Help with anxiety and trouble sleeping
Many people who suffer from anxiety mention that they have trouble sleeping. The main reason for this is that they usually go to bed with 101 worries and things to think about. Sleep becomes difficult because their mind is too active and so the brain has trouble switching off, which is what is needed to sleep.
Some say that they have trouble falling asleep or that they wake too early. Others mention that their sleep is very broken and that they wake up many times in the night, staring anxiously at the clock wondering how long it will be until they drop back off.
All of these scenarios can have a huge effect on how that person functions the next day and in many cases can actually increase their symptoms of anxiety, making them more anxious and cranky. This can then cause them to start to worry about sleeping and for many the harder they try to sleep, the less they seem to have, which can become a vicious cycle.
This is a cycle I certainly fell into, I would wake in the middle of the night and sometimes not get back off at all and if I did I was waking every few minutes and what sleep I did have was very light and it so the need to sleep became a real issue. I then went on to read all the usual articles about making sure the room is the right temperature and that the bed was comfy. I even played soothing music before I went to sleep and yet nothing seemed to work.
As usual for me, I wasn’t going to accept this and wanted to find my own answers as to why this had become such a problem and why I could not seem to overcome it. The first thing I did was realise that all this stuff I was reading to help me sleep was just making more of an issue of sleep. Yes, the advice is right in that it is better for the bedroom to be cool and that the bed is comfy and that really should be the norm but all these techniques were not helping me.
What I was trying to do is perfect all this advice and then monitoring how I was doing. I was trying to use techniques to help me sleep and then fretting about how I was doing. I realised that the body falls asleep naturally and that me trying to interfere with that was making it worse. I was just in a cycle of ‘trying’ to sleep instead of allowing it to come naturally.
Also, the fact I was constantly monitoring how I was doing and making an issue out of it was just giving my subconscious mind something else to think about and this was the reason for me constantly waking up, it was like my mind was on constant alert to how I was doing. If I wanted to sleep far better then I needed nothing on my mind, I needed to no longer care how much sleep I got and then my mind would be far less active when I was asleep.
What really helped me sleep
There were a few things but by far the most helpful was that I stopped all the rules I was trying to perfect, like no longer watching T.V before bed, playing relaxing music, etc. I just did as I always did and stopped making an issue out of sleeping. If it was getting late and I was still awake I just accepted that. There was no more tossing and turning, worrying about what time it was.
I just no longer cared how much sleep I got, if I woke in the night then I would be fine with it. This took the whole worry and emphasis of it and so, in turn, my mind had far less to worry and think about and so was more relaxed and sleep came far easier.
I also cut down on the worry during the day and if anything was on my mind at bedtime I would just let it go. If my mind wanted to replay anything then I would allow it to do so but no longer get involved.
I remember one night it being particularly active and I just said ‘you carry on as you want, I’m off to sleep’ this allowed me to realise that my mind could go into a worry storm but that I didn’t have to get involved with it. I just became aloof to my minds antics.
Other things that helped me with sleeping
- Not drinking alcohol or caffeine just before bed
- Sticking to a certain time and not going to bed at numerous different hours
- Getting up as soon as I woke
- A good amount of exercise, especially outdoors
- No longer napping through the day
Sleep is natural to all of us when we don’t try and interfere with it using a bunch of techniques. It is just that the person suffering from anxiety tends to take more worries and concerns with them to bed and then unfortunately not sleeping can become the new thing to worry about before and during sleep and so then the mind finds itself too active to get a good nights sleep.
So try and not take any worries to bed with you, just let them all go. If the mind wishes to go over anything just allow it to do so without getting involved and make no issue out of sleeping and just resign yourself fully to what sleep you get, this in itself relaxes the mind and sleep will come much easier.