4 tips on how to get good nights’ sleep when you worry at night

Picture this:

You come home after a long, hard day at work and you’re looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep.

But as soon as you lie down, your mind starts to worry, wonder and overthink events to come and situations you’re facing.

You’re lying there in the dark, unable to go to sleep and unable to stop worrying.

What can you do when this happens?

Whether you are new to the ‘joys’ of unhealthy anxiety or have been battling it for years, it’s always crippling and debilitating when it hits.

Unhealthy Anxiety is not just about feeling ‘worried’ or ‘stressed’ when we face certain situations. It goes beyond that. It affects different areas of our lives, with sleep being one of them.

*Tips I’m sharing in this article have also been featured in *PSYCHOLOGIES* magazine, February 2022 issue:

Why is sleep affected by Anxiety to this extent?

Unhealthy Anxiety is always waiting around for our weak and vulnerable moments, ready to ‘pounce’. As we’re slowly drifting off to sleep, we are at our most vulnerable. Anxiety quickly turns on ‘anxiety chatterbox’ in our heads, keeping us awake.

This endless nightly worrying negatively impacts our day-to-day functioning. How can we enjoy our day, and cope with our responsibilities, when we are surviving on a few hours’ sleep?

One of my clients described it this way:

‘I go to sleep not knowing if I’ll get any sleep at all. Sometimes I manage to drift off and have nightmares, but it is worse when I can’t sleep at all. My inability to turn off constant chatter in my head at night is making me feel depressed, tired, and lethargic. I am sure I’ll be fired from my job soon.’

This constant ‘Anxiety Chatter’ is quite common in Anxiety sufferers.

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Here are my top 4 tips on how to deal with worrying at night:

1. If your mind starts to overthink and worry, set an appointment with yourself to worry for the next day. Decide on the key points to worry about and write it down in your diary as soon as you wake up. If you really need to, write it down at night, then go back to sleep.

You may be thinking: ‘But by next day I may not want to worry about it!

That is exactly the point of this exercise: to make our brains see just how pointless worrying at night really is.

For this technique to work, you do need to keep that appointment with yourself as your brain won’t believe you next time. Sit there and worry or try to worry. Really be in tune with your body and mind; how does this make you feel? If you decide this is indeed pointless, then why do you do it at night, when you need a good night’s sleep?

Be strict with yourself- talk to yourself at night if your chatterbox switches on again. Repeat this exercise until your brain ‘gets’ what you’re trying to do.

2. Our bodies and minds are intricately linked together and ‘feed off’ each other. It’s extremely important to look after both. We are far more likely to look after our physical health, often neglecting our mental health.

Let us say you would like to lose weight. You search for correct foods to eat, what exercise to do, how to change your lifestyle.

And yet you wouldn’t normally do this for your mind- why? You need to look after it even more, if possible. Feed it good ‘mental’ food, exercise it, be strict with it when it comes to endless worrying.

My advice is this:

2 hours before bedtime, try and completely switch off. By that, I mean switching off your mobile phone and watching relaxing TV. Do not look at negative stuff on the internet or the news. YouTube offers many relaxation techniques- find what works for you. Just like you wouldn’t be eating bad food before bedtime, treat your mind the same way.

3. We all go through times when our sleep is disturbed to some extent. When you are experiencing times like this, it’s very important to BE KIND TO YOURSELF.

When we do not sleep well, our bodies will try and get extra energy from excess food and drink. If that happens, do not beat yourself up about it; just be more aware of the fact it’s happening. If you need that extra treat, have it.  If you’re watching your diet, try and get extra energy from healthy foods like nuts and fruits. But most importantly, treat your body and mind with love and care during sleep problems.

4. If you really can’t sleep, don’t just lie there and worry. Get up and do something else. We’re making the situation worse by thinking we NEED to sleep, and if we don’t, we can’t function.

These thoughts alone make anxiety about lack of sleep much worse than it really needs to be.

Find something else to do at night. Something that makes you happy, something you may not have time for in your busy schedule.

Whether it’s reading a book or listening to a music, doing something pleasurable makes all the difference to how you feel about a lack of sleep, or sleep in general.

If you relax this idea that ‘you absolutely have to sleep in order to function’, your sleep will come back naturally for you.

*To discuss how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Coaching and Mindfulness could help you even further, please reserve a complimentary consultation:

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