During my struggles with anxiety, one of the things that was impacted the most was my lack of sleep. Not only would it take me forever to fall asleep in the evening whilst my mind was going at 100mph, but I would also frequently wake in the middle of the night and my mind would still be going over everything constantly. I would then struggle to wake in the morning.
During this Covid 19 pandemic, I have struggled with my sleep once again and I know that I am not the only one going through this. Many of my friends and family, which have found this period understandably anxious, have also had difficulties in getting a good night’s sleep which makes our emotions even more difficult to handle each day. I decided to do some research and look into ways to help anxious minds sleep.
Here are the tips I found below;
Keeping to a routine
One of the things that really stood out during my research was the importance of keeping a regular routine. It is really important to get your body clock used to going to bed at the same time every night, even if initially you can’t sleep, just try to relax in bed and also waking around the same time every morning. One thing I have found better during this period, is to set an alarm each morning to continue some sort of daily routine.
In terms of a routine, you should also be engaging in physical activity each day. Do not do it too close to bedtime, as you should be winding down, but try to find a time in the day that’s best for you and get some exercise in. You can go out for a daily walk, run or cycle so ensure that you are getting physical activity as well as some fresh air and much needed Vitamin D.
Avoid stimulation before bedtime
There are many things that keep our minds stimulated, and it is important that we try to avoid as much as possible before we are going to bed. Did you know that cool, quiet, and dark environments enable us to sleep better? Light or noise will keep our brain stimulated. If you are living somewhere where its noisy at night, perhaps try to invest in some ear buds.
Caffeine and alcohol are also stimulants so these should be avoided as much as possible before bedtime. In fact, drinks in general should be stopped a couple of hours before you go to bed to stop you from waking frequently for any toilet trips.
Using smart phones, tablets or playing on games consoles right before bed can also activate our minds. Although these are a great way to wind down if you enjoy them, you should also turn these off before you are wanting to go to sleep and try your best not to use them in bed.
Watching TV in bed is also not a great option. The best thing to do to unwind before sleeping, is to read a book. Pick something that isn’t too stimulating for the mind so that you can go to sleep relaxed.
Set apart relaxation and work
Many of us have found ourselves working from home during this pandemic, so options for this may be limited. You should always try to set your bed as somewhere that is relaxing, rather than a place where you need to do work. This is so that your mind associate’s your bedroom with rest, relaxation and sleep and not working.
You should also switch off from work in plenty of time before you want to go to sleep… if you can.
In the daytime, it may be really tempting to take a nap, however this will be detrimental to the full night’s sleep you are aiming for. Stay awake as much as you can in the day, get fresh air and keep active then switch off early.
Read your queues. When your body says you are tired and ready for bed in the evening, listen to it. Don’t pop on another episode on Netflix and drift in and out of sleep, go to bed and satisfy your needs.
The nightly struggles
Going to sleep was a huge struggle for me. But instead of forcing sleep, I would choose to read my book for a little longer until I then felt tired enough I could easily get to sleep. I can then turn off the lamp and let sleep drift over me.
Another nightly struggle is the constant waking and worrying and letting my mind mull over things constantly. That is why I reintroduced worry time back into my life- where I write my worries down during the day, then spend 10 minutes each evening addressing them. If I then wake in the night, I write down my worries on my phone and let myself deal with them the next day. This has helped a lot.
Find out how Dorset Mind can help here.