Instead of winding down for a good night’s sleep, are the thoughts in your head racing? As you switch off the lights and adjust yourself in bed, your brain might just be the one refusing to switch off. Staring wide-eyed at the ceiling anticipating tomorrow’s wave of worries won’t miraculously dissolve your fears.
For many, mental health is a serious barrier to achieving a good night’s sleep. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. and affect a staggering 40 million adults in the U.S alone.
Anxiety disrupts sleep, and sleep problems cause anxiety – so how can we address this vicious cycle? This article looks at the association between the two and ways to help you sleep better if you have an anxiety disorder.
8 Tips To Achieve Better Sleep With Anxiety
Sleep, as we all know, is essential for general good health. Sleep deprivation affects us physically, emotionally, and mentally, contributing to mood and behavioral problems, irritability, and even depression. Studies show that a lack of sleep increases anxiety, and anxiety causes sleep disruptions, presenting a vicious cycle.
Unfortunately, everyone gets worried or anxious at some point in their lives, whether it’s moving to a new place, welcoming home a new family member or starting a new job. But for those with anxiety disorders, falling asleep and getting at least six core hours of sleep each night is a rare occurrence and one difficult to achieve.
However, some steps help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep for longer:
- Keep to a regular routine
- Get natural daylight
- Stay active during the day
- Find ways to relax before bed
- Keep the bedroom dark, cool and quiet
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants
- Avoid electronic devices before bed
- Don’t prolong your stay in bed if you are awake
Maintain the Body’s Internal Clock
A regular daily routine keeps us focused and helps sustain our body’s internal clock, keeping our circadian rhythm in sync. Try to maintain some control of your sleep-wake cycle by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, particularly on weekends and holidays. Eating meals and exercising at the same time each day keeps us in check and helps us to prepare the body to sleep better.
From time to time, we all experience a night of poor sleep and may try to compensate by staying in bed longer the following morning or going to sleep earlier that evening.
But studies show that lying awake in bed for prolonged periods psychologically affects the brain resulting in even worse sleep on subsequent nights. Break this cycle by getting out of bed when you can’t sleep and doing something to help you switch off and relax, only returning to bed when you feel sufficiently sleepy.
Getting natural light can positively impact mental and physical wellbeing. Spending time outside during daylight hours, such as going for a quiet walk, works wonders for our bodies and helps set our sleep patterns.
Sometimes simply placing yourself next to an open window breathing in the fresh air can reset your internal body clock, making you more alert during the day and more relaxed in the evening when it’s darker.
Create a Calm Environment
Simple measures such as keeping the bedroom free from clutter and in a cool, dark and calm environment are vital in getting a good night’s sleep. Consider using blackout blinds that block out light from the outside, particularly if you are an early riser and have difficulty getting back to sleep again.
Bedding, mattresses and pillows should be supportive and comfortable, and good sleepwear regulating body heat can affect how well you sleep.
Allowing time to relax and wind down at the end of the day can be beneficial when you’re feeling stressed and anxious. Listening to soothing music, reading or having a hot bath can help your body wind down before bed.
Some find light meditation, deep breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques make it easier to settle into bed. Do whatever relaxes you and makes you feel good before going to bed.
Although reading is relaxing, eReaders and other electronic devices that emit blue light (televisions, computers, tablets) keep us awake and more alert, affecting our circadian timing, making it challenging to adjust to sleeping.
Tire Out The Body
Regular exercise uses up energy stored in the body, sufficiently tiring it for the end of the day, improving sleep. You don’t need to go to the gym; build in physical activity in your daily routine by dancing to music, taking a quick stroll outside or doing extra chores around the house.
Not only does exercise release endorphins which are feel-good hormones that help to alleviate mood; it also improves cardiac and muscle strength, lowers blood pressure and helps relieve stress and anxiety.
However, try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime and avoid napping during the day.
