Can’t fall asleep at night? You’re not alone. Insomnia is exceedingly common in the U.S., with 30 to 40 percent of American adults having problems sleeping each year. Commonly, a lack of sleep can result in a series of problems with mental health and happiness, and vice versa.
If you’ve found your way to this semi-unorthodox article, chances are that you’ve already tried all the usual advice for getting to bed: you limit your caffeine intake, you have a comfortable mattress and pillow, and you wake up and go to bed at the same time daily. And somehow, for some reason, you keep on tossing and turning!
Could your sleeplessness be related to anxiety? If you’re looking for a better night’s rest, try these tips to reduce your stressors right before bed.
Address your worries earlier in the day
If anxiety kicks in late at night while you lay in bed, consider scheduling “worry time” during the day. Choose at least a 15-minute period at the same time daily when you address your worries in a healthy manner, through therapy or any other form that you find works for you. When you get your worries out during the day, it can help keep your mind from lingering on them at night.
Write it down
One effective way to handle stress is to write it down. Try keeping a pen and paper on your bedside table so if you wake up with anxiety, you can write about it (and not linger on it). Consider writing down your worries or, alternatively, your blessings for today.
Try a weighted blanket
Weighted blankets are all the rave these days. Heavier than the kinds of blankets people usually buy—typically weighing anywhere from 4 to 30 pounds—weighted blankets may reduce symptoms for many people with anxiety. The blanket can help achieve a relaxed state, in which you can get better quality sleep. Weighted blankets push downwards in a process known as “earthing” or “grounding,” which has been shown to have a deeply calming effect through a reduction in cortisol and an increase in dopamine and serotonin. The blankets also simulate deep pressure touch (DPT)—a type of therapy that uses pressure to reduce chronic stress and extreme anxiety.
Steer clear of anxiety-producing activities right before bed
Set a cut-off time, around one to two hours before bed, after which you will not engage in anything too stimulating. Avoid arguments with friends and family, high-stress TV shows, and working too hard late at night. Instead, read a book, meditate, stretch gently or listen to quiet music.
People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety than those who do not exercise at all. Exercise lowers your body’s stress hormones (i.e. cortisol) and releases happy hormones (i.e. endorphins), improves your sleep quality, and builds confidence that can promote mental well-being.
Find an environment conducive to maintaining your circadian rhythm
The circadian rhythm—our internal clock—is very important when it comes to sleep. Hormones provide signals to the body that control sleeping patterns. For the rhythm to function, there are environmental components we can try to control to support the process. When sleep is compromised by stress, the rhythm can be lost and re-establishing it can be difficult.
Drink calming tea
Chamomile tea is regarded as a helpful sleep aid. Some compounds in chamomile (Matricaria recutita) bind to the same brain receptors as drugs like Valium, which is a medication used to reduce anxiety. Chamomile can help relax the body and aid with good sleep.
Aromatherapy uses fragrant essential oils to promote health and help lower stress. The fragrances can be inhaled directly or added to a warm bath or diffuser. Studies have shown that aromatherapy helps you relax and sleep, boosts mood, and reduces heart rate and blood pressure. Try lighting a candle or using essential oils to benefit from various calming scents, including bergamot, lavender, clary sage, grapefruit or ylang ylang.
If stress is standing in the way of your very needed shut-eye, it might have to do with an inability to find peace of mind. According to Spine-Health.com, “Many believe that they just need relaxation to reduce stress. However, the opposite of stress is not relaxation, it’s empowerment.” Empower yourself throughout the day or late at night in any way you know to be effective. You might find that you can finally get the sleep you deserve.