If you’ve ever struggled with sleep anxiety, you know the drill. You try for what seems like hours to fall asleep, make several mental to-do lists, toss and turn endlessly — all to wake up in the morning feeling exhausted and anxious. It’s a vicious cycle that can prove difficult to break, and because it’s affected my life since I was young, I’ve put a lot of effort into finding ways to cope. More specifically, finding ways to NOT have sleep anxiety.
If sleep anxiety is something that is affecting your life (and productivity level), these steps should help lessen the symptoms.
1. Drink less.
Starting off the list with something depressing (I know, womppp wompp), but I promise it works. If you’re looking for something to blame for your sleep anxiety, alcohol could definitely be it. After talking to a doctor and really taking time to assess my lifestyle, we noticed a trend. Some of my worst sleep anxiety would happen on days I was hungover.
That being said, because the Sunday Scaries are a given, I recommend reserving cocktail time for Friday night so you don’t have to stress about having to get good sleep on a hangover. As good as Pinot Noir is, it never tastes better than anxiety (okay, rarely).
2. Grab a book.
Sometimes distracting your mind is the best route when it’s running wild — we all know this. But have you ever thought about what exactly you’re reading? I like picking up a good non-fiction book because fiction can be just as addicting as TV. Non-fiction, as informative as it is, can get a little boring, so I tend to start nodding off pretty quickly. No Hunger Games dreams to follow, either.
Whether it’s scribbles that don’t make sense or organized “brain dumps” — get everything that’s bouncing around in your mind o-u-t. Getting your thoughts on paper before hitting the pillow can really give you a sense of calm and ease, making falling asleep that much easier. Plus, the list of things you’re anxious about usually seems less scary when you actually write it all out.
4. Try a sound machine
Whether you need to drown out silence or the rumblings of a noisy neighbor (…or, ahem, a snoring bedside partner), a sound machine can become your BFF. Having a tool to rely on can help whether you’re in your own home or traveling — which is where my anxiety escalates. There are tons of portable options, or even apps.
5. Limit technology
From TVs to phones, technology and easy sleep don’t mix. Scrolling through social media in bed or squeezing in just one more episode of your favorite show may seem harmless, but they’re actually awful for bedtime. Things like this stimulate your brain, which is the exact opposite of what your body needs when trying to fall asleep. I have found that switching my phone to airplane mode (turning off the transceiver, blocking any messages) and not allowing any notifications to pop up until I turn it back on in the morning is super effective. And yes, your sleep machine app can still function while the phone is in airplane mode.
6. Create a routine
Routines seem to be the answer to everything these days, sleep anxiety being no different. An hour before bedtime, turn off The Bachelor (don’t act like you don’t), do your thing in the bathroom, and hop into bed with a book. Basically, instead of forcing your mind and body to “fall asleep ASAP!,” you’re easing it into it. It’s no different from the nighttime routine moms rely on when getting kids to bed. At least you get to pick your bedtime!