1. Understanding That Sleep Anxiety Is Real
You look at the clock. You’ve been laying in bed for 2 hours and you are still wide awake. You
feel restless and exhausted your mind won’t just shut off. And then the sleep anxiety sets in.
It’s another day and night dealing with not just anxiety, but that special kind of sleep anxiety that only fellow insomniacs know all too well (unfortunately).
Anxiety is already hard enough to deal with during the day. The last thing you want is for the time when your body gets the most rest and healing to still be kept awake by something you can’t control. And whether you are able to sleep or not (on demand) is out of your control BUT accepting this can go a long way towards healing from sleep anxiety.
Most people don’t even realize how closely anxiety and insomnia are related. For instance, in one study, it was shown that in 43.5% cases, insomnia only began after an anxiety disorder was diagnosed.
2. Insomnia and Sleep Anxiety
Insomnia can cause anxiety and anxiety can certainly cause insomnia. You see, you are probably even anxious just thinking about if your anxiety will keep you awake at night. What a nightmare.
Thankfully, there are ways to begin trying to sleep better at night when you deal with anxiety. While it might take some time for you to figure out what works best for you, the list below features some helpful anti sleep anxiety techniques, which should help.
3. Change Your Environment
One of the first things you can try is to begin making changes in your bedroom to hopefully help
you sleep better. You can try any number of things such as the following.
A. Block out as much light as possible
Our brains are programmed to react to light. So if there is too much light coming into your
bedroom at night (artificial, or light from the moon) try to hang blackout curtains up to block as
much as possible. Or, sleep with a sleep mask!
B. Use A White Noise Machine
Sleeping with a white noise machine isn’t noisy, at all. Instead, white noise creates a rhythmic
and constant sound (much like a ceiling fan would) that can help lull you to sleep and block out
other intrusive noises that may surround you.
4. Limit Your Time On Your Phone Or Watching TV
We’re all guilty of this. We’re laying in bed at night, mindlessly scrolling through social media or
watching videos or television. However, not only does this keep your body in an “awake” mode –
unless you’re one of the lucky few who can fall asleep with a tv on! – but the blue light emitted
from electronics is likely worsening your insomnia.
Also, avoiding social media or the news before bed can help to keep your anxiety at bay
because you won’t be stressing out at the latest things happening in the world. Try to avoid
electronics at least one hour before bedtime.
5. Practice Mindfulness Techniques
It’s the end of a long day and your mind won’t stop racing. You’re thinking about everything you
had to do today, everything you didn’t get done, and all that you will have to try to get done
tomorrow. And your mind? It won’t stop thinking about every little thing that could go wrong,
trying to “help you” feel more prepared.
Instead of letting yourself ruminate in this cycle, start a new bed-time ritual. Instead of letting
these thoughts circle around inside, get them out on pen and paper. And yes, I mean actual pen
and paper – remember earlier, that no electronics before bed thing?
Alternatively, you can also try to meditate or do some light yoga to relax your mind.
6. No Caffeine Or Alcohol, Either
I know – that’s not easy but your sleep and your next day self will thank you.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid caffeine after 3pm. Yes, that’s right in the middle of that
afternoon slump. So instead, when you feel yourself needing a boost, drink some hot green tea
or other teas with caffeine or better yet – get up and go for a 10 minute walk to wake your body up.
These things will give you the pick me up you need, without causing your system to be flooded with caffeine, which can keep you awake at night long after you stopped drinking. When you are struggling to deal with insomnia and anxiety, it can feel like a constant battle that never ends.
7. Wake Up The Same Time Every Day
Many people think that the most important thing is to go to bed at the same time every night. Research has actually shown that this isn’t particularly important. The most helpful thing you can do for yourself when suffering from Insomnia and sleep anxiety is to control the time you wake up.
There are many factors which can contribute to difficulty in falling asleep and trying to force sleep will only keep you awake. Focusing on the time you wake up (regardless of how much or how little sleep you get) is something in your power.
Focusing on what is in your power will give you a sense of control (not helplessness) and over time (weeks / months, not years) your body will reset the natural sleep rhythms which will make it easier to fall asleep, and stay asleep (and not care too much if you aren’t able to fall asleep) – which will actually have a paradoxical effect and get you sleeping!
8. Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBT for Insomnia / CBT-I)
Sometimes the above tips only go so far. In these cases, some people find it particularly helpful to get an intensive sleep system reset. This is where Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia, also known as CBT for Insomnia (CBT-I) can help and the evidence is clear that it does indeed help.
One of the best ways to move out of this battlefield and into slumberland is by connecting with a therapist who knows how to deal with both generalized anxiety, sleep anxiety and CBT-I. If you are ready for support for your sleep anxiety, reach out to my Honolulu or London office to start your path to a less anxious and more restful life.
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist in the UK with over 16 years of experience. I specialize in anxiety treatment and have received advanced specialist training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy. I offer a free initial Sleep Anxiety Treatment Test Drive Session.