Getting a good night’s sleep when you have anxiety can be hard work. Here are some top tips to helping you sleep better, despite anxiety!
Anxiety is very good at affecting our sleeping patterns. Some nights you’re wide awake, other nights you’re so exhausted that you’re in bed for 6pm. It’s a roller coaster ride of long naps to sleepless nights, and I’m sure you can relate.
But first, let’s take a look at why we should be getting proper sleep. Some of us can get away with just a few hours a night, while others need a full 8 hours to feel normal (–> me). But, studies show that we should all be getting between 7 and 9 hours sleep each night (Sleep Foundation) as a healthy adult.
Any less than that and our mind and body starts to suffer.
Here are just a few problems caused from not getting enough sleep:
Stress on your internal organs from lack of sleep
Poor sleep can increase anxiety levels for sure. But it can also impact your body, both internally and externally. We’re talking everything from your immune system, to your skin.
Lack of sleep can also affect your digestive system, too
The mind and the digestive system are very closely connected, with some going as far as saying they should be viewed as one system (Harvard researchers – Live Love Fruit). I’m probably not the only that suffers from stomach cramps during periods of high stress and no sleep.
Feeling lethargic and unmotivated
According to our very own NHS, “Psychological tiredness is far more common than tiredness that’s caused by a physical problem”. This means that daily stress and worry contributes significantly to our lack of sleep.
In actual fact, the NHS also goes on to explain that nearly a third of our population is sleep-deprived. That’s a pretty high number if you consider that our population is around 60 million.
So it probably goes without saying that lack of sleep can leave you feeling exhausted, lethargic and definitely unmotivated.
For those who are pretty forgetful normally (–> me again), lack of sleep can seriously impair out memory, too. Consider this quote from Harvard Health Publishing:
How might sleep affect memory? People who are persistently sleep deprived are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and narrowed blood vessels. Each of these can decrease blood flow inside the brain.
This quote makes a really good point if you think about it. All of the above physical impacts of not getting enough sleep lead to less blood to the brain. This equals a lower performing brain overall, and poorer memory as a result.
**yay… I now have a good enough reason to go to bed at 7pm each night!**
Possible weight gain
Another aspect to consider because of lack of sleep is binge eating. I know that when I’m knackered, all I want to do is eat chocolate and quick, easy meals. The last thing I want to do is nibble on carrots and cook an almighty meal.
You’re more likely to reach for the strong cups of tea/coffee, skipping the gym and getting a takeaway. It’s a viscous circle that can be really hard to shake.
So, as you can imagine, it’s important to look after ourselves, and make sure we get a good night’s rest. I know that anxiety can make this VERY difficult, so here are some really useful tips to help you along the way:
Opt for reading/writing rather than TV before bed
Okay so I know that some of you reading this might not feel like you’re the writing/reading type but hear me out. The main thing to consider when you’re trying to get a better night’s sleep is to avoid anything screen-related.
The light given off by laptops, TVs, phones and tablets trick our brain into thinking it’s daylight. This is seriously not good when we’re trying to get a good night’s sleep.
See, screens give off something called blue light. Wavewall explains:
Exposure to blue light at night time mimics the effect of the sun and tricks the body into thinking it should still be awake. It stops the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy and regulates our circadian rhythm (our body clock).
So, if reading or writing isn’t your thing, pick something to do before bed that doesn’t involve screens. Maybe you like painting or colouring? Or maybe crosswords or puzzles?
This all helps in promoting a good restful sleep, no matter your anxiety.
Avoid processed foods and eat healthy fats + proteins
There’s much research into the effects of fatty and processed food on our sleeping pattern. Sleepjunkies explains that:
Fatty foods over stimulate the production of acid in the stomach. This can lead to heartburn and indigestion. Sugary junk foods, including soda, rapidly crank up your blood sugar levels. You might fall asleep easily (the “sugar crash”), but during the night when your blood sugar plummets, your body will sense this chemical imbalance, disturbing your sleep cycle, possibly waking you up.
I know from personal experience that I can REALLY suffer when it comes to eating crap. Not only do my bowels (TMI?!) suffer, but I feel sluggish and highly unmotivated. So if there’s anything you can do to help improve your sleep, it’s cutting down a bit.
Oh and before you berate me for being cliché, I’m not saying getting rid of your indulgences. You’re never going to be happy if you did! It’s all about moderation.
Avoid caffeine after a certain time each day
My own research into this subject is one that doesn’t come easy. I like my caffeine – coffee, fizzy drinks, you name it. But I also know that such drinks any time near bed time are seriously not good for your sleep.
Following this research, I found a really useful tip that I’ve already implemented myself. It’s avoiding caffeine at a certain point of the day. I’m not talking 7pm. I’m talking more like 2pm! Thing is, caffeine stays around, even after you’ve crashed. So by cutting the caffeine at a certain time, you’re increasing your chances of a better night’s sleep.
Making this small change to your routine might affect you temporarily, but it’ll most definitely help your sleeping.
Get your vitamin D during the day
According to Bulletproof.com, vitamin D deficiencies lead to sleep disorders. Until I started writing this very post, I didn’t know this either.
So, based on this, it’s really important to make sure you get your daily vitamin D. How do you do this?
- Get outside. No matter what the weather is, you still get your daily vitamin D intake.
- Eat oily/fatty fish/food with vitamin D in – I’m talking tuna, via supplements and even fortified cow’s milk.
Get some black out curtains
Although this might seem a minor change, black our curtains are just great when it’s summer. If you can’t do curtains, you can also get black out blinds, too.
The thing is, when the sun is shining through your window each morning, especially in summer, you’re up. Not only this, but if you go to bed early you need something to keep the light out.
Black out curtains cost more than normal curtains but they are definitely worth it. I know it’s harder to do when you rent a place but it’s definitely worth a shot. Your sleep will thank you for it.
As always, avoid using any devices before bed, or download a blue-light reduction app
At the time of writing this (8pm) , I am using my laptop. Laptops emit blue light just like mobiles/tablets and computer screens do. This blue light mimics daylight which is no good when you’re getting ready to settle down for bed.
It tricks your body into thinking that it’s still daylight and seriously messes with your internal body clock.
So, if you can at all costs, avoid using any devices that have a backlight. You might be thinking that I’m giving off serious double standards right now! But hear me out.
On newer laptops and mobiles/devices that can download apps, you can set/download your screens to reduce blue light. This very laptop automatically sets the screen to reduce blue light at 9pm every night. I’ve also downloaded an app on my mobile to do the same thing.
It gives the screen an odd orange-ish colour that is definitely not what I’m used to. But, it means it’s working. I’ve been testing the app out for a few nights now and I can say I have slept better the times I’ve used my phone in bed before sleep.
If you’re interested, the app I currently use is called Blue Light Filter on Google Apps.
Opt for a gentler alarm clock
My final but no least point for today is that oftentimes, our alarm clock is definitely unwelcome in the morning. A horrible alarm clock sound jerks you out of sleep making you feel tense and dreading the day.
So, opt for a sound (if you’re using your mobile as an alarm like I am) that is gentler than a foghorn. Not sure what a foghorn is? Google it – it’s a family phrase used when referring to bellowing sounds haha.
Anyway, bird songs usually work well, or wave sounds. Find a sound that it gentle, but enough to wake you. You won’t hate mornings so bad because of it.
As you can imagine, getting enough sleep is paramount for getting through the day. Anxiety makes it really difficult to get going. But with a good nights sleep, it won’t be so hard.