One of the leading causes of major sleeping disorders, like insomnia, are anxiety disorders. The prevalence of cases in which sleeplessness was associated with anxiety are numerous and oftentimes accompanied by phobias, panic disorders, and traumatic stress disorder.
Therefore, people who have anxiety also have a hard time falling and staying asleep.
Many people even develop sleep anxiety, which further affects their sleep pattern and sleep quality. The deal with sleep and anxiety is that both affect each other; sleeplessness makes you anxious about not being able to fall asleep, and anxiety itself causes you not to fall asleep in the first place.
So, in the following paragraphs, we’re going to take a look at the best ways you can fall and stay asleep, even if you have anxiety.
But, before we begin, we need to point out that in order to take any advice from the Internet, you first need to consult the recommendations with your designated doctor.
Your doctor will see how these recommendations fit your therapy plan and whether they could help better your sleep.
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.
Recommend Reading: What To Think About To Fall Asleep: 9 Smart Ideas You’ve Never Heard Before
So, How Can You Fall Asleep With Anxiety?
Getting Physical: Yoga, Running, Dancing, Tai Chi
In order to get a good night’s sleep and deal with anxiety, you have to act long before bedtime. Physical activity and regular exercise have been stated by medical professionals and researchers as one of the most effective ways of combating physical and mental conditions.
Physical activity can significantly reduce stress levels, improve cognitive function and help your mind and body to relax. Simply put, the benefits of physical activity and exercise extend to every aspect of your life, even beyond anxiety and sleep problems.
Studies have shown that a basic 10-minute walk can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
A 45-minute workout can help you combat anxiety completely for the day. The reason for this lies in the fact that physical activity elevates the mood by helping the body produce endorphins. These are the chemicals that act as a body’s natural painkillers, stress-reducers and of course, sleep promoters.
People who exercise regularly, and lead an active life are 25% less likely to develop or experience anxiety, as well as sleeping problems. Here’s a list of best exercises you can do to decrease anxiety levels and improve sleep;
- Yoga – yoga is the best type of exercise where you improve both physical and emotional health. The very concept of yoga is focused on the connection between the mind and the body, as well as the harmony between the two.
Yoga is effective in stress and anxiety reduction, as well as in promoting the sense of self-worth, satisfaction, calmness, and harmony. Yoga features numerous breathing exercises that can help you lower your heart rate during an anxiety or panic attack.
- Running – whether on a treadmill or out in nature, running is great for emotional and physical health. It is known to promote the production of endorphins, which are responsible for your overall mental and physical well-being.
Running is also proven to be effective in preventing anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. Moreover, physical activity like running promotes sleepiness as well.
- Dancing – not all exercises need to be strict or high-intensity. Physical activity of any kind os very welcome, so why not dance.
Dancing is known to be a great stress-reducer, while also keeping you in a healthy shape. Dancing is fun, entertaining and will improve your mental health the longer you do it.
- Tai Chi – this ancient form of exercising combines meditative and martial arts movements. Tai Chi originates in China, where it is being promoted for thousands of years as a recipe for mental and physical health.
Tai Chi focuses on the balance between mind and body and promotes calmness and relaxation. This exercising form will relieve stress and anxiety levels for sure.
Improving the Sleep Environment
This may not be the most necessary step towards a good night’s sleep, even with anxiety. However, by taking care of where you sleep, and how your sleep environment looks like can improve the quality of your sleep.
So, if you want to be comfortable, relaxed and to finally fall and stay asleep, improving your sleep environment will definitely help. Here’s what you can do;
- Clean the clutter – your bedroom is not a large closet or a garage where you can store all the things you have. Your sleep environment must be clutter-free.
Clutter is known to cause anxiety, or to worsen it, as well as to disrupt sleep. So, make sure to clean the bedroom and only leave the essential things.
- Remove the TV – we strongly believe that a TV should be in the living room, not in the bedroom.
BY watching TV before bedtime, you’re reducing the production of melatonin, increasing adrenaline, stress levels and anxiety (especially if you’re watching something that can disturb your feelings).
Moreover, the TV emits blue light which promotes wakefulness and slows down the effect of melatonin.
- Turn off the lights – having your sleep environment bright will surely affect your sleep as well as anxiety. We are not made to be able to sleep in bright rooms, as light messes up with the brain’s ability to produce melatonin, adenosine and other chemicals responsible for sleep.
So, before you go to bed, turn off all the lights, flip your phone upside-down, turn off the computer and put the blinds or the curtains on to eliminate the light from the outside.
- Cool the room down – warmth during the bedtime can truly cause stress, anxiety and make the night sleepless.
The reason for that lies in the fact that your body cools down naturally before bedtime. That is the brain sending signals that it is time to go to sleep.
By sleeping in a warm room, you’re disrupting the body’s natural temperature regulation. Therefore, cool down the room by ventilating and aerating the room; you can do this by leaving the windows open for a few minutes.
