It can seem like there are few things as frustrating as not getting a good night's sleep. Getting the rest, you need helps you to reset for the next day. It gives both your mind and body a chance to rest. So, when you're struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep, it can make a lot of things in life seem more difficult. One of the main causes of insomnia is anxiety. So, if you find yourself wondering, "Is anxiety keeping me awake?" you're probably right.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is just the natural response that we as people have to stress in our life. Many people struggle with anxiety. In fact, it's the most common mental health challenge in the United States. Everyone experiences worry and anxiety in life. However, if you don't know the right way to cope with the anxiety that you have in life, 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 constantly think about the things that are worrying you. Many times, they are things outside of your control. You may have anxiety over your health, your relationship, work, or financial struggles.
When you leave anxiety unchecked, it can cause you to deal with a long list of symptoms. These include things like:
That's just a shortlist of symptoms that you could experience. You may only experience a few symptoms, or you may feel like you have all of them.
How Does Anxiety Impact Sleep?
Anxiety can impact your sleep habit in several ways. Because your mind is constantly running, it's normal to feel exhausted when you are fighting anxiety. Your mind is constantly working while worrying about your current situation, past situation, or all the "what ifs" of the future. So, you might lack energy throughout the day. By the time night rolls around all you want to do is crash into bed and fall asleep.
But, even though your eyes are closed, your mind won't shut off. In the stillness of the night, your anxieties seem even worse. Or, you may be able to fall asleep, but then in the middle of the night, you are wide awake stressing over all the things you're anxious about.
That's what the reality of anxiety looks like. So, when you think, "is anxiety keeping me awake?", there's a good chance that it is. But, don't let that get you down. There are several things that you can try to start getting better rest.
Tips To Get A Better Night's Rest
1. Start Exercising
You might have heard that exercise can improve sleep before. One study found that participating in moderate-intensity exercise during the day can help people to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than if they didn't exercise. However, it's important to make sure that you aren't exercising too close to bedtime. When you do this, you are likely to make it harder to fall asleep.
Don't feel that you need to go out and start an intense workout regime. Start with something light and work to see what works the best for you. Exercise can also be a great way to relieve stress and a healthy way to get your anger out.
2. Reduce Your Amount Of Screen Time
Do you spend a lot of time with technology? It's hard not to. These days we can do pretty much anything from our phones. With this convenience, it's hard not to check your phone with every notification that you get. It's not uncommon for people to lay in bed before going to sleep scrolling through social media. Can you relate?
Well, 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."
It's not realistic to think that you are going to eliminate screen time from your life. But, work on reducing the amount of time that you spend on it, especially when you're getting closer to wanting to go to sleep. 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 will not start creating the melatonin to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
The best way to fix this is to eliminate screen time within the last one or 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 choose what you're going to think about. That means instead of worrying, you choose to put something in your mind to think about that is calming. It could be an inspirational quote, Bible verse, or mantra.
Doing this helps you to stop yourself from worrying 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 help get started. They provide guided meditations that are very helpful when you are just starting. 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 use.
4. Do A Little Journaling
Some people find that it's helpful to write down the things that they're anxious about. This allows them to clear their heads. When you keep everything in, it's easy just to continue worrying about the same thing. You aren't thinking through a solution to whatever it is that you're worried about.
But, when you start writing it all down, it helps you to confront your worries. Sometimes when you can see the things that you are worried about it helps you to see that it's not something worth thinking about. It could be that you are creating things to worry about that aren't real, worried about things that haven't happened yet, or exaggerated details of a situation.
When you're able to see your fears and worries written out, it can help you be able to confront them. You may be able to spot solutions that you wouldn't think about it; you merely kept thinking about it instead of writing it out.
5. Get Out Of Bed
If you have been lying in bed and you haven't been able to fall asleep, get up. It can be frustrating to lay there watching the clock and thinking about the sleep that you're not getting. Sometimes getting up and doing a calm activity for a little while can help you to unwind further and then be able to fall asleep quickly when you lay back down to try again.
But 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, make sure you keep the lights turned down and avoid screens. Try reading a book or having a cup of noncaffeinated tea.
The Importance Of Addressing Anxiety
There are plenty of things that you can do to try to sleep better if you find that anxiety is keeping you awake. However, most of these things are simply band-aids to a bigger problem. Learning how to improve your sleep when you have anxiety can help you get more rest. But, it still doesn't do anything to help you overcome your anxiety.
The best way to improve your sleep long-term is to address the underlying issue-anxiety. Simple changes can help you to find relief from some symptoms of anxiety, but if you want to overcome anxiety, counseling might be the best option.
Anxiety is a treatable mental health challenge. You don't need to continue suffering silently and missing out on valuable sleep. There are several different types of therapy that are effective in treating anxiety. A commonly used form of treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), where you will learn how to control your thoughts to change your behaviors. Therapists can also help you learn additional practical strategies to reduce your anxiety, fall asleep faster, and stay asleep throughout the night.
If you are interested in exploring therapy options, you can start today by connecting with a ReGain therapist.
Remember, while the loss of sleep is a normal symptom of anxiety, it's not one that you have to continue living with. You can overcome anxiety.