Did you know that there is a direct link between anxiety and sleep? Moreover, being aware of this link can help you significantly relieve anxiety symptoms.
There is nothing quite like getting a good night’s sleep to put things into perspective. Decisions become clearer, the world is a more positive place and we feel capable of whatever challenges the following day might bring. Worries that plague us during our waking hours can melt away with a decent night’s kip. However, there is a deeper link between anxiety and sleep you may not be aware of.
Sleep might not be our friend. Instead, we find ourselves lying wide awake each night, riddled with night-time anxieties, with an overactive mind that screams all manner of thoughts at us. These may be memories of the day just gone, plans for tomorrow and random musings like whether size really does matter. All are the products of an over-tired, under-slept mind.
There’s a reason why people need to “sleep on it” before making a big decision. It’s because a rested mind stays healthy and sharp. When we’re sleep-deprived, however, we’re more prone to making poor, rash choices. We reach for the sugary snacks, snap at our children and miss a key deadline in work… And all because our brains and bodies can’t seem to function properly.
What is the result of this dysfunctional relationship between anxiety and sleep?
We wind up feeling guilty, stressed out and unable to sleep. Which in turn, as new research shows, can actually cause further anxiety issues, with some form of sleep disruption present in nearly all psychiatric disorders.
It’s a fairly vicious circle of anxiety and sleep that can lead to several health problems over time. It might start with something as simple as a headache or pains in the body. But as a result, it can develop into all kinds of other conditions, from insomnia and depression to diabetes and heart disease.
Luckily, there are a few simple lifestyle habits you can employ to get a better night’s sleep, every night.
1. Get into an evening routine
Ok, so the thought of another schedule might be enough to set your anxiety off again. But trust me, this is one that’s worth sticking to! You might be so busy running around all day after other people – your kids, your partner, your boss. Your mind is always planning or replaying events so that you don’t have a chance to sit still and just be with yourself.
By carving out a little “you time” every night, you can give your mind and body some attention and awareness. This way, you help them to settle down for a better sleep. So have a bath, read a book, do a guided meditation to change those negative patterns in your brain. You can choose whatever peaceful activity allows you to wind down. Do this like clockwork, every night, and just like when you were a baby, you’ll naturally start getting sleepier as bedtime approaches.
Speaking of which, keep a regular bedtime as often as you can. Because going to bed at 9 pm one night and 1 am the next isn’t helping your sleep! I totally get that some nights you might feel especially wound up and sleep feels impossibly far away. But following the steps in your evening routine will make a difference!
2. Shut down those screens
I should mention now that binge-watching Netflix or updating various social media profiles are not considered part of a healthy evening routine! Why? Well, first of all, the blue light that these devices emit, not to mention the cognitive activity required to work them, overstimulate your mind instead of helping it to relax. Secondly, their screens actually block the production of serotonin which we usually rely on to keep us feeling calm.
You may not even be aware of it, but using your laptop or smartphone in bed is one of the biggest causes of unwanted pain, night-time anxiety, and of sleep deprivation, too. So shut them down an hour before bedtime and enjoy your new evening routine instead.
Buy an old-school alarm clock and leave your phone in the other room. Your discipline will be rewarded with much sweeter dreams.
3. Create a soothing atmosphere
Why is it that when we go to a spa, we feel instantly relaxed? Well, because these people know what they’re doing – and they use all the tools at their disposal to create a deeply relaxing environment.
Calming music, soft lights, soothing aromas – all are seemingly subtle but very powerful ways to coax the mind and body into a state of peace.
Of course, you shouldn’t need to spend a fortune to get this sense of calm. You can enjoy it in the comfort of your very own bedroom! All it takes is a light with a dimmer switch or a bedside lamp (throw a coloured scarf over the cover for that “Arabian nights” vibe). Add some relaxing music for anxiety and diffuse a calming essential oil like lavender – if you don’t have a diffuser, sprinkle a couple of drops on your pillow instead.
Before long, you’ll start seeing your bedroom not as a place of sleepless nights and a troubled mind but as your sanctuary, a place you long to be after a busy day, a haven in which you feel safe, peaceful and yes… sleepy.
Keep in mind this link between anxiety and sleep and incorporate the above-described tips into your lifestyle. You’ll see that you will soon start getting the great sleep you deserve, waking up to a healthier, happier you come morning.
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