Sleep Disorders and Anxiety

Sleep Disorders and Anxiety
Sleep Disorders and Anxiety
Difficulty sleeping is a common complaint by those who suffer from anxiety, but which came first: the sleep disturbance or the anxiety? Since anxiety can cause disruptions to your sleep, and lack of sleep can cause anxiety, this question is nearly impossible to answer.

Difficulty sleeping is a common complaint by those who suffer from anxiety, but which came first: the sleep disturbance or the anxiety? Since anxiety can cause disruptions to your sleep, and lack of sleep can cause anxiety, this question is nearly impossible to answer.

This is especially true for one of the most popular sleep disorders – insomnia - which affects up to 50% of adults at some point in their life. Those who struggle with insomnia experience difficulty with at least one of the following:

  •         Falling asleep (onset insomnia)
  •         Staying asleep (maintenance insomnia)
  •         Falling into a deep (REM) sleep

Individuals with insomnia can spend hours lying awake at night desperate to fall asleep (or stay asleep) but for whatever reason, cannot. You add anxiety into the mix and suddenly you have a vicious cycle that’s difficult to get out of. Where you want to sleep but can’t, so you begin to stress about the fact that you can’t sleep, which puts you into a further anxious state, thereby making it even more difficult to fall asleep, etc.

Not to mention this lack of sleep results in exhaustion, lethargy and mood disruptions, which only further feeds an anxious mind throughout the day. This means you are likely going to bed already in a heightened state of anxiety.

So how do you break this cycle and start seeing some relief?

Luckily there are many options out there to try.

  1.      Avoid blue emitting light

As millennials, this is likely one that you have heard time and time again. Avoid your phone/laptop 30 minutes before bed. Don’t watch tv in bed. There’s a reason for this suggestion beyond wanting to turn off your mind before bed. Our screens emit a blue light which has been shown to negatively affect sleep patterns. It does so by disrupting your body’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep regulation.  

For best results, it’s best to avoid screens all together. However, if you must use your screens, there are a few tricks that can help reduce the amount of blue light emitted:

  • Apps such a f.lux can make laptop screens more red toned
  • Many phones have a feature which can change the screen to a warmer (less blue) light at nighttime
    • iPhones: Night Shift
    • Pixels: Night Light
    • Galaxy: Blue Light Filter
  1.      Check your medications

If you are having trouble sleeping and are on any medications, it is worth checking with your doctor to make sure none of them are stimulants; which are meant to keep you alert and awake. If this is the case, ask to review your options and see if there are other brands you can take, or if there is a certain time of day that will best reduce the chances of it interfering with your sleep.

  1.       Try an evening float

Float tanks have become all the rage lately – and for good reason! Not only are they incredibly relaxing and soothing on your muscles, but they also are known to reduce stress and anxiety and actually improve sleep! This is because the float tanks are filled with over 800lbs of magnesium-rich Epsom salts (the secret behind how you float). Magnesium deficiency has been linked to countless mental health struggles – including anxiety and sleep disorders.

What better way to infuse your body with this incredible mineral than to float in 800lbs of it! Because you are absorbing all of this magnesium, the tranquility and relaxation you experience during the float lasts long after you finish. Which is why we suggest you go for an evening float, so you can take this calmness home with you and (hopefully) sleep much sounder.

If you can’t get to a float tank clinic right away, consider drawing up your own Epsom salt bath at home before bed. You may also consider speaking with your doctor about starting a magnesium supplement.

  1.       Create a sleep schedule

We understand life can become very busy and creating a sleep schedule can seem unrealistic. But with a bit of practice and perseverance, the rewards can make it all worth it. A sleep schedule means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. It is important to keep this schedule consistent across the entire week – including weekends. This means if you have to wake up at 7am during the week, we encourage you to do the same on weekends. We understand weekends are the two days of the week you can actually sleep in, but the benefit of having this sleep schedule means you are going to bed at an appropriate hour the night before and therefore getting a full night’s rest.  

  1.       Try Golden Milk before bed

Warm milk before bed is a childhood staple, but this tradition does not have to end as you age. In fact, it can be improved! Golden milk involves mixing turmeric, milk (or milk alternative) and a little bit of honey. Turmeric is a fantastic spice that helps calm our nervous system and therefore can help reduce anxiety and improve your sleep.

  1.       Keep a notepad beside your bed

For some of us, bedtime is the time our minds run the most. You’re trying to sleep but all these thoughts and ideas are rushing through your brain making it impossible to relax. If this sounds familiar, try keeping a notepad and pen (not your phone!) beside your bed. This way if something important comes to mind that you do not want to forget tomorrow morning, you can quickly jot it down and tell yourself that it will be there in the morning. For improved results, try dedicating 10 minutes before you go to bed to write down anything you think you might be worrying about throughout the night.

  1.       Try a mindfulness activity

If this means counting sheep, give it a whirl. But if you’re looking for something different, consider trying the 5 senses trick! This involves staying present in the moment by focusing on each of your five senses (sight, smell, touch, sound, hear). For instance, you can tell yourself 5 things your feel, 4 things you hear, 3 things you see (if your eyes aren’t already closed), 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste. Then you repeat this over and over until you feel your mind calming down.

Alternatively, you can try the muscle tension trick. This involves focusing on a single body part, contracting that muscle (ie. squeezing your thigh) and then releasing the tension. Once again, you repeat this as many times as necessary.

  1.       Get out of bed

We know this may sound strange but hear us out. If you are constantly laying in bed unable to sleep, eventually you will begin to associate your bed with difficulty sleeping. That means before you even set your head on the pillow you are already telling yourself it’s not going to happen. If you have tried all the tricks and you still cannot sleep, it is actually better to get out of the bedroom and go do a calming activity then it is to stay in bed fighting to sleep.

Now we aren’t recommending you go turn on all the lights or watch tv. Instead, try keeping the lights dim and whip out a colouring book or old novel you’ve already read (ideally something that won’t get you excited or suck you into reading for the next two hours). Let your body become sleepy naturally and then go back to bed and try again.

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