What is anxiety?
A simple way of explaining anxiety is that it is your body’s response to having too many worries. What makes anxiety different from everyday stress is that it interferes with your daily functioning. One way anxiety can manifest in your body is through lack of sleep.
Health effects of insomnia
Lack of sleep can impact you a lot more than you might realize. The main effect, of course, is fatigue or lack of energy. But over time, long term insomnia can impact your health much more than that! Some of the health effects of insomnia include:
- Increased risk for more serious health conditions (stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.)
- Higher rates of depression & anxiety
- Decreased memory functioning
- Weakened immune system
In other words, when our sleep starts to suffer, our overall health starts to suffer. That period of rest is necessary for your body to stay at top functioning.
So we’ve put together this list of things to try to help manage anxiety related sleep problems:
One of the best long term solutions to anxiety management is therapy. Having a space reserved for your own inner work, with an objective outside party there to help guide you through it. A therapist can help you identify the way anxiety shows up in your life, how it manifests in your body, and help you come up with more personalized methods of managing in in your own life.
Meditation & Mindfulness Practices
Meditation and mindfulness practices as a part of a nighttime routine can help slow your mind down so it’s not racing or spiraling as you go to sleep. As you get ready for bed, try to be mindful of your whole routine. When your mind starts to wander (fixating on fears or hypotheticals, or things that you cannot control in the moment) redirect your thoughts to the present moment. Are you brushing your teeth? Focus on the movement, the smells, the taste. Are you laying in bed? Focus on the feeling of your body against your mattress, the way the sheets feel against your body, the sounds you hear, your breathing, etc.
A nighttime movement routine can be a great way to both return to your body (getting out of your own head) and tire yourself out! It doesn’t have to be a lengthy routine either–something as simple as ten minutes of yoga can make a huge difference. Do some easy movement and stretches right before you want to sleep, and then hop in bed once you’re done. As you rest from the movement, you’ll slow down and be able to fall into sleep much more naturally.
Screen + Caffeine Restrictions
Many things we use in our daily lives can make both anxiety and insomnia worse. Caffeine and being “plugged in” are two of the biggest one! To help with this, set a time of day to be done with things like caffeine and screens. Enjoy your coffee in the morning, but in the afternoon, maybe switch to decaf, or tea! Setting a time to stop scrolling through your phone or computer can also help you to relax. Instead of being constantly stimulated (or getting constant updates from every part of the world, which can trigger anxiety) set your phone aside and do something that requires no screens at all (journaling, reading, drawing, etc.)
Do a Full Body Scan
If you’re laying in bed unable to fall asleep, take a few moments to check in with your body. Start at your toes and work your way up to your head. Are you feeling any aches or pains? Are you holding tension? Tend to those needs!
Do a Room Scan
Having a good environment for sleep is so important for sleep hygiene. Are noises from outside of your room keeping you up? Consider a white noise machine. Is there too much light in your room? Maybe it’s time for some different curtains! Even something as simple as moving your bed to a different part of your room can make a huge difference.
If you’re currently living with anxiety, know that you’re not alone. There are a lot of ways to manage anxiety, and if you need help finding one that works for you, checking in with a therapist is always a good place to start.