Friday, May 2, 2014

Anxiety and Nighttime: 5 Tips to Sleeping Better Even if You're Anxious

So it's night time and you can't sleep again, huh?
Follow these tips for a better night sleep. 

If you’re an anxious person you know how scary night time can be. As soon as the sun starts setting, at the same time the darkness falls on the day, it also starts falling on your whole being. I don’t know why but it seems that darkness brings a whole new set of fears, and not because I’m scared of the dark. Rather, it seems like all my fears seem to rejoice and party at night when everyone else is quiet. Or maybe they seem louder because everything else is quiet.

Whatever the reason is, all I know is that anxiety tends to worsen at night time. Many anxious people can’t sleep because their head goes 100 miles per second, with racing thoughts about how scary life is and about the many, many things that can go wrong.

So, what can we, my anxious siblings, do to get some shut eye?

I’ve come up with a few suggestions....

Have a routine
One of the best things you can do to trick your brain into quieting down is develop a night time routine. It may take a while before your brain makes the relationship between the routine and  quieting down, but with time you will see the results. The tricky part is doing the same thing EVERY night. Let me give you an idea of what this looks like by using my routine:

  1. Put on PJ’s.
  2. Wash face and apply moisturizer
  3. Drink some kind of relaxing tea (chamomile and seven blossoms are among my favorites) while reading one of my favorite books. Don’t read anything too stressful or it may counteract the relaxing action of the tea. 
  4. Brush my teeth. 
  5. Get in bed. 
  6. Look at funny pictures in reddit for about 10-20 minutes (depending on how funny they are, and they’re usually hilarious...) *I know it’s recommended not to use any electronic devices 30 minutes prior to sleeping as this could actually make you be more alert and awake. That’s not my case. In fact, if I don’t look at reddit pictures on my iPad before lights off, I just can’t seem to fall asleep. I guess it all depends on the person. 
  7. Lights off. 

By this time my eyes feel so heavy that I have no choice but to fall asleep.

It took a while, but after many months of the same routine, my brain finally got the message.

Don’t read or watch news before going to sleep

This is one of the worst things you can do before going to bed. As an anxious person, you’re already a pro at imagining the worst case scenario, you don’t need any PROOF that the worst case scenario can actually happen.

News can actually stress you more and add speed to your already racing thoughts.

Simple steps for a good night sleep

Clean the slate

Before going to bed, it’s nice to clean the slate. During the day we collect “dirt” in the form of worries, stress and just overall craziness. Make sure you clean  your mind before going to sleep by reflecting on your thoughts, ideas and worries you had during the day. There’s different ways you can do this.

  • Writing on a journal
  • Praying
  • Sitting down, focusing on your breath and meditating on the day’s events. 
  • Talking about the day’s event with someone. 

My two choices of preference are writing and praying. You might have a different way to unwind. Put it to practice before going to sleep.

Breathe easy

Pay attention to your breathing, especially on the nights that you can’t sleep. Sometimes I catch my breathing a bit agitated for no reason other than the anxious thoughts my head is producing. Calm body, calm mind. If you learn to quiet down your body, your mind will follow. The best way to quiet down your body is by controlling your breathing.

Breathing is so natural that most of the time we don’t even notice we are doing it. But it you’re an anxious person it is super important that you catch yourself when breathing hard or agitated.

Stop and take long, deep breaths through your nose. Exhale through your mouth. The exhaling time should be longer than the inhaling time. Concentrate on your breath, just feel the air coming in and going out. This not only helps you relax your body and mind, but it also helps to distract you from all those harassing, anxious thoughts.

Here’s another post I wrote on breathing techniques to help you relax.

Sleep helpers

Sometimes, regardless of what we do, sleep just won’t come. Don’t be afraid to use some help. I particularly like to drink tea, and there’s a huge variety of relaxing teas that will help you catch some zzzz’s. These are my favorites, in order from most helpful to least helpful. However, even the least helpful of this list will help you fall asleep:

  • Serene slumber tea by Lifestyle Awareness
  • Valerian root 
  • Seven Blossoms 
  • Passion flower
  • Chamomile

If teas are not doing it for you, you can always buy some Melatonin. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that your brain produces naturally. However, sometimes your brain may need some help. Head to the closest pharmacy and buy some melatonin. You don’t need any prescription and you can’t get addicted to it.

Zzzquil and others like it
There was a night in which I just couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking the worst things about everything and I just didn’t seem to be tired. I got up and drank some zzzquil. In less than 10 minutes I was so sleepy and drowsy that I didn’t care about my worries anymore. I just wanted to sleep! I slept the whole night, but my morning wasn’t easy. I was still so drowsy and getting out of bed seemed as impossible as not getting a pimple on prom night.

Only reach for the zzzquil (or others like it) if you’re completely out of ideas as to what else to do to fall asleep. Only use if desperate, and expect a groggy morning. Don’t use it every night! If you feel that you may need something strong to make you fall asleep, don’t self medicate. Go to a doctor so that you can get something prescribed especially for you.

I hope at least one of these ideas was of help to you.
Happy Living!

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