Watch What You Consume
We are a coffee-loving nation, and we drink to keep us awake and increase our mental performance. However, stimulants, such as caffeine found in coffee, tea, chocolate and some soft drinks, may negatively affect subsequent sleep, resulting instead in daytime sleepiness.
Eating or drinking large amounts immediately before bed can induce heartburn. Heartburn is a burning-like sensation radiating upwards between the rib cage caused by upward travel of stomach acid, which can be worse in the evening when lying down to sleep.
While an occasional glass of wine may initially help you fall asleep quicker, too much alcohol negatively affects sleep quality, making you feel insufficiently rested upon waking the following morning.
Some medicines may have side effects that cause insomnia or other sleep disruptions. Check these with your doctor or pharmacist and switch to alternatives where possible.
Our busy lives never stop, with new situations that bring their fears and worries, affecting our mental wellbeing. Minor stresses are inevitable and a part of daily life, but excessive, persistent worrying may progress into an anxiety disorder.
Those with anxiety disorders fear everyday situations with such intense and excessive panic that maintains the brain in persistent ‘fight or flight’ mode for no particular reasons other than daily life stresses.
When we are anxious, adrenaline levels rise higher than usual, tensing up our muscles and increasing our heart rate. This makes it difficult for us to fall asleep and stay asleep and can cause us to wake up too early.
When To Seek Professional Help
Stress and anxiety may not go away independently; it may be necessary to seek medical help before anxiety gets worse over time.
Seek help if you feel:
- Your worry or fear is overwhelming and becoming increasingly difficult to control.
- Anxiety is causing you to feel hopeless, and you have suicidal thoughts or behaviours.
- your lack of sleep is severely affecting your mental and physical body to function normally in everyday life.
Whilst there are many different methods to improve both sleep quality and quantity, what works for one individual may not work for another. Taking your time to try different strategies – finding the correct one might be just what your brain needs to switch off at night.
+ 16 sources
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Do relaxing activities before bed, such as meditation or listening to soft, peaceful music. Don't consume caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. Don't go to bed unless you feel sleepy. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.How can I get better sleep in 2023? ›
- Create a Wind-Down Routine. ...
- Put Away Your Phone. ...
- Ensure Your Room is Dark. ...
- Set a Comfortable Temperature. ...
- Restrict Caffeine Late in the Day. ...
- Avoid Eating and Drinking Shortly Before Bedtime. ...
- Limit the Activities You Do in Bed. ...
- Get Your Daily Steps.
23, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Getting good sleep may have long-term benefits -- even extending your life span, a new study suggests. Researchers found that young people with better sleep habits were incrementally less likely to die early. About 8% of deaths from any cause could be attributed to poor sleep patterns.Why does anxiety get worse at night? ›
Why Is Anxiety Worse at Night? Anxiety can get worse at night as people find themselves focusing more on their worries once they are lying in bed without the distractions of the day. For example, sometimes people with insomnia may begin to develop worries about whether or not they will be able to fall asleep.How do I rewire my brain to sleep? ›
- Don't consume caffeine.
- Relax before bedtime.
- Eat at the right time.
- Keep regular sleep and wake up times.
- Get active!
- Go offline.
- Don't let your worries wake you.
- A comfortable bedroom.
- Stick to a regular bedtime and rising time.
- Get lots of daylight, but avoid bright light before bedtime.
- Use your bed only for sleeping or lovemaking, never for reading or watching TV. ...
- Don't nap during the day unless it's absolutely necessary. ...
- Get plenty of exercise. ...
- Wind down late in the day.
Most adults need 7 or more hours of good-quality sleep on a regular schedule each night. Getting enough sleep isn't only about total hours of sleep. It's also important to get good-quality sleep on a regular schedule so you feel rested when you wake up.What is the sleep brain rule? ›
The third brain rule looks at the connection between sleep and how our brains work. The key message about this rule is that "loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity."Why does my sleep become worse as I age? ›
As you age your body produces lower levels of growth hormone, so you'll likely experience a decrease in slow wave or deep sleep (an especially refreshing part of the sleep cycle). When this happens you produce less melatonin, meaning you'll often experience more fragmented sleep and wake up more often during the night.What foods help you sleep fast? ›
- Almonds. Almonds are a type of tree nut with many health benefits. ...
