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Anxiety and Sleep

Do you find yourself struggling to fall asleep? Do you have a hard time winding down, laying awake for hours, and then feeling groggy in the morning? Maybe you have racing thoughts or a never-ending to-do list keeping you up. You are not alone. So many clients coming in for therapy for anxiety report having sleep issues. My goal today is to help you find tools that will help you improve the quality of your sleep.

Creating healthy sleep habits can be a long-term solution to sleep problems, though I always recommend talking with your doctor as well. First, creating consistency in what time you go to sleep and what time you wake up can be very helpful in improving sleep routines, however know that creating this internal clock takes time. In the day, avoid naps, and be intentional with your water intake, meals, and exercise. 

According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, adults need 7 hours or more of quality sleep a night. Studies have shown that 7 hours of quality sleep can improve your immune system, weight management, feelings of brain fog, productivity, decision making, and overall mood. So, what can you do to help?

Focus on building a meaningful bedtime routine. You have freedom to adjust this to meet your needs, but here are some helpful guidelines:

  • Set a screentime limit that goes into effect at the same time every night. Example: set your phone to be on do not disturb from 8pm to 8am everyday. 
  • Engage your five senses as you wind down. Example: diffuse lavender essential oil, dim the lighting, sit with a soft blanket, turn on relaxing music, drink a relaxing tea.
  • Avoid screens for an hour before going to bed
  • Practice deep breathing and mindfulness techniques. Example: Body ScanProgressive Muscle Relaxation4-7-8 Breathing
  • Avoid strenuous activity in the evening, though a calming yoga flow or short walk may help if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Work to create a relaxing environment in your room. For example: use a fan, blackout curtains, tidy your space, comfortable pillow and sheets
  • Only go to bed when you are sleepy. Reduce the amount of time you spend laying awake in bed to help yourself know that laying in bed means sleeping. 
  • Face the clock away from you. It typically adds to anxiety when you are hyper aware of the time you will or won’t get to sleep. 

Perhaps the most important part of all of this is to be consistent! Try a consistent routine nightly for two weeks before you judge its effectiveness. And remember that you can tailor your routine to your needs and preferences. 

If you need extra support in understanding, alleviating, and controlling your stress and worry as it shows up in your life, set up an appointment with a Refuge counselor today, as we would love to help you. 

Please note: I am not a medical provider, and these are only guidelines. Please seek medical advice from your doctor and talk with a physician about any sleep problems you may be having. 

Written by Masters Level Intern, Kat Thompson

The information from this post are from the Center for Clinical Interventions “Sleep Hygiene” handout found here, and from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services webpage found here