How to Break the Cycle of Anxiety and Insomnia
Anxiety and insomnia go hand in hand. When you're feeling anxious, it can be difficult to get to sleep. But when you're short on sleep, you may feel more anxious. This can result in a never ending cycle of anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia.
Breaking the cycle of anxiety and insomnia is best treated by addressing both issues concurrently. Ideally, you can alleviate anxiety before bed so you'll have less trouble getting to sleep. If you get a good night's sleep, you can face the next day better prepared to deal with anxiety.
Promoting Relaxation Before Bed
There are many things you can do to alleviate anxiety and make it easier to sleep at night. Good sleep hygiene with a regular sleep schedule, bedtime routine, and avoiding sleep pitfalls are easy ways to set yourself up for a good night's sleep. Yoga and meditation, a healthy sleep environment, and more can further help you make sleep a relaxing, restorative practice.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Predictability promotes calmness. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help you feel more reassured at night.
Create a regular bedtime routine. Like a regular sleep schedule, maintaining a regular bedtime routine is a good way to wind down and relax before bed. It tells your brain and body that it's almost time to sleep and can trigger feelings of sleepiness. What you do during your routine doesn't matter as much as simply going through the same routine each night, but you can add relaxing activities including taking a warm bath, reading a book, or stretching your muscles.
Maintain a healthy sleep environment. Your bedroom can promote anxiety if you're not careful. Bold, loud walls, clutter, itchy or dirty sheets, or an uncomfortable mattress can induce feelings of anxiety and make it more difficult for you to sleep. Make your bedroom a calming space with muted colors, clean surfaces, and bedding that's comfortable. Be sure to choose a mattress that is appropriate for your needs and alleviates aches and pains while offering good support.
Practice yoga and meditation. Yoga or meditation (or both) before bed can help you wind down and get into a relaxing state of mind that may help you sleep. Yoga can help stretch your muscles and clear your mind, while meditation can help you push anxious thoughts out. A particularly helpful practice is mindful breathing. One way to practice mindful breathing is by inhaling through your nose for a count of four, holding for a count of six, then exhaling through your mouth for a count of eight. You'll focus on your breathing and counting, which can help realign your focus away from anxious thoughts so you can drift off to sleep.
Keep a worry journal next to your bed. If you're plagued by anxious thoughts as you're trying to go to sleep, a worry journal can help you put them to rest. Writing anxious thoughts down into a journal makes it easy to remember what you were worried about so you don't have to keep it on your mind as you're trying to sleep. You can let anxious thoughts go and address your concerns in the morning.
Avoid common sleep pitfalls. Caffeine, exercise, screen time, and other stimulating activities can make it difficult to relax when it's time to go to sleep. Avoid caffeine for several hours before bed. Similarly, don't engage in heavy exercise in the hours just before bed, as increasing your heart rate and adrenaline can make it difficult to sleep. Limit screen time, turning off screens at least an hour before bed, and never bring your phone to bed with you.
About the author - Alicia Sanchez is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com with a specialty in health and wellness. A Nashville native, Alicia finds the sound of summer storms so soothing that she still sleeps with recorded rain on her white noise machine.