You can also leave a fan on for some time. And, of course, make sure to wear loose pajamas and have thinner covers to keep yourself a bit cooler as well.
- Use essential oils – in order to improve your mood and sleep quality, you should consider getting an essential oil diffuser.
These diffusers can enable you to use oils like lavender oil, lemongrass, rosemary or peppermint. All of these aromas are known to have a calming effect and promote sleepiness.
Moreover, your diffuser can act as a humidifier, which is convenient in cases of nasal congestion (as it can also stress you out and disrupt your sleep).
Read More: Best Colors for Your Bedroom According to Science
Changing the Diet
The food you eat will be one of the most important accomplices in your fight against anxiety and sleeplessness. Why? Because healthy food will feed you, your nerves and your brain, making it healthier.
Doctors and nutritionists have concluded that there is a direct connection between your diet, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The lack of healthy food and drinks in your body help elevate the anxiety and stress levels, as well as worsen sleep quality.
So, here’s what you should be eating to finally get some relaxation and a good night’s sleep;
- Spinach – this green leaf is a miracle; it is filled with magnesium necessary for a good night’s sleep as well as for the relaxation of your muscles and nerves. Magnesium deficiency leads to higher anxiety and stress levels, as well as sleeping problems. So, make sure to incorporate spinach into your diet.
- Almonds – if you’re craving snacks, stay away from chips and other greasy forms of snacks. Instead, try snacking on almonds.
Almonds are known to be a great source of magnesium and tryptophan, both necessary for good sleep and relaxation. Tryptophan especially is important, as it is an amino acid capable of converting into melatonin or serotonin; both essential for one’s mental and physical well-being.
A handful of almonds before sleep will surely send you to the land of Nod.
- Avocado – another miracle food is avocado. This fruit is also rich in magnesium as well as other minerals essential for healthy nerves.
Regular consumption of avocado has shown a decrease in adrenaline levels in the body, which helps you destress and sleepy. This makes it a perfect food for people who have both anxiety and sleep problems.
- Greek yogurt – among dairy products, it is recommended that people with anxiety and sleep problems consume greek yogurt.
Greek yogurt is incredibly healthy; it is a source of calcium, vitamin B12, protein, as well as potassium and vitamin D. All of these vitamins and compounds help the body relax, as well as produce more melatonin to help you fall asleep too.
However, in order to change your diet, it is not only enough to start eating certain healthy foods. It means that you should also stop eating or drinking unhealthy things.
- Lower caffeine intake – Caffeine is known to increase wakefulness as well as anxiety and overall stress levels. Caffeine is not supposed to be consumed before bedtime, and two cups of coffee per day are enough to keep you up to the daily tasks.
So, if you want to calm down and fall asleep, avoid consuming stimulants like caffeine, at least four hours before bedtime.
- Lower alcohol intake – even though alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, in the long run, it can cause many problems to your anxiety levels and sleep quality. Alcohol disrupts your sleep, increases agitation and stress levels as well as causes awful hangovers, which in turn make you more agitated and stressed (Read More on How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?).
- Stop eating processed and greasy food – processed and greasy food is proven to increase anxiety levels after consumption. Fatty foods, processed meat, high-dairy and high-fat products all increase the chances of you developing anxiety, depression, and insomnia up to 58%.
Read More: 14 Best Foods To Eat Before Bed For Better Sleep
Other Things You Can Do
- Stop smoking if you’re a smoker. Smoking compromises your mental and physical health, as well as the quality of sleep.
- Don’t nap after 3 pm. Napping reduces your need for sleep later in the night. It disrupts your circadian rhythm and messes up the sleep-wake cycle.
- Review the medications you’re currently taking. Study the side effects and see whether they contribute to your sleeplessness and anxiety.
- Stick to a sleeping routine. Make sure to go to bed and wake up at the same time, every day. Even on the weekends.
- Take baby steps. Start with small changes and keep introducing new changes when you feel comfortable. It is important to be patient and persistent.
- Change your mindset. If you worry too much, or if you worry about every single thing that happens, you need to introduce some changes to the way you think as well. Learn to ignore irrelevant things, and focus on the things that matter to you.
- Try to have fun. Invite your friends over for dinner and enjoy a good laugh. Try going to a karaoke night at a local bar, or go to a fun concert (if the crowd won’t worsen your anxiety). Whatever it is you find fun, do it.
Anxiety is not easy to deal with, especially when you add the problem of sleeplessness to the equation. However, there are numerous healthy ways you can take care of your mental and physical health, without taking anti-anxiety or sleeping pills.
Make sure to discuss the aforementioned recommendations with your doctor and see whether they’ll help. We sure hope that at least one change in your lifestyle will improve your overall mood and get you a good night’s sleep. Good luck and never give up!