- Turkey. Turkey is delicious and nutritious. ...
- Chamomile tea. ...
- Kiwi. ...
- Tart cherry juice. ...
- Fatty fish. ...
- Walnuts. ...
- Passionflower tea.
- Warm milk.
- Chamomile tea.
- Tart cherries.
- Fatty fish.
- Barley grass powder.
- Get ready to “go there” ...
- Be a storyteller, not an ruminator. ...
- Talk to a stranger. ...
- Deactivate the “Me Centers” of your brain by meditating. ...
- Focus on someone else. ...
- Learn what mindfulness really is.
Cognitive: anxiety can affect your thoughts. You may have trouble thinking clearly, lay awake with doubts or racing thoughts, or anticipate bad outcomes. You may feel overstimulated and unable to sleep. Emotional: anxiety can cause emotional responses such as fear, uncertainty, uneasiness, and feeling trapped or stuck.How do I stop negative thoughts and anxiety? ›
- Pause a Moment. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, or stuck in negative thinking patterns, PAUSE. ...
- Notice the Difference. NOTICE the difference between being stuck in your thoughts vs. ...
- Label Your Thoughts. ...
- Choose Your Intention.
A big event or a buildup of smaller stressful life situations may trigger excessive anxiety — for example, a death in the family, work stress or ongoing worry about finances. Personality. People with certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders than others are.Does anxiety get worse with age? ›
Does anxiety get worse with age? Anxiety disorders don't necessarily get worse with age, but the number of people suffering from anxiety changes across the lifespan. Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults.How can I control my anxiety without medication? ›
- Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
- Avoid Stimulants. ...
- Get Enough Sleep. ...
- Just Breathe. ...
- Practice Mindfulness. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Do What You Enjoy. ...
- Where to Get Help.
If you wake up at 3 a.m. or another time and can't fall right back asleep, it may be for several reasons. These include lighter sleep cycles, stress, or underlying health conditions. Your 3 a.m. awakenings may occur infrequently and be nothing serious, but regular nights like this could be a sign of insomnia.What medication is good for racing thoughts at night? ›
Antidepressants: Certain antidepressants can be effective in treating anxiety and racing thoughts. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used. Antihistamines: Some over-the-counter antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), can have a sedating effect and may be used to help with sleep.Why won't my body let me sleep? ›
Anxiety, stress, and depression are some of the most common causes of chronic insomnia. Having difficulty sleeping can also make anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms worse. Other common emotional and psychological causes include anger, worry, grief, bipolar disorder, and trauma.
What should you do when you wake up in the middle of the night? The next time you wake up at 3 a.m. (or whatever time), give yourself 15 to 20 minutes to doze back into dreamland. It's OK. If you're awake longer than that, it's best to get out of bed, advises Dr.Why do I wake up at 2am and can't go back to sleep? ›
Reasons this might happen include drinking caffeine or alcohol late in the day, a poor sleep environment, a sleep disorder, or another health condition. When you can't get back to sleep quickly, you won't get enough quality sleep to keep you refreshed and healthy.Why can't I sleep at night even when I'm tired? ›
If you're tired but can't sleep, it may be a sign that your circadian rhythm is off. However, being tired all day and awake at night can also be caused by poor napping habits, anxiety, depression, caffeine consumption, blue light from devices, sleep disorders, and even diet.What medications increase deep sleep? ›
The “Z” Sedative-Hypnotics
Zolpidem (Ambien, Intermezzo), zaleplon (Sonata), and eszopiclone (Lunesta) work as facilitators/agonists of GABA A receptors in the body's central nervous system to inhibit brain activity. In clinical studies, these drugs have been shown to improve onset and duration of sleep.
