Tips for a good night’s sleep with Anxiety. I bet this is something you’ve googled a few times! Anyone with anxiety will know that going through intense periods of anxiety will have a pretty crappy effect on your sleep cycle. It will be tough to fall asleep and tough to have a “good” night’s sleep. You might lie there until 3 am tossing and turning, mind racing and muscles getting ever-so-tenser as the minutes tick by. When you finally do get some sleep, you wake feeling as if you never slept in the first place. Being tired the next day is only going to raise anxiety and stress levels further – a vicious never-ending cycle. Except maybe with these tips for getting a good night’s sleep with anxiety, the cycle can break.
I know a good night’s sleep does me the world of good and can definitely reduce a bit of my anxiety. So if you find yourself googling how to get a good night’s sleep with anxiety? I really really hope these tips help you feel rested.
Tips for a good night’s sleep with anxiety
Why anxiety makes it hard to sleep:
Why does anxiety keep you awake at night? Before I start I’m going to explain why anxiety can affect your sleep so badly. I think it’s important to understand why you are rolling around at night desperate for sleep
There are so many reasons why your anxiety may be stopping you from getting a good night’s sleep. From having too many thoughts zooming around, to being tense and uncomfortable – you can’t expect your body to slip into sleep when in fight or flight mode. Periods of intense anxiety also result in a hormonal shift from your stress causing your body’s natural clock to fall out of sync.
Melatonin and Cortisol – the two hormones responsible for sleep. Essential for a good night’s sleep.
So in case you don’t know, melatonin and cortisol are the two hormones important for sleep. Cortisol spikes just before you wake up. It gives you the energy to get up and go about your day. It keeps rising and then close to the evening it starts to fall. In the evening then melatonin kicks in, telling you it’s time for sleep.
However, cortisol is a stress hormone. When you’re stressed you produce it. So yeah, if you have anxiety you’re producing a lotttt of cortisol. This can completely wreck your normal sleep cycle.
For a lot of people, a couple of bad night’s sleep can actually result in sleep anxiety. Great another thing to be anxious about!
What is Sleep Anxiety? Sleep anxiety could be preventing your good night’s sleep
Sleep anxiety is when you actually start to dread going to bed. If you fear going to sleep because you know you’re going to lie there anxious and frustrated, worrying about how the time between now and having to get up in the morning is quickly diminishing – you may be on a course to developing sleep anxiety. It’s time to get your sleep schedule under control 🙂
Tips for a good night’s sleep with anxiety
(How to Calm your Anxiety at Night)
1 . Have a Calming Bedroom – important tip for a good night’s sleep
Having a calming bedroom is – as you can imagine – incredibly important for getting in the sleep zone. When you’re going to bed, you want your room to make you feel relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep.
Having a calming environment can be the result of a load of things:
- Having a clean room: I try (and sometimes fail) to keep my bedroom tidy. In the past my room was so messy, I would have to wade through piles of clothes to get to my bed and it’s only now that it’s clean I realise just how much this can affect your mood. Now, my room is pretty much just a bed, locker and wardrobe. I do a weekly tidy to make sure the mess doesn’t creep back in.
- Colours: All the walls are white, and my bedsheets are either white or grey. Same with the curtains. I’ve avoided any bright bold colours because certain colours can increase energy and discourage sleep (red for example). All white seemed a nice and boring calming colour palette. Although, I’m trying to find a wall tapestry of a forest scene to put behind the bed. I find being out in nature very calming and am hoping to add this to my room. Alternatively, I’d love to paint the wall behind the bed green. My favourite colour and I find it so calming.
TIP: apparently soft blue is the best colour to help with sleep. So maybe stick on the overalls and update your bedroom walls.
- Have calming lighting. I have a salt lamp and fairy lights. At night, these are the only lights I use in the bedroom. I want the room to be a haven for relaxation, and with these more atmospheric forms of lighting, I immediately feel cosy.
- Change your bedding regularly. I mean what’s better than hopping into fresh clean bedding?
Basically you want your room to be as damn cosy as possible. Makes sense too right? You want your body and mind to be able to wind down as you’re getting into bed. You want it to be as clean, calm and cosy as possible. So yeah, this is a really important tip for a good night’s sleep with anxiety. I love my bedroom now and enjoy getting into bed (sounds weird I know).
2. Your bedroom is strictly for Sleep & Sex
You may have heard this before, but your bedroom should only be used for sleep and sex. This is vital for a good night’s sleep. When I wake up, I leave my bedroom and I won’t spend more than a few minutes in there during the day until it’s time to go to bed again. And it makes sense, you want your brain to associate your bedroom with going to sleep. Not staying up all night on your phone or dancing around listening to music. Do all other activities in another room.
GUILTY: I do actually read in bed, but I admit this isn’t ideal, it should be done in a different room.
I repeat, you want your body and mind to be in the habit of only associating this room with sleep (and sex..!)
