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Sleep Anxiety: Tips To Manage Anxiety And Improve Sleep

Mar 20, 2020

In these unprecedented and challenging times, you may find yourself worrying more than usual.

Whether that’s being asked to work from home, having to take unpaid leave, avoid people or the schools closing, this may feel extremely stressful. Not only does this impact on your mental wellbeing but you may also find yourself struggling to sleep during this period.

There’s a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Lack of sleep can affect mental health, but mental health problems can also affect how well you sleep – both the quantity and the quality of it – so it’s extremely important to address both issues.

We all know that lack of sleep impacts on our mood so in this time of uncertainty, it’s important to look out for changes in yourself but also your family member, friend or colleague’s behaviour and attitude.

How to sleep with anxiety

Anxiety can cause thoughts to race through your mind, tensed muscles and a faster heartbeat making it difficult to sleep – whether that’s being able to fall asleep, stay asleep or wake too early.

There are many different methods and strategies that you can put into place. Try to find what works best for you.

Keep a routine

You may be working from home, or have children who are away from school, but try to maintain some control on your sleep/wake sleep schedule which is important in periods of unrest. Not only will the routine keep you focused, it really does help to keep the body’s internal body clock in sync. Don’t nap or sleep in whenever you want. It throws your schedule off track and the extra sleep could make it even tougher for you to fall asleep at night.

Try to stay active

Exercise (but not too close to bedtime) can also aid better quality sleep and is a great mood booster. It improves heart health and blood pressure; builds and strengthens bone and muscle; helps combat stress and it helps you look and feel better. Exercise doesn’t need to be in the form of going to the gym or exercise class, you can build physical activity into your daily routine by dancing to music, cleaning, using online workouts and even a quiet walk.

Get as much natural light as possible

Working from home, social distancing or even self-isolating may mean you’re struggling to enjoy being out in the natural light – this in turn can negatively affect your mental and physical wellbeing. Where possible try to go out for a quiet daily walk, spend some time in the garden and open the windows for fresh air. If you’re working from home, try to position your work area near to a window. Natural light – even on a cloudy day – helps reset our internal body clock and make us more alert.

Avoid a nighttime tipple

You may find yourself reaching for an evening tipple to help relax you and get a better night’s sleep but it does have an impact. While it may initially help you fall asleep more quickly, you don’t get the same quality of sleep after drinking alcohol and you will often feel unrefreshed the next day.

Bedroom environment is key

Don’t neglect the basics when it comes to sleeping better. Your bedroom environment plays a part in achieving a good night’s sleep. It should be cool, quiet and dark and make sure you sleep on a comfortable, supportive bed. Keep computers and clutter out of the bedroom – this is a room where you should feel calm and clear headed.

Stay away from devices

It’s well known fact that we should stop using electronics an hour before bedtime due to the blue light emitted. However, we also advise you don’t use them as the activities we do on them can keep us awake and alert. Given the current crisis, you may find watching the news or social media feeds quite distressing or worrying so avoid watching in the run up to bedtime if it’s likely to make you feel more anxious.

And Breathe…

Finding ways to relax before you fall asleep is key and none more so when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. Practice relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises. Some may prefer to use guided meditation, mindfulness or white noise to feel calm, other may prefer to read or listen to soothing music. Do what makes you feel good.

Don’t struggle to cope in these uncertain times. We may have a difficult few months ahead but Mind and Mental Health Foundation have some fantastic advice and resources which are readily available.

Take care and stay safe.