepy. One study found that participating in moderate-intensity exercise during the day helped people to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than if they didn't exercise. However, it can be important to make sure that you aren't exercising too close to bedtime. When you do this, you may make it harder, rather than easier, to fall asleep. Don't feel that you need to go out and start an intense workout regime. Start with something light and work your way up in intensity as needed. Exercise can be an effective way to relieve stress and a healthy way to get your anger out, meaning it can contribute to both physical and mental health.
2. Reduce Your Amount Of Screen Time
Do you spend a lot of time on technology? Since we can do pretty much anything from our phones or laptops, it can be hard not to. With the convenience offered by technology, it’s often difficult not to check your phone with every notification that you get. It's also not uncommon for people to lay in bed before going to sleep scrolling through social media, checking their bank accounts, or watching funny videos. Can you relate?
Studies are finding that increased screen time hurts your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. One study found that "longer average screen time was associated with shorter sleep duration and worse sleep efficiency."
While it may not be realistic to think that you’re going to be able to eliminate screen time from your life, you can work on reducing the amount of time that you spend on it, especially when you're getting closer to your bedtime. Your brain naturally creates melatonin, which is the hormone that helps your body sleep. However, when your body is exposed to light, like the blue light emitted from cell phones, it signals the brain that it's still daytime. Therefore, your body doesn’t start creating the melatonin to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. An effective way to fix this is to eliminate screen time within the last one to two hours before you go to sleep.
3. Learn To Meditate
Meditation can help you learn how to turn off the anxious thoughts that are running through your mind and keeping you awake. Instead of allowing your thoughts to turn to anything they want, you can learn how to choose what you're going to think about. That means instead of worrying, you can choose to put something else in your mind that is more calming. This could be an inspirational quote, Bible verse, or mantra.
Meditation can relax your mind and alleviate some of the symptoms that come along with anxiety, such as insomnia. If you are new to meditation, there are several different apps that you can use to get started. They provide guided meditations that can be useful when you are just starting out. Once you are comfortable with the process, you can continue using the apps or meditate on your own. A few apps that you can check out include Calm, Headspace, and Stop, Breathe & Think. All three of these have a free option that you can utilize to learn meditation, manage your anxious thoughts, and get a better night of rest.
4. Try Journaling
Some people find that it's helpful to write down the things that they're anxious about because it allows them to clear their heads. When you keep everything in, it can be easier to continue worrying about the same things because you aren't thinking about how to fix whatever it is that you're worried about.
Journaling about your worries and fears may make them seem less intimidating once they’re on paper. Sometimes when you can see the things that you are worried about, it helps you see that these are not things worth taking up space in your mind. It could be that you are creating things to worry about that aren't real, worried about things that haven't happened yet, or exaggerating the details of a situation. When you're able to see your fears and worries written out, it can help you feel more confident in confronting them. You may be able to come up with potential solutions that you wouldn’t have thought of before if you’d kept everything inside.
If you’re about to go to bed and can’t shut your mind off, journaling can help you get your anxious thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Knowing that you don’t have to keep track of them and can come back to them later can quell your worries and help you get some rest.
5. Get Out Of Bed
If you have been lying in bed and you haven't been able to fall asleep, try getting out of bed for a bit. It can be frustrating to lay there watching the clock and thinking about the sleep that you're not getting. This may make you more anxious and less likely to fall asleep. Sometimes getting up and doing calming activities for a little while can help you to unwind further and then be able to fall asleep quickly when you lay back down again.
Remember, this is not the time to turn the lights up bright, play on your phone, or have a cup of coffee. The goal is to be able to work yourself back into going to sleep easily. So, ensure you keep the lights turned down and avoid screens. Try reading a book, having a cup of noncaffeinated tea, listening to music, meditating, or practicing deep-breathing exercises. Getting into a clearer headspace may allow you to sleep more easily once you try again.
Online Counseling For Anxiety
If you’re struggling with anxiety or some other concern is keeping you awake at night, it could be helpful to confide in a mental health professional. You can connect with a therapist through Regain, a virtual counseling platform. With online counseling, you can chat with a therapist from your home or anywhere you have a stable internet connection and some type of smart device. A therapist can help you learn practical strategies to reduce your anxiety, fall asleep faster, and stay asleep throughout the night. This can contribute to your physical and mental well-being and allow you to function more effectively throughout the day. Remember, while the loss of sleep is a normal symptom of anxiety, it's not one that you must continue living with. You can overcome anxiety with the right tools and support.
The Effectiveness Of Online Counseling For Anxiety
Online counseling can be beneficial for those experiencing generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In one study, researchers found that an internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy intervention reduced symptoms of pathological worry and was just as effective as those performed face-to-face. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, teaches people how to confront their negative thinking patterns to support more helpful behaviors.
There are plenty of things that you can do to try to get more sleep at night if you find that anxiety is keeping you awake. While these may be helpful, they could also simply be band-aids to a bigger problem. One of the most effective ways to improve your sleep long-term can be to address the underlying anxiety contributing to your loss of sleep. Simple changes can help you to find relief from some symptoms of anxiety, but if you want to overcome anxiety, counseling might be a helpful next step. You can connect with a therapist locally or through an online counseling platform like Regain. A therapist can work with you to identify the root cause of your anxiety and give you tools for overcoming it.
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