The number of people living with Anxiety has skyrocketed in the past year and a half, throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic. In fact, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. Recently, it was reported that they affect 40 million adults in the United States aged 18 and older, or just over 18% of the population.
As if Anxiety in and of itself weren’t bad enough, it often coincides and leads to other health problems. This includes sleep disorders. According to many people who suffer from Anxiety, Anxiety always seems to be worse at night and can compound sleep deprivation issues. This is why we want to speak with you more in- depth about Anxiety today, because it can have a big effect on your sleep health.
Not sleeping isn’t something to take lightly. If you’re not sleeping, your health, mood, and everyday life will suffer. You’re more likely to become ill, have an accident, and more. This will make your Anxiety worse, so it’s a cycle you want to break right away.
What is Anxiety?
Before we move any further, it’s important to note that the Anxiety we are talking about is more than just being nervous about a job interview the next day. Everyone has some anxiety, but it becomes a disorder when that excessive fear and worry persists beyond one stressful event. Anxiety will persist for months on end, interfering with daily activities, such as work, exercise, healthy eating, relationships, responsibilities, and, of course, sleep.
It all has to do with your brain chemistry. An anxiety disorder is an overactive amygdala in the brain. The amygdala is responsible for sensing danger. Once danger is perceived, the amygdala sends a signal to the body engaging the sympathetic nervous system, which is like a gas pedal. It gets the nervous system revved up and ready to take some action. In a real threat or stressful event, this automatic process is perfect and can even save your life. The problem with an Anxiety Disorder, though, is that there isn’t a true threat that needs attending to. The gas pedal is stuck down on the floor, with nowhere to go and no reason to drive.
How to Sleep with Anxiety
Anxiety can be worse at night because as we lie in bed, we have no distractions from our anxious thoughts like we may have during the day. First off, there’s no substitute for seeking help from a mental health professional. If you think Anxiety is affecting your ability to get through the day and night, a conversation with your doctor is needed.
Beyond that, there are a few calming things you can do before bed to help you get the sleep you need to stay happy, healthy, and rested. Climb in bed and get comfortable. Take several slow, deep breaths and pay attention to the air entering and leaving your body. Try concentrating fully on what you’re doing in the immediate, like what do you see, hear, or smell? Don’t let yourself think about what may happen tomorrow or six months down the road.
It’s also crucial that you build a sleep routine to transition from day to night. What that bedtime routine looks like really depends on your unique personality and your needs. For some people, the meditation mentioned above helps and is all that is really needed. To others, taking a bubble bath before bed, lighting a scented candle, cuddling with their pet, or reading a good book does the trick. What’s important is that you take some time to wind down. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t think about stressful activities, like paying bills, listening to the news, talking about politics, or scrolling through your phone. In the time leading up to you going to bed, you should be focusing on relaxing and nothing else.
Sleep Essentials to Help with Anxiety
There are a few bath and bedroom essentials that make learning how to sleep with Anxiety much easier. Of course, there’s no magic fix for nighttime Anxiety. That being said, there are some products out there that can help you relax and assist you as you build your healthy nighttime routine. A few we recommend include:
A Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets have been proven to reduce Anxiety! They can reduce Anxiety in kids and adults because they feel like a gentle hug, which calms your parasympathetic nervous system down to a normal, healthy heart rate. Their weight gently pushes down on you, reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Research has also shown that they help reduce autonomic arousal, which is what causes symptoms of Anxiety, such as increased heart rate. We carry weighted blankets from top brands, like Hush Blankets, Malouf, and Beautyrest.
A Sound Machine
Perhaps it’s the noises outside or even the stillness that is so unsettling to your mind. Sound machines can give your brain something for your racing thoughts to focus on and listen to as you lay down to sleep. While some people love falling asleep to white noise, it’s important to point out that we carry YogaSleep sound machine options with other soothing noises, like ocean waves and nature sounds. The Yogasleep Dreamcenter Multi Sound Machine With Night Light features 24 curated sound options, including Dohm (like a ceiling fan), lullaby, twinkle twinkle little star, chimes, rain, gentle surf, and more.
Aromatherapy Candles or Oils
There is quite a bit of research showing that scent is tied to a reduction in Anxiety. Aromatherapy is a great self-care tool because it’s said to help improve pain levels and relieve stress. Lighting a scented candle or oil diffuser before bed is a great way to begin to feel your Anxiety melt away. We have an entire section of our website dedicated to home fragrances for this reason.
It is not impossible to know how to sleep with Anxiety when you follow a few pieces of expert advice and set your bedroom up for success! We also want to point out that lying in bed thinking about how you can’t fall asleep is only going to make your Anxiety worse. If you don't fall asleep within 20 minutes of climbing into bed or if you wake up and can't fall back to sleep in 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. This could be reading a book or listening to music. The key here is not to focus on the fact that you can’t sleep. When you let your mind drift elsewhere, sleep will be easier to come by!