I know from experience that getting your sleep right is one of the hardest things to sort out when you’re dealing with high anxiety and stress.
My head used to hit the pillow, and no matter how tired I was, I just couldn’t sleep.
Non-stop thoughts would bounce around in my head, one after the other, with no let-up. It was almost as though my brain thought I was missing out on something!
Getting more sleep is vital when it comes to dealing with high anxiety. Without sleep, you don’t have energy, and you need all the energy you can get. When you wake up feeling exhausted and tired, the rest of the day follows in the same way.
Getting into a good pattern of sleep takes time, but there are things you can do that will help you get back on track and make a big difference. By putting these ideas into practice, your routine and pattern will get better instantly.
1. Have a notepad next to your bed
When we allow a thought to bounce around in our head, it will keep us awake. Lots of other thoughts will spiral off it, and the chance of sleeping through it is limited. Get your thoughts out of your head and write them down on a notepad next to your bed. That way you're getting the thought out of your head and you're reassuring your brain that you've got control and there is no need to worry.
2. Get organised for the next day
We get stressed and anxious when we feel out of control - which is a major cause of lack of sleep. Another way to stay organised and feel in control is to plan for the next day. If you have a good idea what you're going to do the next day, you'll feel calmer and more relaxed before your head hits the pillow. The 'what if' type thoughts won't spiral out of control because you've got a plan.
3. Get rid of artificial lighting
The reason we go to bed at night has a lot to do with the fact that it's dark. Sunlight sends a message to our brain to say we should be awake and active, whereas being in the dark tells us it's time for sleep. When you go to bed, get rid of all distractions, including anything that produces artificial light. That includes your phone, TV, tablets, and anything else that is shining a light at you. Make sure the room is nice and dark, and your brain will get the right message.
4. Don't drink (or eat) caffeine
This sounds like such an obvious one that it's not worth mentioning, but it is - simply down to the fact that we don't know that certain drinks and foods contain bags of caffeine. It's not just drinking coffee that will keep you up. That nice relaxing cup of tea before bed also has lots of caffeine. And it doesn't stop there. Did you know that chocolate and ice cream also contain caffeine? How about that cup of green tea? That's right - even some of the herbal teas need checking out for caffeine. If you're not sure, always read the label or do a bit of research before having a gorge. You might be inadvertently stimulating yourself before you go to bed. (It's also worth noting that smoking and drinking alcohol before you go to bed will stimulate you.)
5. Get into a pattern and routine
I know it sounds boring, but your brain likes routine. When you get rid of the unknown, there isn't anything to get anxious about - and routine will do that for you. If you train your brain that a certain time of night means sleepy time, you'll naturally begin to wind down at that time. Like any new routine, at first, it will be hard to stick to. But with time and practice, your sleeping pattern will continue to improve. You can become less rigid about your routine when you see your sleep get better.
It's important you stay patient and don't allow the initial frustration to win over. Don't get frustrated with your sleep. It takes time to get it right – but what you're doing right now will be worth it.
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