As a freelance writer, I often find that work-related anxiety keeps me up at night. I lie awake, compiling to-do lists, making plans, and drafting posts. All when I should be sleeping. If anxiety is stealing your sleep too, this post is for you. Here are my top three tips for getting a better night.
A good night’s sleep is fundamental to our wellbeing – being well-rested can help to combat depression, boost low self-confidence, and even reduce the risk of chronic illness and obesity. But in these unsettled times, anxious thoughts can easily steal our sleep and leave us feeling run-down. If you find yourself lying awake at 3 am with your thoughts racing, here are some ways to reclaim your rest.
1) Establish a relaxing evening routine
Start your evening routine well in advance of going to bed to encourage your mind and body to wind down ready for sleep. Incorporate comforting activities to soothe yourself after the stresses of the day – perhaps a warm bath, some gentle yoga, or a non-caffeinated hot drink. Try to set yourself a regular bedtime and stick to it. Establishing some relaxing evening rituals and settling into bed at roughly the same time each night helps your body and mind know that it is time to sleep.
2) Avoid screens
Stay away from screens for at least two hours before you plan to go to sleep, ideally more. The blue light emitted by electronics, such as your phone, computer, or TV, can delay the release of the sleep promoting hormone melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. Not only that, the constant exposure to new information from social media and the news can send your mind whirring and feed your anxiety. Make your bedroom a screen-free zone if possible. If you need to have your phone by you, turn off the screen and put it slightly out of reach so you are less tempted to reach for it for one last scroll.
3) Tackle the underlying cause
Tactics that promote better sleep are a good start to reclaiming your night’s rest. But if your anxiety is persistently robbing you of sleep, it is time to tackle the anxiety itself. Seeing a counsellor or therapist can do wonders – when I was really struggling with anxiety in 2019, three months of weekly counselling sessions went a long way to getting me back on my feet. Look for someone who specialises in anxiety. Lots of counsellors now offer remote sessions too.
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Blue light has a dark side, Harvard Health Publishing, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side, consulted 17/10/2020
How to get to sleep, NHS UK, https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-to-get-to-sleep/, consulted 17/10/2020
Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency, consulted 17/10/2020