How to Get Better Sleep Despite Anxiety

Sleep Photo by Hutomo Abrianto

Sleep isn’t always easy to come by when you’re balancing work, school, and social life. It can get even more complicated when anxiety enters the mix. Anxiety causes your body to go into “fight or flight” mode even when there’s no threat. Stress and anxiety are often found side by side sleep issues. We’ve got a few tips and tricks to help you manage anxiety and get the rest you need.

Anxiety and sleep have a chicken and the egg type relationship. It’s hard to decide which comes first. Without sleep, two key areas of the brain that influence your emotional responses change how they function. The emotional processing center overreacts to anything negative while the logic center slows down and gets quiet.

What does that mean for you? Heightened emotional responses with more aggression, irritability, sadness, and anxiety. Whether it’s anxiety that caused sleep loss or sleep loss that triggered the anxiety, you’re sleepless. But, you can put an end to the cycle.

  1. Meditate

Meditation has a powerful impact on the mind and body. That imbalance that poor sleep causes in your brain’s emotional and logic centers? It can be counteracted by meditation.

Meditation strengthens the connection between these two parts of the brain, allowing more logic to influence emotional responses. Long-term meditation practitioners have even developed the ability to lower their heart rate and blood pressure by focusing on the present rather than a stressful past or future.

The more consistent you are in your practice, the stronger the effects of meditation. It’s the perfect addition to a bedtime routine. It might not be a bad addition to your morning and lunchtime routine if your anxiety is on high alert.

2. Yoga

Yoga has some impressive effects on the mind and body. Of course, there are many types of yoga, and they all have good benefits. But when we’re talking about sleep, you have to be selective of the when and where of your yoga practice. Methods that use deep meditative breathing and relaxing poses are the most effective close to bedtime. Rigorous yoga that gets the heart pumping is better left to the morning or afternoon.

No matter what type you choose, yoga can act as a stress reducer by decreasing the number of stress-related inflammatory proteins in the blood. It’s also a mood booster and fatigue fighter. Like meditation, you get better with practice. A few poses before bed can stretch tight muscles while focusing the mind back on the present.

3. Write It Out

Writing out concerns before bed allows you to leave them on paper until the morning. It’s a great place for a to-do list, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting something. Writing out your thoughts can also help you process and analyze them. The act of writing organizes thoughts sheds new light on your issues. At the very least, it sets them aside until you’ve gotten some sleep.

4. Use Visualization

The brain responds to images even if they’re ones conjured by the mind itself. Visualizing a peaceful, serene location, a location that has meaning to you can trick the mind into relaxing. The beach, mountain lake, or your grandmother’s house might be your ticket to better sleep. Take a few deep breaths and picture your peaceful place. Stay there and feel your body relax.

5. Plan for Better Sleep

Sleep may be a natural biological function, but you still need to plan for it. An old, lumpy mattress may have saved you a few dollars, but it’s worthless if it costs you sleep. Find a mattress that supports your weight and sleep style. Keep the bedroom dark and quiet. Finally, keep and follow a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine on weekdays and weekends. Consistency helps your body respond appropriately to sleep hormones.

Conclusion

It can take time and practice to develop anxiety management skills. Be patient with yourself, but keep sleep at the top of your priority list. It’s an integral part of reducing anxiety long term and getting the sleep you need for better physical, mental, and emotional health.

About the Author:

Ellie Porter
Managing Editor | SleepHelp.org
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