3. Have a wind-down routine – Tips for a good night’s sleep with anxiety
We all have busy schedules and many of us are juggling side hustles or children or whatever else you have going on. We can be run off our feet from waking until getting into bed and this is bad. If your mind is racing all day how do you expect to get into bed and fall straight to sleep? Especially with anxiety on top of this?!
This is why you need a relaxing bed-time routine. You need a relaxing wind-down routine to have a good night’s sleep while coping with anxiety.
For me, at about 9:30 I stop what I’m doing. And instead, do something that gives my mind a chance to switch off, like watch something on Netflix, and sip a herbal tea. By 10:30 I do my skincare routine. I used to haaaaate this part of the day and would sometimes skip it because I couldn’t be bothered. Now I enjoy it and consider it as time away from my phone where I can be good to my skin and don’t have to think about anything else. It is just 5 minutes but it’s 5 minutes of calm – which you’ll know, when you have severe anxiety, 5 minutes of calm can be bliss.
Use skincare that you enjoy and love and it makes the process so much more calming.
Then I go to my bedroom. I will generally get into bed and read. Funnily enough in bed I tend to read books about anxiety. I think for me, it’s really nice and reassuring to read books that make me realise there are other people like me and that I’m not crazy. These books also reaffirm some good anxiety coping skills. A great way to put all my anxieties from the day to bed 😉 I only read for 20 minutes or so and then go to sleep.
I think this is one of the best tips for a good night’s sleep with anxiety. A good routine in the evening sets you up for letting go of your stress, reducing your anxiety and puts your body and mind in sleep mode.
4. Journal – great tip for reducing anxiety and worry
This is part of my wind-down routine but I think it deserves its own section. I have a notebook dedicated to my mental health on my locker. It says “happy thoughts” on it – cuuuute! Generally, a lot of the thoughts in there aren’t happy but it’s fine!
If things have bothered me throughout the day or I’m having a pretty tough anxiety day, this journal comes in handy. Some days, thoughts won’t leave my mind and I feel the weight of them all day, in my mind, body and particularly, in my stomach.
I grab my journal and write these things down and question them a little bit. Why can I not get this out of my head? Why is this affecting me now? What triggered this? I’ve learned to question these negative thoughts to try and understand and accept why I feel this way.
I always try to finish on a positive though. I will try to write at least 3 or 4 positive things that happened that day. It could be as simple as having a hot shower that was enjoyable or going for a walk. The more I have done this practice, the easier I have found it to find positive things to end with. It’s good to get the bad off your chest before sleep.
5. Meditation – such an important tip for getting a good night’s sleep with anxiety
Meditation or mindfulness is something I try to do a few times a day. Especially before bed, even if it’s just for 3 – 5 minutes. That is enough to slow everything down and break the constant cycle of thoughts.
If I am really struggling to calm my mind down and get to sleep I will go on youtube and put on a longer mindfulness video. My favourite is: “10 Minute Guided Body Scan Meditation from The Meditation Coach”.
Usually I’m asleep before it’s over.
6. Phone on silent, or even better – out of the room! No Screens!
We don’t have any tv or laptops in the bedroom. Well, Eoghan has a tablet but I don’t have anything. When I go to sleep, I now put my phone on silent too. I always found that it’s when I go to sleep that it starts dinging away on my locker. I wonder who is contacting me or feel guilty if I don’t reply straight away so I end up checking it.
The light then wakes me up and I’m back to square 1. This can go on all night, so now I put it on silent and just put it the far side of my locker.
What’s even better: pick up a cheap alarm clock and put your phone out of the room altogether. I haven’t been able to do this yet but want to. I know we’re used to having our phones glued to our bodies and it’s tough to not sit in bed checking it, but it’s for your benefit, and your sleep!
7. Daily Exercise – amazing for reducing stress levels, thus helping sleep
It’s only in the last few months that I’ve really put in place a workout routine (exercise triggers my health anxiety). But, I’ve noticed since I’ve been exercising daily that I fall asleep much quicker (generally) and have a muchhhh deeper sleep.
I try and do 10 minutes of cardio when I wake up which straight away puts me in a good mood and I feel, helps me tackle the day. I do a 20 minute run after work too. This has had such a positive effect on me. I never thought I would enjoy exercise but it makes me feel more positive thus less anxious and I have a better night’s sleep. It’s a win-win-win!
8. No Heavy Meals Before Bed – A full tummy will not give you a good night’s sleep
Your digestive system is incredibly linked to anxiety. Especially when you have stomach issues like me! I really struggle to get to sleep, and stay asleep when my stomach is swelled and bloated or I’m having reflux. To prevent this from happening, I have my last main meal before 7 pm. I go to bed about 12 am so I generally have something small and gentle like some watermelon around 9 with my herbal tea.
That way, when I get into bed I don’t have any feeling of irritation in my stomach. Makes falling asleep muchhh easier when you don’t feel like you have a rock in your stomach!
