Anxiety can be difficult enough to keep under control during the day, but trying to fall asleep at the end of the day all while still trying to confront your anxieties head on can be incredibly difficult. Anxiety and panic can make the prospect of sleep seem impossible, but there are ways to help come down from a panic or anxiety attack and relax your body to the point of being able to sleep once again.
Try to Pinpoint Your Anxieties
While sometimes symptoms of anxiety and panic can rear their head without any provocation or reason, other times there are specific triggers that can cause these feelings. For instance, if you have specific sleep anxiety that surrounds not getting enough sleep each night, there are certain things you can do to help minimize these fears such as going to bed early and allowing yourself the extra time to toss and turn without encroaching on your 7-9 hour sleep schedule.
Alternatively, if there is something happening the following day that is causing you to to worry, consider whether there is anything you can do in the moment that can help alleviate your concerns. Whether it be a work presentation you feel unprepared for or a general uneasiness about what may transpire the following day, is there anything you can do to help alleviate your specific symptoms?
In the event of the presentation, it could be beneficial for you to review your talking points and think of potential questions your audience may have ahead of time to feel more secure in your ability to present. In the event of general unease, however, you may need to accept the fact that you may not be able to do anything ahead of time to be more prepared for the following day. That way, you can recognize that you have done everything you possibly could in order to be ready for the next day.
The benefits of exercise are numerous, but the way in which it helps in relieving symptoms of anxiety and insomnia are what make it particularly useful in this instance. Exercising in general can divert the brain’s attention away from what was concerning it in the first place and release the feel-good chemical serotonin. It also decreases tension in the body as well as activating the frontal sections of the brain which limits the body’s contribution to feelings of anxiety and helps control the amygdala respectively. Exercising regularly also helps the body to better respond to feelings of anxiety in the long-term as well.
Your sleep may also be affected by your exercise habits, and what kind of exercises done at what time of day can also play a role. For instance, aerobic or resistance exercise done earlier in the day/in the morning can trigger melatonin production earlier in the evening, high-intensity workouts in the afternoon can reduce wakefulness, and light aerobic or resistance training done in the evening can reduce waking up in the middle of the night.
The one caveat to exercising to promote better sleep, however, is that high-intensity exercises should be avoided approximately three hours before going to bed as it increases heart rate, raises body temperature, and releases endorphins that may keep you up at night. Although these exercises are good for you in the long-term, they need to be timed out so that they do not provide the opposite effect when it comes to helping you fall asleep at night.
Let It Out
When we’re stressed, it can be incredibly easy to let anxious thoughts swirl around in the head and fester until it becomes too much to bear. One of the best ways to get these feelings to subside is simply getting them out of your head. If you have a friend or loved one available, confide in them about your feelings as doing so can make you feel less alone by having someone who can empathize with your feelings.
Alternatively, if talking with somebody else is not feasible for you or your situation, then journaling your feelings can provide a similar sense of relief. Writing down your anxious feelings and concerns, especially as a stream-of-consciousness, can be instrumental in relieving feelings of anxiety before bed. Imagine the anxious thoughts being moved from your head to the paper as a means of disconnecting from the feelings of anxiety even more. Journaling has also been found to help people fall asleep more quickly, so the benefits are twofold.
There are a number of misconceptions about what meditations entails which can make people feel as if they can’t do it themselves, but that could not be further from the truth. Meditation does not have to entail being hypnotized while sitting cross-legged on the floor, far from it. Meditation is simply the state of being mindful and many choose to focus on specific things such as their breath. The practice may seem intimidating or daunting at first glance, but it simply surrounds redirecting your focus to your own body and your surroundings.
For beginners, guided meditations can be extremely helpful in introducing the topic and how to go about practicing it. Mobile apps such as Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm are all tremendous resources when it comes to first venturing into the practice of meditation. Meditation can implement a mere observation of your breathing and thoughts, or it can be more involved and have you tense and then subsequently release your muscles as a tension reliever. There is no one right way to meditate, so find what you like best and what works for you.
Use a Weighted Sleep Mask or Blanket
Deep Touch Pressure is a sensory input that can consist of hugs, cuddles, squeezes, compression, or swaddling that has a calming effect on both children and adults. Deep Touch Pressure affects different parts of the body’s autonomic nervous system consisting of two different parts: the parasympathetic system and the sympathetic system.
The parasympathetic system regulates involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and the digestive system. When introducing Deep Touch Pressure, high energy functions are slowed which helps with regulation.
The sympathetic system is perhaps better known as the body’s “fight or flight” response system that engages when under stress. The introduction of Deep Touch Pressure to the sympathetic system decreases the “fight or flight” response and lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol which makes it immensely helpful for those suffering from conditions such as anxiety, PTSD, and even dementia.
Those who use weighted products reap the benefit of Deep Touch Pressure with positive effects being reported such as improved body and spatial awareness, improved coordination, improved sleep, increased focus and attention, and decreased anxiety and stress. Nodpod’s weighted sleep mask and Nodpod’s take on the weighted blanket with the Nodpod BODY serve as an excellent introduction to the benefits of Deep Touch Pressure.
Anxiety is a part of life that is perfectly natural and can work to benefit us by helping us stay alert and be aware of risk. Some of us experience it more than others, however, and it can make going about daily life more difficult than it reasonably should be. Anxiety becomes especially bothersome when it begins to inhibit daily functions, sleep being one of them. The effects of sleep deprivation are well documented, and it’s not pretty. While trying to cope with feelings of anxiety may feel like an impossible task once it’s gotten to that point, there are ways to help manage your symptoms.
If you find yourself in need of more assistance, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741. You can also call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs'' to 66746 at the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline. Trained crisis workers will listen to you and direct you to the resources you need.