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Published on March 12, 2020

How to Get Rid of Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia

How to Get Rid of Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia

Some lay awake at night, thinking, “Will I ever fall asleep?” We tend to stress ourselves over our sleep schedule and put pressure on ourselves to obtain sleep, no matter how difficult or easy it is to get. This may induce sleep anxiety when trying get our nightly Z’s.

Sleep anxiety and insomnia feed off each other, one making the other more powerful. Sleep is critical to our well being, but we don’t always value it or know how to get it. Sometimes, it can even be fleeting. You can toss and turn for a few hours just to wake up well in advance of your alarm clock ringing. It seems like a never ending battle.

Then, there’s sleep anxiety. Just stressing about getting sleep keeps you awake! When you have anxiety while trying to sleep, it can be because you’re ruminating, planning, or reflecting when you should be clearing all of that out.

What Causes Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia?

Silence can be a trigger for thoughts to begin to flood in. Suddenly, thoughts spiral or snowball, and you start to feel anxiety, which leads to further insomnia. All of this leads to impacts on your physical and emotional health, which can lead to difficulty functioning or focusing in general.

Anxiety can be rooted in many mental health disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, and more. Insomnia can exist on its own or be worsened by a mental health disorder. A little sleep anxiety or anxiety happens to everyone, but when it starts to take over your life, that’s when you know you have a problem.

Insomnia is an inability to sleep for periods of time. It can look different for everyone. It can be a difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or variations of both. The lack of sleep is the key component of it. There are many forms of insomnia, such as highly distressed to acute or chronic insomnia.

There may be a bidirectional relationship between anxiety and insomnia, one impacting the other and creating more of each other. It can be difficult to know which precedes the other. This causes further upset and sleeplessness, making it seem like a never-ending cycle. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million report occasional sleep problems.[1]

Research has also found that insomnia can worsen the symptoms of anxiety disorders or prevent recovery.[2] Mental health disorders such as anxiety and sleep disturbances overlap and increase one another.

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Scientists have also found that “long periods without sleep are associated with cognitive difficulties, and can produce psychological symptoms ranging from mood changes to psychotic experiences such as hallucinations.”[3] For that reason, mental health struggles can often be alleviated by getting a good night’s sleep.

How to Get Rid of Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia

Sleep anxiety can happen to anyone, and it shouldn’t be ignored when it comes around. Once you can face it, you can do something about it.

How can one overcome sleep anxiety and insomnia?

There is no “one fits all” cure for these struggles, but there are some steps that can help.

1. Log It

One easy thing you can do is to keep a notebook and pen next to your bed to write down late-night thoughts when they start to disturb you.[4] When anxiety comes up, use a log to record your thoughts before you go to bed and while you have trouble sleeping so they don’t ruminate and consume you. You can easily review them the next day.

With your thought log, start to look into and practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This will ease your troubled mind by redirecting your thoughts to more positive thinking. Take a negative thought and change it to something more rational and less catastrophic.

Challenging your thoughts can calm you and help decrease anxiety, which may start to spike when falling sleep. You can determine what thoughts are troubling you so that you can start to address them.

A sleep log is also helpful. How often are you experiencing sleep anxiety? Rate the severity and note the duration. With any sleep issues, you will want to note how often you have trouble sleeping, about how many hours per night you are able to sleep, and the quality of sleep, i.e. whether or not you are waking up constantly or just having trouble falling asleep.

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You may also want to get in touch with a licensed therapist or medical professional and share your findings with them. They may have more ideas of what you can try when they have a record of how severe the problem is.

2. Be Present

Practicing mindfulness is another way to find peace with yourself as it requires you to be absolutely present, bringing awareness to what you think or feel in a different way. Mindfulness acknowledges but does not judge feelings. You can feel more secure with mindfulness and learn to be kinder to yourself.

You can practice mindfulness while doing everyday tasks or while meditating. There is no real wrong way to do this. Even if you have a busy mind, that’s ok! The idea is to focus as long as possible on some meditation object (breath, sound, body sensations, etc.) and to come back to it when the mind starts to wander. There’s really nothing more to it than that.[5]

Grounding is also a way to be present and is used to help with negative emotions and experiences. You can do this by bringing your attention to your five senses. Note what you hear, see, smell, touch, and taste. When you bring yourself to your senses, you can get to a place where the brain is functioning well and can effectively process what is coming at it. That means you can get back to what you can handle and process without panic. You are back in the present. You are back with yourself. You are back to bed.

