Can’t sleep? I’m hoping this post will help you. We live in a time when we are connected 24/7. We are expected to answer work emails when not at work. We are bombarded with images of perfection that we try and live up to. This can often lead to anxiety which in itself is a reaction to the amount of stress we are under.
Anxiety manifests in many ways from worried thoughts, feeling tense, physical changes to our body such as high bloo pressure, feeling tired or not being able to sleep.
Of course there are some types of stress that are good for us, for example if we are in danger our body reacts to get us out of the situation. In fact temporary stress and anxiety is normal . However when the stress, anxiety and worry continue beyond what would be deemed temporary, it can lead to mental health issues and put strain on our bodies which manifest in many ways including sleep disorder.
Did you know that mental health disorders affect about 40 millions adults in America and 1 in 4 people are affected by mental health issues in the UK. This is quite shocking. Unfortunately mental health issues and in particular anxiety negatively impacts upon sleep. The thing is, the better quality of sleep we have the more we feel rested and able to combat anxiety and stress but we can’t get a good night’s sleep because we are stressed and feel anxious. This is known as a feedback loop. The converse is also true: in that if we develop a sleep disorder it makes us feel anxious which can lead to insomnia which keeps us from having a good night’s sleep.
There are so many physical changes to your body when you suffer from anxiety and this state means your body is not ready for sleep when it should be. Below I’ve listed some of the effects of sleep deprivation on your body:
- Weak immune system – sleep helps you body repair itself so lack of sleep means it doesn’t get that chance contributing to a low and weak immune system.
- Decreased reaction times = our body slows down with sleep deprivation impacting on our ability to react to all sorts of things.
- Irritability – I don’t know about you but if I haven’t had a good night’s sleep I am like a bear with a sore head, even the smallest thing annoys me.
- Memory loss or memory lapse – sleep deprivation has an impact on our memory to the point we can forget things.
- Risk of heart disease – sleep deprivation can also impact on the functionality of the heart including an increased heart rate.
- Hallucinations – because sleep deprivation has such a negative impact upon the brain, this can lead to hallucinations.
- Aches and Pains – sleep deprivation can lead to pain in our muscles again our body is not getting a change to heel itself through sleep.
Anxiety and lack of sleep
There is a lot of research out there that suggests that lack of sleep impacts on the regions of the brain that trigger excessive worry. And those of us who worry are more prone to sleep disorders! So I guess worry about lack of sleep becomes self-fulfilling at times. Anxiety causes sleep loss, which in turn can leave us feeling more anxiety. Research conducted by the University of California Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory found that when deprived of sleep, the brain reverts back to more primitive patterns of activity. This means that subjects kept awake were less likely to put emotionally-charged information in context. The good news is conversely finding ways to get better sleep–presents us with a tried-and-true solution which can help alleviate anxiety.
Tips to help you sleep if you suffer from anxiety
This post isn’t about a substitute for speaking with your physician so if you have anxiety please go speak to them. The information in this post is general information to help give you some ideas of how to improve your sleep and provide you with some sleep education that can help you devise a plan which is right for you. So let’s get in to the tips for helping you sleep better…
Exercise for body and mind – Exercise is great. I’m not talking about heading out to the gym either. You can opt for going walking and getting out in the fresh air. If you need help fitting walking in to your schedule head over to Walking Body and Mind to find out how to do this. Exercising throughout the day is best as exercising before bed can start your mind and body racing! You could though opt for yoga in the evenings as an alternative.
A perfect environment – the room in which you sleep needs to set the scene for sleeping. This means it should be the correct temperature that allows you to rest, there should be low light, little sound and your mattress and pillows should be comfortable. Even the choice of wall color can make a difference so go for soft subtle colors. Head over to my blog post to read up on what temperature your room should be.
Reduce caffeine and alcohol – Too much caffeine or too much alcohol can increase your anxiety levels and impact on your sleep. While alcohol may in the short term help you get to sleep, it increases your heart rate and causes you to have a really restless night. It really isn’t worth it. Instead drink water during the day to keep hydrated but stop at least two hours before bedtime. or consuming it too late in the day can increase anxiety and inhibit sleep.
Calm your mind – There are many things you can do to calm and relax your mind. The first is to write your thoughts down in a notebook. Do this before your head hits the pillow and get everything out there so you don’t dwell on it as you are trying to get to sleep. Another tip is to try relaxation techniques such as Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and if you have a FitBit try the 2 minute breathing exercise on your watch. If you can practice any of these they will help calm your mind. You could even do these throught the day so that when you are ready for bed you are close to being fully relaxed.
Limit screen time – Your phone, tablet, and TV give off a light that makes your brain think it is daytime. So keeping these devices outside the bedroom is beneficial. If you use your phone as an alarm, try and purchase an alarm clock instead. I’m sure whatever is on your timeline cn wait until the next morning.
Asking for help – Sometimes the first step to managing any type of anxiety and sleep disorder is to ask for help from your doctor. Especially if these symptoms have been going on for some time. The thing is that anxiety and sleep disorders are treatable, whether by you managing them yourself or asking for help.
Bedtime Routine – Routine is also important as an adult so establishing a bedtime routine for yourself is important. If you need help with a bedtime routine head over to my blog post to give you some ideas. Also going to bed at the same time and wakening up at the same time will also help you.
Let go of struggling with your worries at bedtime – Worrying can cause you to stay awake. Of course you can’t forget about your worries but hat you can do is acknowledge them, write them in your notebook and say you will deal with those in the morning. This act gives you permission to let go of your worries for a period of time while you sleep. your duvet on your toes or the gentle movement of your chest as you breathe to ground yourself in the present moment and as a place to return your attention when your mind wants to wander off. You can’t stop your mind from having worrisome thoughts, but you can always choose how much you buy into them.
Anxiety can become a sleep problem and a sleep problem can make you anxious. I hope the above tips will help you deal with your anxiety and sleep problems in a way that suits you.