To promote your bed-sleep connection, follow the quarter-of-an-hour rule: if you notice that you aren't asleep within around 15 minutes of going to bed, try getting out of bed, go to another room go through your wind down routine until you are feeling sleepy-tired and ready to return to bed for sleep.Does magnesium before bed help you sleep? ›
Not only can magnesium help you get to sleep, but it plays a part in helping you achieve deep and restful sleep as well. In one study, older adults were given 500 mg of magnesium or a placebo. Overall, the magnesium group had better quality of sleep.What are 3 rules for better sleep? ›
- Be consistent. ...
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom.
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
- Get some exercise.
10 hours before bed: No more caffeine. 3 hours before bed: No more food or alcohol. 2 hours before bed: No more work. 1 hour before bed: No more screen time (shut off all phones, TVs and computers).What is the most efficient sleep? ›
Most of us agree that a monophasic sleep pattern – rising in the morning and sleeping at night – is best.What time does the body repair itself? ›
Between the times of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am the body goes through a dramatic process of physical repair. Between roughly 2:00 am and 6:00 am the body will go through a process of psychological repair. A disrupted sleep pattern will cause the Cortisol to elevate and negatively affect the regenerative process.
Melatonin is regulated not only by that circadian oscillator but acts as a darkness signal, providing feedback to the oscillator. Melatonin has both a soporific effect and an ability to entrain the sleep-wake rhythm. It also has a major role in regulating the body temperature rhythm.How much sleep does it take to reset your brain? ›
Then, after 6 to 8 hours of sleep during the day, those synapses shrank by about 18 percent as the brain reset for another night of activity.What time should a 70 year old go to bed? ›
According to their internal body clock, most older adults need to go to sleep around 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. and wake up at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Many people fight their natural inclination to sleep and choose to go to bed several hours later instead.What is the safest sleeping pill for the elderly? ›
In the elderly, should prescription medication be necessary, the first-line treatment is nonbenzodiazepines (e.g., zolpidem, eszopiclone, zaleplon, and ramelteon) as they have been found to be safer and better tolerated than tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines, and benzodiazepines.What is the most common sleep problem in elderly? ›
Insomnia in the Elderly
In elderly individuals, sleep‐maintenance insomnia and early awakening are more common complaints than sleep‐onset insomnia; this is likely due to the age‐related changes in sleep architecture and circadian rhythm described above.
The best stress-relieving drinks include ginger, chamomile tea, valerian, black tea, coconut water, milk, green tea, coffee, lemon balm tea, water, and vegetable and fruit juice. Aromatherapy is another self-soothing practice shown to have benefits for mental health.What fruit is best at night? ›
Cherries are known for being one of the best foods for sleep as they naturally contain melatonin. Snacking on cherries or drinking cherry juice can help promote longer, deeper sleep.Why you should avoid leaving a glass of water near your bed? ›
New research says that dust and germs can collect in the cup in just a few hours. Have you ever woken up dehydrated in the middle of the night and reached for a glass of water right by your bed? Well, that could be unhealthy. New research says that dust and germs can collect in your glass of water in just a few hours.What should you eat when you cant sleep? ›
Foods include: whole-grain bread, pasta, crackers and brown rice. Foods include: peanut butter and nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios. Foods include: spinach, nuts, seeds, avocados and black beans. Beverages include: warm milk and herbal teas such as chamomile or peppermint.What fruit is highest in melatonin? ›
1. Cherries. Cherries (especially sour cherries like the Montmorency variety) are one of the only (and highest) natural food sources of melatonin. Studies have shown a boost in circulating melatonin after consumption of cherries, though sweet cherries have half the melatonin content as sour cherries.