A Sleep Meditation

You can try a specific mindfulness meditation to help you get comfortable before bed. Think of a safe space; it can be anywhere, at anytime, with anyone (or alone, which I recommend).

You are standing or lying down in that safe space. For example, you could think of a beach at night with a bonfire going. You are kept warm by the fire while listening to the ocean. You listen to the sound of the waves rolling onto the beach. You can even name it something. Give your place a name and list as many details as possible.

Do this anytime you want, but do it before you go to sleep to relax your mind. You can change the visualization each time or keep it the same, expanding on the details. This will bring you into a place where you feel secure and out of difficult thoughts and emotions to help you sleep. In that relaxing state, you can separate yourself from negative emotions and release the need to engage with them.

This will help decrease anxiety and increase the likelihood of falling asleep at night.

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3. Create a Consistent Sleep Routine

Go to bed at a decent time and try to get up the same time everyday. This will help you establish a sense of routine that your body can get used to. If you stay up all hours of the night on top of feeling anxiety towards sleep and sleeplessness, you will get yourself into an unhealthy pattern that worsens the situation.

Turn off electronics well in advance of going to bed so your brain is less stimulated. This will serve you in starting to get tired, if that is something you struggle with. If you are someone who looks at a clock constantly at night, turn it away from you if you need to.

If you engage with technology and keep yourself stimulated through screens, you will risk ruining your sleep structure and lose the ability to function or fall asleep properly. Sleep anxiety will worsen if you are constantly checking your phone or computer or watching TV as this naturally stimulates thinking.

Make sure you are eating right, avoiding caffeine before bedtime and getting some exercises during the day to help with any restlessness carried over into the night.

Your habits and sleep hygiene make or break your experience of sleep and sleeplessness.

4. Manage Your Environment

Your comfort also controls how you are sleeping. Keep the room dark and decide between silence or sounds that aid in sleep (such as nature sounds). Find what works for you. Make sure you can turn to your bed as a reprieve from the day, that you are comfortable with your mattress, that you have enough pillows, and that you keep your room cool enough. These things will aid in lessening your anxiety towards sleep when you feel it is a safe, comfortable space.

If you maintain your environment for sleep and make sure you’re comfortable, you will fall asleep much faster. It will aid in your recovery from any anxiety disorder or insomnia when your environment naturally relaxes you.

5. Talk to a Professional

It may not be something you want to admit to yourself, but if you have a sleep disorder or mental health disorder, you may need help. A professional may or may not diagnose you, but either way, some solutions will likely be offered.

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The key is knowing that you’re not alone, and you don’t have to suffer in silence when sleep anxiety comes your way. It doesn’t mean you are weak or doing something wrong. It could be a disorder, and there is no shame in that.

Millions struggle with some form of sleeplessness and sleep anxiety. A professional will help you narrow down the reasons for your distress and find more ways to help you than you may be able to on your own.

Final Thoughts

Sleep struggles do not have to define you. Understanding that it isn’t your fault but that there are things you can do is the first step. Let yourself find methods of self-soothing, such as the ones listed in the article, and let your mental health professional or medical professional know what you are going through so they can offer suggestions and help you, too.

Facing sleep is partly relaxation and partly decreasing the rumination in your head that we all suffer from. Simply trying to fall asleep may not be enough for you. You may have to take additional steps to get the help you need.

More importantly, don’t put extra pressure on yourself to get sleep that doesn’t want to come as this can worsen sleep anxiety. Be kind to yourself, take as many steps as you can toward a healthy sleep schedule, and watch the benefits slowly form.

More Tips for Healthy Sleep

Featured photo credit: Kinga Cichewicz via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist who promotes the end of stigma for mental health.

How to Control Anxiety and Calm Your Anxious Thoughts How to Get Rid of Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia How to Practice Meditation for Anxiety and Stress Relief How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want 5 Ways to Help You Get Through Depression

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

More Health Tips

Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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