How to Manage Your Anxiety and Improve Sleep
Between 28 and 44 percent of adults in the United States now report regularly getting less than seven hours of sleep per night. That puts them in some state of sleep deprivation. The cause of sleeplessness can vary from over access to technology to work and/or family stress. If anxiety is interfering with your ability to get a full seven to nine hours of sleep, there are ways to reduce anxiety and sleep better.
The Cyclical Relationship Between Anxiety and Sleep Loss
At times, it can be hard to decide which came first, the anxiety or sleep loss because they both cause and contribute to the other.
During sleep deprivation, the amygdala, a small part of the brain that’s responsible for processing emotions, becomes overstimulated by negative thoughts, feelings, and events. While your amygdala experiences an upsurge in activity, the prefrontal cortex, the logic center of the brain, reduces its activity and slows down.
Without your full logic and reasoning abilities, you may respond with greater emotion to fairly normal circumstances. If you find yourself in a truly stressful situation, your anxiety may increase to the point that it affects your ability to respond appropriately, further increasing your anxiety and causing sleeplessness. Thus, the cycle continues as stress increases and sleep decreases.
How to Get Better Sleep Despite Anxiety
If you recognize a cyclical pattern between your anxiety and sleep problems, rest assured that there are ways to both improve sleep habits and manage anxiety. A consistent effort to put an end to the sleep/anxiety cycle may take time, but you can start by:
- Developing a Relaxing Nighttime Routine: Look for activities that calm your body and mind and include them in a nightly routine. You can start with classics like a warm bath or reading a book. However, be open to other options like meditation and yoga. Meditation has been shown to strengthen the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. At the same time, meditation has also been shown to reduce the size of the amygdala. This can give you greater control over your emotions and thoughts. Yoga helps reduce stress-related inflammation, improves mood, and reduces fatigue, all of which can help you sleep better.
- Maintaining a Regular Bedtime: Going to bed on time is far more important than you know. Your body relies on daily 24-hour cycles to control everything from appetite to hormones and, you guessed it, sleep. When you go to bed at the same time every night, including weekends, you solidify the release of sleep hormones and strengthen your body’s response to them.
- Smart Snacks and Natural Sleep Supplements: Calcium, magnesium, tryptophan, and melatonin are all used to regulate your sleep cycle. A few sleep-enhancing nutrients that make great bedtime snacks include dairy products, bananas, almonds, and sour cherries. You can also find many of these nutrients in natural sleep supplements. Read and follow dosing instructions to make sure you’re getting the full benefit of the supplement’s nutrients.
- Creating a Calming, Supportive Sleep Environment: Your bedroom influences your mental state and readiness for sleep. At the onset of sleep, your body temperature naturally drops. So most people sleep more comfortably between 60 to 68 degrees to maintain this temperature. You also want to eliminate as much noise and light as possible. Light, in particular, can affect the release of sleep hormones. Blackout curtains or heavy drapes over the windows prevent moonlight, headlights, or street lamps from interfering with your sleep cycle.
- Turning Off Electronics: Twenty-four hour access to information can not only build anxiety but suppress sleep hormones. The bright light from televisions, smartphones, and laptops can all trigger the brain to stay awake. Turn them off two to three hours before bed to give your body time to fully release sleep hormones.
When you make consistent efforts to manage your anxiety and sleep better before bed, you’re investing in your health. With patience and time, you’ll be able to get the sleep you need and reduce the effects of anxiety in your life. Read more on what you can do to improve your sleep.
Manage Your Anxiety and Sleep Better with Help from a Therapist
If you find yourself having a difficult time falling asleep, that can often indicate symptoms of stress or anxiety. Waking up throughout the night can sometimes indicate depression. If you are having trouble these symptoms, a counselor can help you get to the root of the issue. Call us at 832-559-2622 for more information or book an appointment online and take back your night!
Stacey L. Nash is a Seattle area writer for Tuck.com whose insomnia led her to research all aspects of sleep. With a degree in communications from the University of Puget Sound, she helps put sleep into the forefront of the health and wellness conversation. When not researching and writing about sleep, she spends time with her husband and four children on their heavily-wooded, twelve-acre piece of heaven.
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