What Is Sleep Anxiety? Here’s How To Manage It
What is sleep anxiety, and how can you manage it? Here's what to know about how it can make an impact on our life, and positive approaches to managing it
Quality sleep is important because it helps you build new neural pathways, repair cells, and promote mood management.
While falling asleep comes easy to most people, some experience difficulties falling asleep because of a sleeping disorder called sleep anxiety.
What is Sleep Anxiety?
Sleep anxiety is a disorder that’s characterized by fear of sleep as well as disruption of sleep.
This form of anxiety is largely fueled by stress and manifests through unusual sleeping patterns. Which negatively affects a person’s mental, emotional and physical performance.
If you suffer from sleep anxiety, you might experience the following symptoms:
- Difficulties falling asleep.
- Have trouble staying asleep.
- Have trouble getting up in the morning.
- Large fluctuations in mood.
- Easily irritable.
- May experience depression.
If you suspect you’re suffering from sleep anxiety, make sure to contact your physician immediately to determine the best course of treatment.
And to complement your doctor’s recommendations, here are seven ways on how you can manage your sleep anxiety.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
For you to sleep well, your mind needs to be calm. Consider taking relaxation techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, and meditation.
These techniques have been credited to improve sleep by lowering stress levels, which affects your ability to have good quality sleep.
You can start with simple breathing techniques such as:
- Counting your breath
- Inhale on 1 – Exhale on 2 – Repeat.
- Make sure to take deep breaths and completely empty your lungs on the exhale.
- Box breathing
- Inhale (4 counts) – Hold your breath (4 counts) – Exhale (4 counts) – Repeat.
- Use during stressful situations or when experiencing extreme anxiety.
- Nadi Shodhana
- Press your right nostril with your thumb – Inhale using your left nostril on 1 – Press your left nostril with your index finger – Exhale using your right nostril on 2.
- This technique is also known as alternate nostril breathing.
If sitting still is not your thing, try moving meditation techniques like taking long walks, knitting, or running.
Regularly practicing relaxation techniques keeps your body and mind relaxed, making it more open to sleep.
Have a Consistent Sleep Pattern
Establishing a sleep pattern enables your brain to register consistent time for switching off and getting up.
For a more consistent sleeping schedule, try the following:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day of the week – even on weekends.
- Try as much as possible to stay outdoors during the day at least for half an hour.
- If you take a nap during the day, keep it to no more than one hour.
- Don’t take a nap after after 3pm.
- Turn off your mobile devices an hour or two before bedtime. Blue light from your screen can disrupt your sleep.
Create a Good Environment for Sleep
Your bedroom should provide an environment that enables your mind to relax.
Some of the things that you can do to make your bedroom ideal for sleep include:
- Control the temperature. The optimal temperature is between 60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Listen to relaxing sounds such as water flowing, white noise, or crackling fire.
- Remove non-sleep related items such as computers, electronic devices and television.
- Try a weighted blanket.
- Get a red night light. Sleep experts say this color maintains the body’s circadian rhythm.
- If you work nights and sleep on days, get a blackout curtain to keep the sunlight away from your room.
You can also create a sleeping routine to signal your body that it’s time to sleep. You can:
- Take a warm bath just before going to bed.
- Have a designated sleeping attire.
- Be on your bed at a consistent time.
Regular exercise helps improve your ability to sleep. After exercise, your body releases Happy Hormones such as endorphins and serotonin.
These hormones curb your body’s cortisol hormones, which lowers stress levels. And when you’re relaxed, this ultimately helps in managing your anxiety.
Ideally, you should exercise during daytime instead of before bedtime. Because exercise activates your body, making it difficult to fall asleep.
Avoid Taking Caffeine
The effects of caffeine take around eight hours to wear off. So avoid drinking coffee, tea, and soft drinks by 2pm if you plan to be in bed by 10pm.
Instead, take a lot of water. However, reduce your water intake as bedtime approaches to avoid frequent bathroom trips during the night.
Write your To-Dos Down
If you have thoughts running through your mind at bedtime, you might find it difficult to fall asleep quickly.
Some of the thoughts that could keep you awake include pending tasks that you need to complete or new tasks that you need to pick up the following day.
To keep your mind from getting preoccupied with your to-dos before bedtime and consider writing them down.
This simple action relaxes your mind because you are not worried about forgetting what you need to do the following day.
Prepare to Sleep
Getting ready to sleep might sound awkward but it is absolutely necessary.
One way of preparing yourself for bed is to avoid activities that put stress on you at least an hour before bedtime. Some activities that could cause you stress that you need to avoid include:
- Checking emails
- Settling bills
- Texting or going to social media
- Watching news or tense shows on TV
On the contrary, engage in activities that relax your mind and prepare you to sleep such as:
- Dimming your bedroom lights. This stimulates the production of a hormone called melatonin which causes drowsiness, enabling you to sleep.
- Listening to soothing music in low volume. This lowers your heart rate and slows down your breathing. Being on a calm and relaxed state makes it easy to fall and stay asleep
- Being bored to sleep. Sleep podcasts that specialize in telling long, winding, and boring stories let you drift off to sleep.
Improving the quality of sleep can be a challenge especially when you are struggling with anxiety.
However, there are certain things that you can do to help the situation. Such as engaging in relaxation techniques, exercising regularly, preparing for bed, and avoiding caffeine.
You should also seek the help of medical professionals in order to create a personalized treatment plan to manage your sleep anxiety.
Taking these actions can significantly reduce your anxiety and help you get better quality of sleep.