Ahhhh. That wonderful feeling we have after getting a good night’s rest. We wake up feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready to start the day. However, if you’re one of the millions of Americans suffering from sleep deprivation, this may not be the case. Especially when it comes to those of us that are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
We’ve all had the experience of being unable to fall asleep while being hyper-aware that we are having trouble falling asleep. This experience can be anxiety-provoking for all of us, but for those of us with anxiety disorders, it can lead to panic, frustration, and of course, insomnia. So what are we to do? Practice learning to be calm and relaxed. Easier said than done, but possible nonetheless.
Research has found that people who sleep well, associate their bedroom with calm thoughts and relaxation, both of which contribute to a good night’s sleep. One way to achieve this is to establish your bedroom as your haven for sleep. In order to do this, a few changes may need to be made.
For starters, that television in the bedroom has got to go. Having a television in the bedroom, or watching tv before bed, can stimulate and activate parts of your brain that need to be prepared for rest. The same goes for looking at phones, iPads, and any other screens. Not only do these technological items increase anxiety in and of themselves, but they also contain a blue light that tells the brain it’s time to wake up. Which is not helpful when it’s bedtime.
Joanna Cooper, M.D., a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist with the Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation, explains the science behind the effect that screens have on our sleep, saying, “The timing of sleep and wakefulness is controlled by two areas in the brain. One is highly sensitive to light and drives wakefulness, while the other, called the pineal gland, secretes the sleep hormone melatonin when the light dims in the evening.”
So what are we to do? Meditate? Lay in bed and count sheep? You could, but another helpful action is what you choose to do before you get into bed.
Ask any person that has a restless night’s sleep, and they’ll often tell you that their “mind was racing” and it kept them up. This makes sense, and it is normal to climb into bed and think about the day, and the day ahead. However, when this get’s to be too much, it can keep you awake. So of course you can practice deep breathing, and listen to a meditation on your phone ( but don’t use it to scroll Facebook, etc. ), but you can also take certain actions to wind down before you get into bed.
Simply going for a walk, folding laundry, washing dishes, or some other activity that allows you to do something somewhat monotonous will provide time for you to take a look at the thoughts you’ve accumulated throughout the day. In doing this, you can help clear out your thoughts, so that by the time you get into bed, you can be more at peace, and focus on relaxation. Just make sure to do these activities without listening to a podcast or the television, as this can disrupt the natural flow of your thoughts, and make it more difficult to wind down for the evening.
Another option is to drink a soothing cup of tea an hour or so before bed ( it’s usually recommended to drink it at least an hour before bed so that you don’t have to get up and go to the bathroom). Most teas are fine, as long as you make sure that they do not contain any caffeine. A great choice is Chamomile or one of the sleepytime blends that can be found at any grocery store.
Sometimes, in the case of anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders, medication can be helpful. By working together with your doctor, you may find that you need to switch your medication to something less activating or change the time of day in which you take it. There is also medicine that can work as both a sleep aid and an antidepressant/anti-anxiety medicine. So you may wish to explore that with your medical provider as well.
Lastly, therapy and therapeutic tools can be very helpful when it comes to getting enough sleep. By working with a trained therapist, you can learn to let go of the thought patterns that keep you awake at night. Your therapist may even recommend journaling before bed, in order to provide a safe place to free your mind of its worries, and fears. They are also many helpful tools such as cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy.
We all want to experience the benefits of a good night’s sleep, which are many. Some of the benefits are:
The list goes on and on…
The bottom line, some of us are better sleepers than others, but all of us can benefit from making little changes that can provide a better and more restful night’s sleep.
For more information on how to create a peaceful sleep environment, as well as tips on how to fall asleep easier, check out the following link: