Sleeping is supposed to be easy. You lay down and a few minutes later you’re asleep. Unfortunately, especially for people with anxiety, it can be really stressful. And once you’re finally knocked out, staying asleep can be a challenge. Although I’m not as much of an expert on the staying asleep part, I’ve gotten better at falling asleep.
I’ve gotten my anxiety to the point where it’s usually manageable for me during the day (relatively speaking). Yes, I run into some trouble now and then, but then again, doesn’t everybody? Anyway, the time when I run into actual problems is when I get anxious at night. This doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to (thankfully), but I find that at night is when I have a harder time managing my anxiety and after I get my mind calm, it takes a while for me to relax my body.
Thankfully, I’ve figured out how to manage my anxiety pretty well at night, too. Even though I run into some trouble at times, I’ve learned that as long as I relax and go to bed early I can usually get to sleep without any problems. My sleep is far from perfect, but it’s gotten better.
Nighttime can be really tough for people with anxiety, and so that’s why I want to share some of the things that have been helpful for me. It’s hard to figure everything out for yourself and lucky for you, you don’t have to.
This is your how-to guide for getting to sleep at night.
Go to bed early.
Just do it. If you stay up late, you’re going to get more tired, which will make you more anxious, which will keep you up and make you more tired, which makes you more anxious, and so on and so on. It’s a vicious cycle, and it sucks, but going to bed early can eliminate the problem. I know that getting to bed early can be tough for some people, but you really gotta get into the habit. Once you do, it becomes a lot easier to get to bed early because a) you’re tired earlier and b) you figure out how to deal with the things that keep you up earlier in the day (and how to avoid them at night).
I started using melatonin about six months ago, and I don’t think I’ve missed a night. It’s become essential for me because it knocks me out like a light. Although I don’t have sleep-onset insomnia every night without using melatonin, I can fall asleep faster with melatonin, which is a big deal. When I can fall asleep faster, it gives me less time to think while I’m lying in bed, which means less overthinking, which means less anxiety.
I use either a time-release tablet that has 3 milligrams of melatonin or a spray that gets me to sleep a little faster that has 1.5 mg per spray. Check with a healthcare professional before using melatonin to determine if it is right for you.
Magnesium is my #1 favorite supplement. Magnesium is crucial, involved in hundreds of bodily processes, including the stress response, which means that some of us worriers are going to be deficient in this mineral. However, this can make it harder to fall asleep because magnesium helps you relax. I take 250-500 mg daily in the form of a supplement, but another great option is Epsom salt baths, which I do on occasion.
I think that we often don’t even realize how quickly we’re breathing when we have anxiety. Luckily, we have control over our breath! Taking a nice, deep breath can be incredibly powerful and is super easy. Next time you’re feeling anxious at night and are having a hard time falling asleep, try to take a few deep breaths, and I bet you’ll start feeling better quickly.
Going along with the deep breaths, essential oils can be a really powerful way to calm down before bed at night. I love using lavender or a nighttime blend to calm myself down. I combine essential oils with deep breathing right before bed to get me into a relaxed state so that I can settle down and go to sleep easier.
Remind yourself of this important fact.
Here it is: you won’t solve all the world’s problems before you go to sleep. Tell yourself that. This is important because, for some people, you actually do try to solve a bunch of problems right before you go to bed, which is not a good idea because it’s going to keep you awake, sabotage your sleep, and it won’t’ even be productive, anyway. You don’t solve problems at night (or at least I don’t).
Literally say to yourself, “You won’t solve all the world’s problems before you go to bed.” And if you need to modify that a little bit, change it to, “You won’t solve all of your problems before you go to bed.” Problem-solving time was a few hours ago. Now it’s time to snooze.
Don’t try to push away anxious thoughts (it may just amplify them), think about something else in advance so that you don’t even let yourself go down that rabbit hole of worrying. I am a very future-focused person, so I like to think about what I want my life to look like in the future, in ten years, one year, one month. Another thing you can do is count down from a big number (I like 1000) or play simple mind games with yourself like naming as many colors as you can think of. As long as it keeps your mind busy and away from anxious thoughts, it can help you get to sleep faster and with less worry.
Write before bed.
I’m a huge fan of writing because let’s be honest: stuff gets jumbled around in your head. Having a journal where you can write out all of your thoughts before bed is a good idea. You can even keep it right next to your bed so that if you can’t fall asleep or you can’t get back to sleep, you can sort through your racing thoughts by writing them down.
One thing that can be hard for me is thinking about all of the things that I didn’t accomplish that day, which means that I’m worried about them at night. Making a plan or a to-do list for the next day can be a helpful way to put your mind at ease if you deal with this problem, too.
In addition to getting really anxious, I also get really excited. This is another thing to write down because it helps you get the jittery, energizing excitement out right before bed. It’s fun to be excited, but it’s not fun when it keeps you up at night.
Now that I’ve given you these tips to help you not be anxious before bed, I hope you’ll have a much easier time getting to sleep. I’ve noticed that all of these things have helped me a lot, and I use them all on a regular basis. See what works for you, notice what doesn’t, and then use that information to get a good night’s sleep.
As hard as nighttime anxiety can be, there are solutions. Anxiety management, in general, can be a difficult and trying process, but over time as you find the things that work best for you, it will get easier and easier, and sleep will come faster and faster.