Falling asleep with anxiety is no easy task. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 40 million adults in the United States (approximately 19.1%) have an anxiety disorder. So if you’re having trouble sleeping with anxiety, you’re certainly not alone. With the proliferation of technology encompassing so much of our life, societal stresses seem to be everywhere we turn. However, practicing relaxation and proper sleep habits can help alleviate these sleep issues.
A certain amount of stress and anxiety is normal, it is what keeps us pushing and achieving, however, when it begins impacting your life in negative ways then it can become unhealthy. If anxiety from work, money and emotional problems is keeping you up at night, then it’s time to employ positive techniques before a potentially dangerous cycle takes root.
According to David Neubauer, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, “emotional problems can affect sleep, and lack of sleep can affect people’s emotions” and as a result a dangerous circular pattern begins.
How Anxiety Affects Sleep
Everyone has some anxiety, it’s inevitable and engrained in the human reaction to certain situations. However, it becomes a disorder when this anxiety persists and starts cropping up for weeks, then months, and begins impacting your work, relationships and keeps your mind racing at night. According to Lauran Hahn a mental health counselor, “[a]n anxiety disorder is an overactive amygdala in the brain.” The amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for sensing danger. You know when you’re on the edge of your seat during a super scary movie or your friend jumps out from behind a bush? Well when that happens the amygdala sends a signal to your body which begins ramping up the nervous system. During this time, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released causing our body’s heart rate and ultimately blood pressure to rise. This natural function helps us to react quickly in dangerous situations, providing greater blood flow to the brain.
This natural reaction is great, however, keeping the amygdala in an “on” position for too long is unhealthy and will begin causing the body harm. When this occurs, especially at night it begins affecting sleep patterns, preventing the body from relaxing and recharging. Unfortunately, persistent insomnia will lead one to become stressed and anxious about sleep, resulting in an unhealthy cycle. A study conducted by the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that continued sleep deprivation contributes to anxiety.
Anxiety and Sleep By The Numbers
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America:
- “[Generalized Anxiety Disorder] affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, yet only 43.2% are receiving treatment. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men. GAD often co-occurs with major depression.”
- “Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.”
- “People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.”
What Can You Do to Calm Down Before Sleep and Get a Good Night's Rest?
As discussed, anxiety and insomnia are closely related, so alleviating one will begin helping to alleviate the other. So where should one begin?
One way of approaching this is through doctor recommendations which include getting treatment with cognitive therapy, meditation, or medication which all can have an indirect effect of improving sleep.
Other ways include the following:
Learning new relaxation techniques such as practicing meditation and yoga techniques. Yoga can improve sleep by not only relaxing the muscles, but also relaxing the mind at the same time. Creating a sense of zen within the body. However, it is recommended not to start new techniques right before bed, which could result in frustration (and stress) in learning something new. Start by practicing meditation and yoga techniques that you are familiar with and learn new ones earlier in the day.
Spending time winding down before bed. Just like a car, your body can’t go from 100 MPH to 0 MPH the second your head hits the pillow. It is important to take some time to yourself before bed, stop tasks that may result in waking you up, such as exercising or other active movements and begin dimming the lights. Some sleep experts suggest reading a light book (nothing too dense) or doing light stretching or keeping a journal. It is very important to avoid tasks that may result in anxiety such as reviewing financial information, paying bills, or scrolling through social media.
Incorporating Sleep Aids. Preliminary research suggests that incorporating CBD into your sleep routine may improve sleep and reduce anxiety. Studies suggest CBD may be helpful in treating sleep disorders such as insomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder, and daytime sleepiness disorder. Melatonin is also a popular sleep aid that is backed by research and produced naturally by the human body. Some leading sleep companies have taken it upon themselves to bring products to market that combine the effectiveness of both of these products into one single confection. Here at nama we produced a real fruit filled vegan gummy combining the powers of both CBD, CBN and a light dose of melatonin that stays within the recommended Johns Hopkins physician guidelines.
Eliminating screen time. This is a given. Looking at screens before bed is a big no no. Not only does the blue light that is emitted from these electronic devices directly impact the body’s natural winding down process and slow down the body's production of the hormone melatonin, it also routinely adds unnecessary anxiety. For example, scrolling through social media into the late hours can result in social anxiety that is often correlated with such social platforms.
Limit Eating (and don't forget drinking too). The body uses energy to break down food and doing this throughout the night is not an ideal situation for getting a good night's rest. According to many dietitians, it is recommended that you eat your last big meal of the day at least 2 to 3 hours before bed.
Eating is not the only thing you should avoid before bed, you should also keep in mind what you are drinking before bed. Drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages before bed is sure to result in poor sleep and increase anxiety (let alone insomnia). It is recommended to avoid both of these, especially if you are suffering from insomnia to begin with.
Avoid Dwelling on Things Outside of Your Control. This is a hard one, but super important. When you’re going to sleep you should have one focus, sleeping. Dwelling on anxiety or emotional issues from the day are sure to keep you awake and are most certainly counterproductive. Nothing good can come from doing this, by getting a good night's rest and reassuring yourself that no good will come from dwelling in the middle of the night, will provide you with the rest you need to tackle the issues the following day.
Limiting the Activities in Your Bedroom. With the pandemic causing many to work remotely, we have become more accustomed to spending more time in our bedrooms. Spending time in your bedroom when you’re not sleeping can impact your sleep routine, such as watching television or working on your computer in bed. It is important to keep your bedroom separate from these activities by keeping it a place for sleep and only sleep.
Keeping Your Bedroom a Sleep Sanctuary. What does this mean? The human body responds best when sleeping in a cool, dark and quiet room. Avoiding bright lights or high temperatures will help one relax before bed and promote better sleep. As for noise, sometimes it is impossible to prevent noise from loud neighbors or a busy highway, so implementing a white noise machine may prove beneficial to drown out these sounds and provide for a better sleeping environment.
Being More Active During the Day. Being active during the day may reduce anxiety and promote better sleep at night. According to studies, people who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may see an improvement in sleep quality that night. By being active this doesn’t necessarily mean going for a strenuous workout at the gym or running a marathon, it could simply mean a 30 minute walk around a park or an exercise class or bike ride. The key here is consistency, as you continue to workout the improvements will likely increase.More than half of Americans lose sleep due to stress or anxiety …. proper sleep, meet nama. Here at nama we made it our mission to craft the highest quality vegan gummy infused with functional ingredients to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. We spent many years researching and developing what we are proud to call one of the leading sleep gummies on the market. Our wild strawberry sleep gummy is made in small batches and crafted with an innovative blend of rare cannabinoids and a light dose of melatonin. Sourced from nature, backed by science.