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How To Fall Asleep With Anxiety And Insomnia

A Guided Meditation To Help You Sleep

Sleep, Anxiety, and Insomnia: How to Sleep Better When You’re Anxious

I have found that this exercise helps, but Ive been forgetting one crucial part of my body: my face.

Focus on relaxing one’s eyes and face a common area overlooked when trying to relax, says Dr. Paul Coleman, a psychologist, motivational speaker and the author of Finding Peace When Your Heart Is In Pieces: A Step-by-Step Guide to the other side of Grief, Loss, and Pain. Imagine a simple relaxing scene to focus on. Keep going back to that image if your mind wanders.

Meditation And Breathing Exercises

For some people, even a single meditation session can start relieving anxiety symptoms so you can feel ready for sleep. By focusing your attention on your body and clearing your mind of the days worries, you can relax and reset. Apps like Headspace and Calm offer sleep-specific meditation guides to make this easier than ever.

Similarly, deep breathing exercises can reduce blood pressure and heart rate, which can help the body calm down even during a panic attack. Another popular relaxation practice is to tense and then relax each muscle group in the body. This can help release muscle tension that you weren’t even aware of.

Best Breathing Technique For Thought

Weve all done it getting in an exalted state before bed by watching intense drama on TV or scrolling for hours on smartphones. This type of activity gets the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system running high. As a result, the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol in your blood make it difficult for you to shut down your over-excited mind and tense body, and sleep is difficult.

In this case, Michael recommends breathing from your stomach. Try:

  • Inhale for four seconds and exhale for six seconds, both through your nose.
  • This corresponds to six full breaths per minute. Research has shown that rhythm is the best rhythm to effectively improve your physiology.

A longer exhalation like this triggers the relaxation response. In a short time your body will be cleared of adrenaline and cortisol and you will feel much better.

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Could I Have Insomnia Or An Anxiety Disorder

Chronic insomnia is clearly defined as when you have trouble falling or staying asleep at least three times a week for more than 3 months. But an anxiety disorder is harder to diagnose.

In addition to ongoing tension, worry, and trouble with sleep, other signs of an anxiety disorder include:

  • Steering clear of situations that trigger your fears
  • Nervousness, restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Digestion problems

See your doctor if you have these symptoms or your level of worry has drastically changed your lifestyle or is affecting work or school. Call 911 if you start having thoughts of hurting yourself or committing suicide.

Set Aside Time For Winding Down

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If youve been struggling with sleep anxiety, Dr. Fran Walfish, family and relationship psychotherapist, suggests creating a routine that winds you down and gets you in the mood for sleep. This can include things like dimming the lights, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath.

Walfish also suggests opting for activities like light reading in place of a TV or computer, as using a screen can tend to rev up anxiety and excitatory thresholds versus relax and calm you down.

The best nighttime routine allows your mind and body time to slow down before you turn off the lights. Allot at least 30 minutes to take a bath, read a book, listen to a podcast, or play quiet music. These transition rituals can condition your brain to associate certain actions with preparing for sleep.

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A Better Wayhow To Get Through A Panic Attack

Lie on your back and bring all your attention to your body, Rains says. Begin a process of gently tightening and releasing each muscle group, starting with your feet and working your way upwards to the top of your head. Hold each muscle as tightly as you can for about five seconds, then release it completely and see if you can notice the difference between the muscle tightened and the muscle relaxed. Move onto the next muscle until you’ve relaxed your entire body. Any time your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the tightening and releasing of each muscle group.

Try A White Noise Machine To Help You Fall Asleep

A low level of constant noise can be useful for distracting your anxious mind, shifting the focus away from troubling thoughts to the constant noise produced from a white noise machine. A simple fan also does the trick as does a sleep app on your phone. Just make sure that the volume is quite low barely audible to keep sound in the background.

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Write Down Your Worries On Paper

According to Juanita Wells, director of clinical development at New Method Wellness, putting your thoughts down on paper can help us remain accountable to ourselves, our feelings, our purpose, and plan.