Eggs and fish are higher melatonin-containing food groups in animal foods, whereas in plant foods, nuts are with the highest content of melatonin. Some kinds of mushrooms, cereals and germinated legumes or seeds are also good dietary sources of melatonin.Does peanut butter help you sleep? ›
Peanut butter also provides many micronutrients and is a good source of vitamin E. Additionally, it contains the amino acid tryptophan, which the body needs to make serotonin and melatonin . Both melatonin and serotonin help regulate the sleep-wake cycle and promote quality sleep .What is a bedtime snack? ›
Tryptophan helps improve sleep by helping make melatonin and serotonin. Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds also contain tryptophan. Sprinkling pumpkin seeds on your oats or yogurt give an added crunchy texture. Cashews and walnuts are also considered good nut options for sleep.What foods make you sleepy at night? ›
- Chamomile tea. Drinking chamomile tea is known to have a calming effect, which is why Poon says it's a great way to wind down and relax the body in the evening. ...
- Holy basil. ...
- Pistachios. ...
- Tart cherries. ...
- Goji berries. ...
- Avocados. ...
- Walnuts. ...
- Pumpkin seeds.
Catching up on sleep doesn't reverse damage to the body caused by sleep deprivation, according to a new study. In fact, so-called recovery sleep may make some things worse. About one of every three adults regularly gets less than seven hours of sleep a night. Over time, lack of sleep can lead to changes in metabolism.How can I fix my sleep permanently? ›
- Adjust your bedtime, but be patient. ...
- Do not nap, even if you feel tired. ...
- Do not sleep in, and get up at the same time each day. ...
- Avoid exposure to light before sleep. ...
- Avoid exercising too close to bedtime. ...
- Watch what you eat close to bedtime.
3 hours before bedtime – no more alcohol or food. 2 hours before bedtime – no more work. 1 hour before bedtime – no more screen time. 0 times you hit the snooze button in the morning.Will there ever be an alternative to sleep? ›
Dr. Philip Gehrman, a sleep expert and assistant professor in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, tells Philly.com that there is no substitute for sleep.Does sleep get worse with age? ›
Sleep patterns tend to change as you age. Most people find that aging causes them to have a harder time falling asleep. They wake up more often during the night and earlier in the morning. Total sleep time stays the same or is slightly decreased (6.5 to 7 hours per night).How long does it take to regain lost sleep? ›
That being said, catching up on a missed night of sleep isn't quite the same as getting the sleep you need in the first place. When you catch up, it takes extra time for your body to recover. According to a study from 2016 , it takes four days to fully recover from one hour of lost sleep.
- Feeling sleepy or tired in the daytime. Do not drive, cycle or use tools or machinery if you're feeling this way. ...
- Headache. Make sure you rest and drink plenty of fluids. ...
- Stomach ache. ...
- Feeling sick (nausea) ...
- Feeling dizzy. ...
- Feeling irritable or restless. ...
- Dry mouth. ...
- Dry or itchy skin.
Parents put their child to bed and then stay away for 3 minutes. After a brief check (during which the parents refrain from picking up or holding the child) the parents leave again—this time for 5 minutes. Subsequently, parents wait 10 minutes between visits until the child finally falls asleep.Should we drink water before bed? ›
Drinking water before bed might help ward off dehydration. View Source while you sleep, and it may also help you attain the drop in core body temperature. View Source that helps induce sleepiness.What is the 2 minute rule sleep? ›
The Two-Minute Rule states “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” You'll find that nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version: “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.”What is the best alternative to sleeping pills? ›
Melatonin. The hormone melatonin helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle. Some research suggests that melatonin supplements might be helpful in treating jet lag or reducing the time it takes to fall asleep — although the effect is typically mild. Side effects can include headaches, nausea and daytime sleepiness.Is taking multiple naps instead of sleeping? ›
Polyphasic sleep refers to sleeping in more than two segments per day. Following a polyphasic sleep pattern doesn't necessarily reduce the total number of hours you sleep, but many people adopt polyphasic sleep as a way to reduce their overall sleep time and maximize their wakeful hours.What is the most productive sleep schedule? ›
It may be that polyphasic sleep schedules feel more productive simply because the sleeper has more time, rather than more energy, to get tasks done. If you are only sleeping for three hours a day, that leaves 21 hours to complete tasks.