Guest author Sarah Cummings, shares her insight on the causes and symptoms as well as her 5 tips on how to fall asleep when anxiety gets in the way.
Are worries and anxiety keeping you up at night? If you are having issues falling asleep, you are not alone. I suffered from insomnia, for months, after giving birth to my son. It’s normal to be anxious at times as we all live in a stressful, fast-paced world and there is no way around it!
Even after a beautiful and stress-free day, as soon as the evening approached, I started to get anxious and it got worse before going to bed. First, I began sweating and then worries came back out of nowhere; sometimes just the thought of going to bed seemed like a death sentence.
Although it normally takes 10-20 minutes for the average person to fall asleep, it could take me up to two hours to do the same. Some nights I would only get two to three hours of sleep even though recommended sleep times for adults are seven to eight hours. I was literally worn out!
If you consider that quality sleep can lead to a longer and healthier life, it’s worth taking a few moments to think with that end in mind.
Causes and Symptoms
Having personally experienced issues with falling asleep, it’s very important that you identify any symptoms to enable you to tackle them head on. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Panic Attacks – The more you try to relax (and fail) the more stress your body will experience. This can lead up to a point where everything falls apart and a panic attack ensues. When extreme, you can even lose consciousness! Rapid heart palpitations, breathing, and chest pain, are common signs of a panic attack and some may think it’s a heart attack.
- Nightmares – This is another sign of stress. I suffered from repeated nightmares; the worst thing was how vivid they were. Having nightmares can lead to even less sleep and subsequently cause panic attacks.
- Twitching – You may have experienced this a few times when you are tired and this is also a sign of a stressful day.
- Negative Thoughts – Depression and anxiety go hand to hand. You will easily identify depression by negative thoughts coming out of nowhere before and during sleep.
If you are experiencing any of the above, rest assured that the following five tips will help you to relax and overcome anxiety much more quickly.
5 Tips to Stop Anxiety When Falling Asleep
1. Get into a regular sleep routine.
There is nothing worse than irregular sleep patterns. Try to organise your schedule so that you go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Using a week planner, to keep track of your tasks, can go a long way in reducing stress and aid you to keep track of your goals.
2. Go easy on the caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes.
Caffeine, alcohol and smoking contributes to increase in cortisol which is a hormone that can increase stress levels. I love coffee, and can’t imagine my day without it, but I try to limit my intake to one cup in the morning. It also goes without saying, that you should not consume too much alcohol in the evening; one glass is ok, though!
3. Read, or practice yoga, before sleep.
Reading light fiction or self-help literature can really help you relax in the evening. I would avoid reading something intense one or two hours before sleep. Yoga is also a fantastic way to relieve stress; it keeps your body in shape and stretching can help your muscles to relax. Yoga is also a form of meditation so you can combine it with tip #5.
4. Purchase a quality mattress and pillow.
This is one area that is often overlooked; what you sleep on, is one of the most important things for getting a good night’s sleep. Sleeping on a cheap mattress can lead to restlessness and more unnecessary stress. In most cases, you will choose between a memory foam or a spring mattress. I love my memory foam mattress, but if you don’t like a soft sleep surface, you should opt for a spring mattress instead.
5. Try out sound meditation.
There are many apps available that use sound to help you fall asleep. One of my favourites was brain.fm (Music for the Brain) but you can Google to find what suits you best. I found sound is a fantastic way to relax; it helps you focus on positivity for a moment by enjoying nice, relaxing music or sounds like waves or chimes.
Anxiety is something that you will need to learn how to deal with in life. It’s not easy, but it IS possible. Aim for some clear goals in life and live by them. Try not to react to everything that happens around you; especially things that are out of your control.
I hope that these five tips, and a bit of my personal story, has helped you realise that anxiety is not something you should be afraid of. To the contrary, when you realise it’s there, you can learn to deal with it and have a much more relaxed life with a lot of sleep!