9. If you can’t sleep, get up – Don’t torture yourself
There is nothing worse than when you can’t sleep. You get more and more frustrated and anxious and start counting down the time until you have to wake up. I know you know the feeling I’m talking about!
Instead of falling into this patter, break the cycle by getting up. I call it “resetting myself”. Sometimes I have to do it a few times a night before I fall asleep. Just get up and go to the living room, do a small task like putting dishes away or something. Then go to the bathroom and get back into bed.
Most times this helps me and I fall asleep shortly after getting back into bed.
Definitely don’t reach over and check the time on your phone. This makes it so much worse, and will make it even harder to sleep!
11. Try to Stay Awake – a surprising way to get to sleep and ditch the anxiety
Yess of course I’m gonna give you bonus tips for a good night’s sleep with anxiety. So as I said before, we all know that horrible feeling of trying to pretend we don’t care that we’re not falling asleep. Pretending we’re not anxious and all the while knowing the stress levels are rising. Lying there with eyes pinched shut pleading with yourself to fall asleep.
It’s funny what happens if try and force yourself to stay awake. I lie there and tell myself “fine, stay awake” and try to keep my eyes open. Within minutes my eyes are struggling to close. Reverse psychology at it’s finest!
Some other bonus small tips for getting a good night’s sleep with anxiety – cuz that’s how much I wanna help ya!
- Wear an eye mask – I find when my anxiety is bad and I close my eyes at night, they are so tense I feel they are so scrunched up. It’s uncomfortable and I find myself getting frustrated that I can’t just have them relax so I can go to sleep. Put on an eye mask. Sometimes I literally just grab a t-shirt and wrap it around my head haha. Having something soft pressed against my eyelids helps my eyes relax and I can get to sleep. A weird tip but it works for me!
- Get natural light during the day, especially in the morning. Not only is this thought to reduce stress and depression (yay), it’s associated with better sleep. It helps with the proper production of cortisol and melatonin and keeps your natural sleep cycle in check. Essentially, getting daylight in the morning helps keep the body on its normal sleep cycle. I won’t bore you with the science but it’s good okay!
- Lavender is known to reduce stress, great for before bed! Why not add a lavender plant to your bedroom or try lavender oil on your wrists? Apparently the famous “this works lavender spray” is famous for a reason, because it works! I haven’t tried it yet but will for sure get around to it!
- Leave the window open. People tend to have better sleep in cooler temperatures. When we fall asleep our temperature drops up to 2 degrees. Having the window open helps mimic that. Apparently the cooler temperature helps boost melatonin too (yay!). BUT: If you have hay fever, I recommend taking your antihistamine before bed.
- Look for triggers: Nocturnal panic attacks are absolutely awful and are just another way anxiety can wreck your sleep. If you experience these panic attacks, try and pay attention to determine if anything triggering it. I noticed they happen to me when I’m going through long intense periods of stress (duh) and also when I use a hot water bottle. I love going to bed with a scalding hot water bottle because I find it so comforting to cuddle. However, I realised overheating while I was sleeping combined by stress was causing me to wake in these awful panic attacks. Really paying attention to what is happening when these panic attacks happen can help. I’ve learned to ditch the hot water bottle and try and stay cool at night. Thankfully I don’t have these nocturnal panic attacks very much anymore.
- Consider taking melatonin supplements for a while to get your cycle back to normal. In America, I believe it’s easy to get it but in Europe it’s more regulated and you may need a prescription. I have been tempted to try this but after some research decided against it. But if you are desperate definitely speak to your doctor about this. This may be a lifesaver if used for a limited period to fix things
- Speak to a doctor: if your anxiety is really effecting your sleep and it’s causing you a lot of issues, I would for sure speak to your doctor. You may need to do more to combat your anxiety and speaking to a professional is the way to go.
- Stick to a sleeping schedule and avoid sleeping in on weekends – no explanation needed for this I think!
Conclusion – Are you ready for a good night’s sleep and put your anxiety to bed?
I really hope you enjoyed my “tips for a good night’s sleep with anxiety” and that some of these tips bring you some peace, and some sleep.
We gotta be realistic though: you’re not going to fall into a good sleep schedule straight away. It would take a while and there will always be periods where getting to sleep and staying to sleep will be a struggle (we have anxiety after all!) BUT with these tips, you should find some ideas that will help you.
Thanks for reading my “Tips for a good night’s sleep with Anxiety”.
I recently wrote a piece about what a panic attack feels like. So if you ever tried to explain to family/friends, what a panic attack feels like but struggle to talk about it, just share this with them. It’s called “The Not so Age-Old Question: What does a Panic Attack feel like“
Some more of my posts on mental health & anxiety:
- I have anxiety
- If you want some quotes to improve your mental health and kick-arse, check out my post on “Quotes to improve your mental health“.