I can remember experiencing sleep anxiety as a little girl at sleepovers, worrying I’d be the last one awake. To make it worse, I’d literally be anxious all day long about whether I’d be able to sleep that night. In my 20s, that anxiety has morphed into sometimes waiting hours before I can fall asleep. From replaying the day over and over in my head to listing my to-dos for the week, my brain feels like it just won’t shut off.
Since sleep anxiety is something that affects me every single day, I’ve worked really hard at finding ways to cope. Because we need sleep to function! If you’re also experiencing some type of sleep anxiety, take a look at what helps me ease my nightly angst.
1. Drink less (alcohol).
I’m sure we’ve all experienced the general anxiety that comes with a hangover—it’s not fun, especially on top of a headache. And after talking to doctors about culprits behind my sleep anxiety, we noticed a trend of hangovers. Every day that I was hungover, my sleep anxiety would be through the roof. Limiting how much and often I drink has helped tremendously.
Also, my sleep anxiety seems to be worst on Sundays in general—the Sunday scaries—so if I am drinking, I prefer to do it on a Friday vs. Saturday.
2. Create a routine.
It might be an obvious note, but it is simply difficult for our bodies and minds to shut down immediately. Instead of going straight from a TV show to forcing my body to fall sleep (and stressing my system out), I’m now adamant about a nighttime routine. It prepares my mind that it’s time to settle and it’s something I look forward to now.
My current routine is: phone in airplane mode, skin care, diffusing lavender oil, reading a book, zzzzzz!
3. Eat less sugar.
Similar to alcohol, sugar can wreck havoc on stress and your body. I try to limit my sugar consumption, especially later in the day, to ensure a good night’s sleep.
4. Try a sound machine.
When I first moved to San Francisco, I had neighbors that lived above me. Though they weren’t purposefully loud, hearing their movement would keep me awake. Not knowing when they’d stop walking around and be quiet was really hard on my anxiety levels. Getting a sound machine that fades out noise was a major help!
5. Have a backup plan.
This is only relevant if you share a bed with someone else, but my boyfriend and I will spend the night apart—in the same apartment—if I’m feeling anxious. Luckily, we have a spare bedroom so it’s easy, but even when we didn’t, I’d make up the couch before bed. Simply being in another room from a person—not worrying about keeping them up, their snoring, whatever—puts your mind at ease.
6. Be open about it.
Something that has unsuspectingly helped with my sleep issues is talking about it. Now that my friends and family know that it’s a stressor for me, they are much more likely to let me have the quiet room on vacations or help prioritize my sleep. People that love you will understand and help.
7. Try a brain dump.
Anxiety is often times linked to what’s going on in our minds. I keep a notebook in my nightstand and on extra busy days, I’ll write down everything I’m thinking. That might be an idea, my to-do list, personal feelings, whatever! Dumping all your thoughts out before trying to sleep is key for stressful nights.
I hope these ideas help because sleep really is a precious thing! If you’re having anxiety around it, I highly suggest you make soothing it a priority.
Written by contributor Chelsea Becker.