Falling asleep is one of the biggest challenges faced by people who deal with anxiety. When your body is in fight or flight mode, it’s really hard to relax and get comfortable enough to sleep. When you mix that with racing thoughts about your worries, plans, ideas, and embarrassing things that happened 8 years ago, it can be next to impossible!
This has always been a challenge for me, and something that has taken me many years to *kind of* figure out. I definitely don’t have a guaranteed method that works all the time, but I am much better at taking on this challenge than I used to be.
Here are my tips that I hope will help you get a good night’s sleep tonight!
This is an important one you can work on before it’s time for bed. You need the right atmosphere to be able to fall asleep in your bedroom. If possible, don’t work in your bedroom, don’t exercise in your bedroom, don’t do anything that a bedroom is not meant for in your bedroom. This will help your brain associate your bedroom with sleep or intimacy only. If this isn’t possible, it would be best if you are at least unable to see things like stacks of paper, or your dumbells while laying in your bed.
You want your bedroom to be a calming atmosphere. So consider getting some beautiful calming artwork. Paint the walls a cool relaxing colour instead of something bright and exciting.
Having a calming and relaxing scent in your room can also be very helpful. There are many ways you can accomplish this. You can try essential oils in a diffuser, however, if you have pets, talk to your vet and do some research as some essential oils can be hazardous for your pets. If an essential oil you love isn’t good for your pets, you can keep a bottle on your nightstand and just have a relaxing whiff right before trying to fall asleep. You can use scented candles in your room as you get ready for bed, but be sure that you are blowing them out before getting into bed. There are many other different scent options as well, from Scentsy wax warmers, pillow sprays, and bedtime body lotions. Choose whichever you are most comfortable with.
Most importantly, you want a comfortable mattress and blankets. You (should) be spending between 7-9 hours in bed every night. You deserve to be comfortable during that time.
Use a Sound Machine or Listen to Relaxing Music
This sounds weird, but I sometimes find I can drown out the sound of my thoughts with music or white noise. Even relaxing music with lyrics would work because I would be hearing those words instead of my inner monologue.
It also helps keep you from hearing those “house sounds” through the night that have your anxious mind convinced someone has broken in, even though you hear that same creak in the attic at least a few times a week. If you’re worried about not hearing a real break-in, maybe invest in an alarm system? I have a dog who’s bark can cut through the sound machine quite well, so it’s not a very big concern for me!
Keep a Notebook on Your Nightstand – Write Down Your Thoughts
If you’re like me, you get some of your best ideas when you’re trying to fall asleep. How many times have you woken up in the morning and remembered that you had an amazing idea the night before, but you can’t actually remember what that idea was? So the next time you have an amazing idea, you spend so much time thinking about it because you’re worried you’ll forget about it by morning.
Don’t worry, just grab your notebook from your nightstand, turn on a (hopefully dim) lamp and write down your idea. Then close up the book, put it away, and you no longer have to worry about forgetting it!
Another thing that drives me crazy, especially before a day that has a lot going on, is thinking about the things I have to do the next day. I start making my mental list, adding and adding to it, and then repeating it in my head over and over. Trying to plan out the order, and like with my great ideas, worrying about if I’m going to remember the next day. This is another time that it’s handy to pull out the notebook.
I find that once it’s written down, I feel a sense of relief from worrying about remembering, and my mind is able to drift off and hopefully fall asleep.
Use a Weighted Blanket
If soft blankets on your bed are still not cutting it, I highly recommend a weighted blanket. I had been thinking about buying one for years, especially when I suffered from major insomnia from a medication I had started. But I kept putting it off because of the cost. What I really didn’t consider was the fact that it’s an investment in yourself getting enough rest. When I finally got one, I thought it was worth every penny and wish I had gotten one sooner.
These blankets have been shown to increase serotonin and melatonin, which are two very important chemicals for getting a good night’s sleep, and generally feeling well-rested.
A weighted blanket feels like a giant hug for your entire body, and who couldn’t use a hug at bedtime?
Shortly before bed, or maybe even after you get into bed, do some meditation. This is one I’ve always struggled forcing myself to do. You hear everyone suggest it, however. So this wouldn’t be a “sleep tips” list if I didn’t include it!
Meditation is very personal, and you’ll have to figure out the best method for you. Some like to use guided meditation to help keep their minds from wandering, some like to play calming music or ocean sounds and just sit and breathe, and I prefer to do it after I’ve laid down in bed. I close my eyes and breathe deeply in for 4 seconds, hold my breath for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds. I do this over and over while trying to visualize something relaxing, like quiet waves on a lake, and trying to keep my inner monologue quiet.
While meditating, it’s important to remember that if thoughts pop into your head and you start thinking about stuff, you didn’t fail at meditating. Simply say to yourself, “Ok, I just thought about that, now it’s time to push that thought away and refocus” and just try to start again.
Read a Book
By this, I mean an ACTUAL book, made out of paper. Not on your phone, Kindle, or whatever e-reader you have. (I’ll get to that in the next tip)
You have to be careful with this one, especially if you really enjoy reading. You want to pick a book that won’t have you turning page after page because you want to find out what happened next. I find a more informative, less story-driven type of book helps me the most.
If you’re concerned about getting sucked into a book, it might be a good idea to decide before you start to read a certain number of pages or chapters ahead of time.
No Screens Within Half an Hour Before Bedtime
Yea yea, you’re probably not going to listen to this one, but I’m putting it on the list anyway! Your screens are shining light directly in your eyes. There is so much scientific data out there about why this isn’t good for your sleep, so I’m not going to bore you with that. This is one tip I rarely follow myself, but when I start getting desperate for sleep, I try it and it makes a world of difference.
It’s not even just about the light, it’s the content on your screens too. They keep your brain engaged and you will want to see more, look at more, and know more. Who knows what you’re going to see while scrolling through your feed right before bed. Do you think you’ll sleep very well if you see a picture of your ex out at a bar with some of your friends? What about if you start watching a new YouTube video and when it finishes, the next video looks interesting? Yea, you’re not going to sleep anytime soon!
No News Right Before Bed
This includes comedy news shows like The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight. Especially now with all this talk about Covid-19, news stories are more likely now to cause an increase in anxiety, anger, and frustration.
I thought watching Last Week Tonight would be fine, I really enjoy that show, and like to stay informed, and the comedy makes it easier to listen to. I’m not even American, but a recent episode I watched just before trying to sleep caused me to feel a lot of frustration about the way Covid-19 is being handled down there, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the people who were struggling, sick and dying all over the world. So now my new rule is that I only watch that show in the daytime long before bed.
Exercise During the Day
If you feel like you have all this anxious energy pulsing through your body at the end of the day, it’s possible you will benefit from being more active during the day. You don’t want to exercise right before bed, because you don’t want adrenaline pumping through your body, but if you can tire yourself out during the day, by the end of it, hopefully, your body will go right into “rest mode” the moment you lay in bed.
Now, I’m not suggesting you go start CrossFit, or training for a marathon or anything. But just by increasing your activity at a rate that your body is comfortable with, you may see a big difference in how you feel overall, especially when you’re trying to sleep. Just go for a walk around the block, or do some simple workout routine that you find on YouTube. Whatever works best for you and your lifestyle.
If you have any other tips that help you get to sleep when you’re really anxious, please share them below! Also, let me know if any of these tips helped you.
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