It’s a vicious circle. Your mind is filled with worries and anxieties, so you can’t get to sleep. And because of this lack of sleep, you wind up feeling overly anxious the next day which results in – you got it – another sleepless night.
Sound familiar? Sometimes it feels like sleep is a battle you’ll never win. It happens to us all; we feel exhausted lying down but as soon as we do, our minds go into overdrive. Thoughts on what’s already happened that day, plans for the next day and the ones after that, random worries about stuff that will most likely never happen…they all crowd for space in our chattering bedtime minds.
In the silence of our bedroom, those niggling voices in our heads seem deafening. And try as we might to appease them or distract them into slumber, they refuse to pipe down.
Fear not: I’ve got a few tricks you can try to combat anxiety and tame your sleep demons, at any time of year.
Cut down on caffeine
If you suffer from anxiety, you really should be limiting your caffeine intake anyway as it can wreak havoc on the adrenal glands.
Still, if you can’t quite kick the habit, enjoy that cup ‘o’ coffee in the morning instead. Anything past 2 o’clock can disrupt your sleeping patterns, without you even realising it. You may have evolved past the jittery stage and can down 4 espressos before 4 pm without batting an eyelid but trust me – it’s definitely not helping you get to sleep at night.
Set up an evening routine
Before the thought of another timetable or routine sends your mind into full-blown panic mode let me assure you…this is a nice one! It involves taking some time out just for yourself every evening.
Switch off that TV and shut down that laptop an hour before bed if you can – the blue light they emit ain’t doing your busy mind any good – and take a long bath or read a book instead. Doing this at the same time every night, and sticking to a rigid bedtime as much as possible means that eventually your body and mind will start settling down when they’re supposed to.
Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary
If you also use your bedroom as an office, an entertainment centre or a gym, chances are it isn’t the easiest place to magically fall into dreamland. Your bedroom should be your cosy retreat, one that you reserve for sleep only (ok, maybe one other thing!)…so make it that way.
First, the bed. Turn it into your snooze palace with comfy pillows and your favourite bedspread before casting it in a more welcoming light with dimmer lighting. The warm glow of a lamp can make your bed feel like an inviting friend instead of a cackling enemy!
Next, the rest. Go all out by lighting candles, burning incense, diffusing essential oils – whatever it takes to create that peaceful sanctuary you need. (Just make sure to blow out any candles before tucking in!)
Look to the East for inspiration
There’s a reason why all those yogis seem so chilled out. They sleep well! And even if you think yoga and meditation are the forte of hippies and more recently, yummy mummies, I wouldn’t scoff too soon.
Because practising even 15 minutes of yoga daily can make a huge difference to your sleep levels; while meditation is the best exercise for the mind that you can get. It can make you a kinder, more positive, energetic and productive person during the day, and it really does help you to sleep better at night.
So as part of your evening routine, try doing a short yin yoga or yoga nidra class to stretch away from the tensions of the day. Follow this with a guided meditation practice and you’ll notice your breath starting to slow, your body starting to relax and your mind starting to calm down.
Now, this won’t happen immediately and chances are that your mind will be screaming even louder the first few times! But even after a week of daily practice, the effects will become obvious. You’ll be more aware of your mind and less judgemental; so even if the anxieties pop up, you’ll be able to let them go.
The result? Sleep will come easier and you may even wake up as a morning person! (Gasp.)
For more sleep-related tips, check out what the folks from the Sleeps Advisor have to say. Whether it’s advice on sleeping positions, reviews of comfy mattresses, or recipes to help you sleep, these guys know how to get a sounder slumber!
In the meantime, I hope these quick tips will help you to rid yourself of bedtime anxieties…and to get the sweet dreams you deserve.