Anxiety can affect sleep in several ways. It can be difficult to fall asleep. It can be difficult to get restful sleep and it can be difficult to return to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. The good news is that there are several strategies that you can use to improve your sleep.
If you have difficulty getting to sleep at night due to worry, try keeping a worry journal. The way this works, is that you designate the same time every day (half an hour before dinner works well) and free write about your worries and only your worries for 10 minutes. After that time is up, you close your physical journal or a journaling app on your electronic device and you do not practice worrying until your next designated worry time. When your worried thoughts enter your mind at any other time, you simply and without judgment remind yourself that you will address them at your next designated time.
Sometimes restful sleep is the problem. You may want to evaluate your “sleep hygiene” if this is a problem for you.
- Keep your bedroom a place for rest, sleep and sex.
- Have a winding down routine that is similar each evening.
- Power off your electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime.
- Consider your eating and drinking habits, limit alcohol in the late evening, and have a lighter meal in the evening. If you are sensitive to caffeine, limit your caffeine intake to the early part of the day.
- Try to limit napping. If you enjoy naps, keep them to 90 minutes or less.
- Keep a consistent wake-up time, even on weekends.
If returning to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night is a problem. Learn and practice some simple relaxation techniques:
- Practice breathing techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing.
- Learn and practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation, a sequential tensing and relaxing of your muscle groups.
- Learn basic meditation and practice it.
- Visualization: Imagine being in your favorite resting spot or a vacation spot. Use your five sensed, to really imagine being there and the associated feelings of relaxation.
If after trying these suggestions you still find that anxiety is keeping you up at night, it may be time to seek professional consultation.
Give Dr. Helen Odessky a call at (847)529-8600 to see if she can help.