Instead of letting thoughts and to-dos swirl around in your brain, write them down so that your brain has a game plan for the following day. Wells says that writing down your anxious feelings, especially through stream-of-consciousness journaling , can help ease anxiety before bed.

In addition to calming pre-bedtime anxiety, research shows that journaling can also help you fall asleep more quickly. To get started journaling, just snuggle up with your notebook and some cozy pillows and let your thoughts take it away.

Stay Away From Caffeinated Drinks

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Eliminate caffeinated drinks and foods after 2:00 P.M. Caffeine affects people differently, so your cut off time may be a little earlier or later, but start with 2:00 P.M. and adjust as needed. The National Sleep Foundation identifies caffeine as a source of insomnia as well as anxiety, excessive urination, irritability and rapid heartbeat.

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Blueprint For Better Livinga Guide To Better Sleep

Anxiety piles up at night because anxious preoccupation is avoidable when a person is actively using their brain and body to carry them through the day, says Dr. Kate Cummins, a licensed clinical psychologist. When you have a list of to-dos or business meetings to participate in, your thought process is geared towards frontal cortex functioning, which is the judgment, planning and reasoning areas of your brain. Once you are finding yourself at the end of your day, your frontal cortex has the ability to relax a bit, shifting gears into things you enjoy or pieces of you that are not connected to higher level functioning, mainly in your emotions and limbic system. When your thoughts start connecting to the emotional part of your cognitive functioning, especially at night, the anxious thoughts or anxious emotion that has been lying dormant all day has a place to go, and becomes the forefront of your thinking patterns.

How do we stop this vicious cycle? Weve compiled a list of helpful tips in two parts: things you can do while in the grips of anxious thoughts, and things you can do to prevent them, before you go to bed.

Dont Lie In Bed Awake

Lying awake will only give your brain time to start another firestorm of worries and anxieties.

If you cant fall asleep after 20 minutes or so, try restarting that bedtime routine.

Dont turn on bright lights, of course, but go do a low-stress activity like pet your cat or drink a cup of tea for a few minutes to help give your body another chance at winding down for the night.

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Essential Oils For Sleep And Anxiety

Essential oils can also help you sleep. Some offer soothing effects, while others help clear your airway so you can breathe easier and fall asleep.

Essential oils that help combat sleep problems and promote better sleep include:

  • Lavender: works to calm anxiety and offers sedative effects
  • Sandalwood: aids in relaxation and calms anxiety
  • Bergamot: lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and helps with anxiety and stress
  • Jasmine: helps with restless sleeping
  • Chamomile: calms and reduces stress
  • Clary Sage: acts as a natural sedative and may reduce cortisol levels
  • Valerian root: reduces anxiety
  • Frankincense: promotes relaxation to calm you down

If physical symptoms from a cold or allergies are disrupting your sleep, try these essential oils:

  • Peppermint: helps clear nose and airways, reducing snoring and symptoms of mild sleep apnea
  • Eucalyptus: breaks up mucus in airways and sinuses

You can use a diffuser to breathe in the oil, or apply it directly to your skin.

If you choose to apply essential oils to your skin, dilute them first.

Turn Down The Noise In Your Head For A More Restful Night

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As you tuck into bed at night, do the thoughts in your brain refuse to slow down when you turn off the lights? Instead of winding down, its a wave of worries about everything from paying your credit card bill on time to an upcoming meeting with your boss. That non-stop chatter about what might occur tomorrow is a sign of anxiety and, for many, its a serious roadblock to getting a good nights sleep.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the number of people struggling with anxiety is staggering. Anxiety has become the number one mental health issue in North America, affecting approximately 40 million Americans . Some estimates put this number higher at around 30% since many people with anxiety dont know they have it or dont seek treatment.

Simply put, its a national epidemic.

When it comes to sleep, anxiety is a key part of a toxic cycle because it makes getting to sleep and staying asleep difficult. Whats more, it becomes a source of worry itself, worsening the original anxiety a chicken-and-egg problem. Did the anxiety cause poor sleep or did poor sleep cause anxiety? One feeds the other, experts say.

