Picture this; you are lying wide awake in the middle of the night, tossing and turning while sweet slumber evades you. You find yourself fretting over your to-do list for the next day and all your pending errands, and suddenly you are struck with a panic attack, and all the thoughts of what would happen if you are not well rested the next day, come swarming at you. To make matters worse, you are apprehensive to fall asleep before the 3 am garbage truck disrupts noisily and keeps you up for longer. This is what experts call sleep anxiety.
Unfortunately, the more you worry about not sleeping, the less you sleep, and the less you sleep the more overwrought your nerves become; the vicious cycle continues. If you dread sleep and have fallen prey to fear of sleep, here’s how you can get over sleep anxiety:
Let Go Of The Props
Such a natural physiological process as sleep shouldn’t be determined by props or nighttime rituals. For some people, alcohol, pills, or perhaps warm baths can become a hard to break habit that they associate with sleep. However, reliance on such rituals can aggravate sleeplessness and fuel sleep anxiety. You should try to follow a regular and normal wind down each night to accustom your brain to sleep naturally. To stave off anxiety, try to slowly come off your rituals. In fact, starting with once a week should suffice to prevent unwanted rebound insomnia.
Stop Struggling With Your Apprehensions
Train your brain to stop imagining how bad things could get the next day if you don’t get enough sleep or dwell upon how much trouble you have had sleeping in the past nights. Doing so only serves to promote nighttime wakefulness/arousal episodes and sleep anxiety.
Yoga and Regular mindfulness practices would help you address your worries and trepidation objectively and let go of them gradually. When your brain wanders off, something as simple as focusing on the gentle heaving of your chest while you breathe, or feeling the touch of the duvet against your bare skin can anchor you to the present moment and allow your brain to snap back to the present. While you can’t stop the barrage of worrisome thoughts that flood your mind, it’s up to you to choose how you address them.
Welcome Your Fears To Combat Sleep Anxiety
Nobody likes to be burdened with potent emotional reactions or bothersome thoughts. However, it is often the struggle to overcome or suppress them that exacerbates them further and keeps you up more often. The commitment and acceptance therapy offers a uniquely alternative approach by helping you change your relationship with your fears and worries.
Welcoming your unsolicited emotions and thoughts can be as simple as allowing yourself to immerse in them and scrutinize them remotely, like a third person. With an open mind, analyze each thought and accept it as part of your being. Paradoxically, your willingness to experience them weakens the hold they have over you, allowing you to get over sleep anxiety.
If you feel energized and hyperactive after a bout of nocturnal panic attack, you would be better off doing something mundane and menial, such as scrubbing the sink. Picking a chore that is uncomfortable, laborious, and boring would not stimulate your brain, causing it to become lethargic.
The right meditative techniques can offer profound reprieve to your mind and senses and release all the stress and tension from your overwrought muscles. The Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique is one of the most effective and popular meditation techniques, scientifically proven to induce a deep sense of tranquility in the entire body and ensure brain wave coherence.
During the first 20 minutes of meditation, a state of soothing alertness is experienced which reduces fatigue and stress. Research has proven that the TM technique leads to peacefulness and inner calm. A study conducted on 146 studies showed that the TM technique was almost twice as effective in alleviating anxiety as other meditative means such as the EMG Biofeedback, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Relaxation Response.
Eat the Right Diet
To boost your mood, add bananas, poultry, milk, oats, sesame seeds, nuts, peanut butter, and cheese to your dietary plans. These foods are rich in tryptophan, which helps your brain generate the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which induces a feeling of calmness, and wellbeing. Furthermore, drinking too much caffeine or consuming it later in the day can increase anxiety and inhibit sleep. In addition, caffeine enhances anxiety and has negative repercussions on those suffering from anxiety disorders.
Limit Screen Time
Your Tv, tablet and phone emit light that keeps your brain awake. This is why you need to limit them at least an hour before bedtime. Checking email, browsing, or playing games just before bedtime can also trigger anxious thoughts and make it difficult for you to relax. Keep reminding yourself to shut screens off at an adequate time before bed. Keep your phone on silent and put it away somewhere you won’t be able to grope for when succumbing into temptation.
Making Your Bedroom Comfortable
A peaceful bedroom atmosphere greatly helps in sending a signal to the mind that it is time to relax. Maintaining silence in the room is important for a good night’s sleep. If you can’t completely avoid traffic sounds, barking dogs and various noises from creeping into your bedroom, try masking them with a fan or white noises. Earplugs may be your next best friend!
Keeping your room at a comfortable temperature also helps you sleep. Most people prefer to sleep in a moderately cool room (around 65°F or 18°C) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can keep you uncomfortable at night. Also make sure you have enough legroom to stretch and turn. Place a comfortable bed in your room with a topnotch mattress so you don’t end up with a sore neck and aching back. Invest in a firm pillow to provide adequate support to the neck.
Making your mind let go of worries and thoughts is the secret to sweet snooze. Once you have settled down comfortably in your bed, close your eyes, and be transported to your “happy place”. Visualize a scene, a moment or a story that fills you up with happiness, e.g. a memorable vacation, an endearing person, your favorite song or a calming outdoor spot.
Create this scenario in your mind, incorporate every detail of the story in your head and imagine yourself losing into it. Every time you feel a fretful thought entering your mind, let it go and let your mind’s eye drift back to your scenario and concentrate on how the situation can make you happy!