Reclaim your right to a good night’s sleep – without the stress!
Everyone has nights when it’s impossible to fall asleep. Starring at the ceiling, thinking about everything that needs to get done tomorrow and watching the clock as the minutes tick by. For most of people, nights like these are few and far between – thankfully. But what happens when this restlessness becomes a nighttime routine? People who suffer from sleep anxiety struggle with sleeplessness night after night, which can wreak havoc on everything from short term memory to long term health.
According to WebMD, “For most people, getting less than six hours sleep translates into a bigger sleep debt than they may realize. Over a two-week period, missing out on the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep adds up to two full nights’ sleep debt, one study found. If you’re averaging only four hours a night, your brain reacts as though you haven’t slept at all for three consecutive nights.”
Left untreated, sleep anxiety can make lack of sleep even more dangerous.
- Performance issues. Studying for an exam? Polishing up a report? Attention to detail won’t be your strong suit.
- Preventable accidents and injury. Did you know driving drowsy might be even more dangerous than driving drunk. A driver who falls asleep at the wheel is more likely to crash head-on with another vehicle, tree or building without trying to avoid the crash by swerving or braking. In fact, the lack of skid marks on the road after a crash is a strong indicator that the driver fell asleep at the wheel.
- Mood disorders. Snapping at a salesperson, struggling to get along with friends and coworkers, letting little frustrations erupt into quarrels. Nothing turns us into grumpy toddlers faster than exhaustion.
- Health problems. Heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and obesity are just a few health risks your future self won’t thank you for.
Ready to say adios to anxiety and hello to better sleep?
Anxiety disorder or sleep disorder – which came first, the chicken or the egg? Anxiety can cause sleep issues and sleep deprivation can cause an anxiety disorder. Whichever occurred first for you, if you provide relief for one, chances are you’ll help solve the other one too.
“The best ways to reduce your overall stress is to get enough sleep (seven to nine hours a night for most people), eat healthful food, exercise, reach out to supportive pals, and focus on things within your control,” says Women’s Health Magazine.
When you really need to get to sleep and the anxiety monster is sitting on your pillow torturing you, try some of these tips to help you change your behaviors to encourage sleep and kick that monster out of bed.
- Meditate. Focus and visualize your happy place, a vacation, a childhood memory, or use a meditation play list to get yourself to there. Try breathing exercises that encourage calmness and sleep.
- Exercise. Regular exercise is good for you physically, but also emotionally and mentally, increasing mood-enhancing endorphins. Keeping a weekly workout schedule makes your body physically tired, which will help you sleep. If physical activity is a struggle for you, try yoga to promote the same good vibes.
- Prioritize. To help reduce the anxiety of everything that needs to get done, prepare a to-do list before you go to bed. Organize tasks to conquer what’s really important and break down larger tasks into smaller projects. And remember to delegate when possible. You can’t do everything on our own and asking for help can ease stress in a multitude of ways.
- Create a sleep sanctuary. Make your bedroom only a bedroom, not an office, theater or eating space. Your bed should be for sleeping, and that other “S” thing we do in bed. Create a bed(room) you’ll love sleeping in by keeping it cool, dark and quiet. If you need background noise, consider playing soft, calming music to lower your blood pressure and help relax your body and mind. And of course, always make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable enough for you to fall asleep without comfort issues.
- Avoid stress triggers before bed. Arguing with your partner and stimulants like coffee, chocolate, and nicotine are as worrisome at bedtime as the light from your electronic screens. Experts recommend turning off all screens at least 30 minutes before you hope to sleep and spending that time winding down quickly with a good book or chatting quietly with your partner.
- Direct stress away. If you feel yourself carrying a heavy load of anxiety do what you can to redirect that energy. Distract yourself with a hobby, keeping your hands and mind busy is a great way to filter stress out of your body. Don’t have a hobby? Consider learning how to knit or buying an adult coloring book – you can do these with the kids to help teach them relaxation techniques.
- Talk to someone. If your lack of sleep and rising anxiety is out of control, reach out and get help. A trained medical professional or a sleep doctor will get you the help you need. – Let your family and friends know how they can help and if it gets to a point where you can’t control it yourself any longer, contact a sleep doctor or professional therapist.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- 5 golden rules for the best sleep ever
- 6 scientific ways to fall asleep faster
- 7 sneaky sources of drowsiness & fatigue