The bad news is that even as you manage to nod off, your anxiety is still active. While we sleep, our mind is still active and maybe processing information, she says. If we dont take time throughout the day to process information and to unwind, then stress/anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

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Challenges To Your Mental Health

Being tired makes it harder to cope. Over time, this can affect your self-esteem and mental health.

You may become lonely and skip social occasions. You might see fewer people. Isolation can lead to mental health problems.

Lack of sleep may also impact your mood and energy level. This could lead to negative thoughts.

Have A Bedtime Routine If Youd Like But Dont Freak Out If Its Different Each Night

A routine establishes a positive conditioning for sleep, says Tal. When you start your routine, your body gets the “hint” and starts to initiate the mechanisms for sleep.

It was important for me, however, to realize that Im someone who might be unmoored by obsessing over the ritual of what I do each night. During treatment, I liked to take a shower, have a warm glass of milk with honey and do some type of relaxing activity. Early on I found that if I didn’t do something exactly as I’d done it the night before, I would grow anxious over my ability to fall asleep that night. And then boom, no sleep. Instead, I now keep the overall framework of a nighttime routine but have let go of the specifics. One night, I may watch 20 minutes of a TV show, another I might read 10 pages of a book. I’ve done this so my brain doesn’t associate the particular ordering of activities with sleep. For me, the ritual was about relaxation, not rigidity.

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What Does Anxiety Feel Like

The symptoms of anxiety disorders can affect people both emotionally and physically.

People with anxiety may feel extremely nervous and on-edge. This can affect their concentration and mood, leading to irritability and restlessness. Their fear or sense of impending doom can feel overwhelming and out-of-control.

Physically, anxiety disorders can provoke tense muscles, rapid breathing and heartbeat, sweating, trembling, gastrointestinal distress, and fatigue.

Many people with anxiety disorders attempt to avoid situations that could trigger heightened worry however, this does not resolve their underlying fear and can interrupt both professional and personal activities. Over time, a person with anxiety disorder may get used to being worried such that a state of distress or fear seems normal.

Anxiety disorders can occur alongside other mental health problems like depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , nearly 50% of people with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Suggestions For Improving Sleep

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There are several strategies for helping you avoid behaviors that get in the way of good sleep. You can develop good sleep habits by practicing some of the below:

  • Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce anxiety at bedtime. Other relaxation techniques include taking a warm bath or meditating prior to going to bed.
  • Controlling stimuli such as using the bedroom for sleep only and not allowing other stimuli such as electronics in. This will help you dissociate your bed as a place of busy activity.
  • Setting a consistent bedtime and wake-up time can help you train yourself for consistent sleep.
  • Avoiding naps and similar sleep restrictions can make you feel more tired at bedtime which can help improve insomnia for some people.
  • Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime can help you be physically ready for sleep. Your doctor might also recommend avoiding alcohol close to bedtime.

Your doctor may suggest other strategies tailored to your sleep environment and lifestyle that will help you learn and develop habits that will promote healthy sleep.

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Which Comes First The Chicken Or The Egg

Before we get into the possible treatment of anxiety and recommendations for better sleep, it is important to distinguish which comes first the anxiety or the sleep disturbance? That is usually the main problem in the very diagnosis of anxiety or a sleep disorder.

As mentioned in the introduction, anxiety can cause sleep problems, and sleep problems can cause anxiety.

This means that there is a direct connection and causative relationship between anxiety and sleep problems.

Studies have shown that sleep disturbances directly co-occur with psychological disorders, like anxiety and depression.

Therefore, you as a patient need to discuss both of these issues with your doctor. You also need to treat both of them to see some relief to your mental health as well as improvement in the quality of your sleep.

If left untreated, anxiety, as well as disrupted sleep, can have harmful effects on your life they can cause cardiovascular problems, diabetes and stroke among others.

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