5 tips to help you fall asleep when you have anxiety

If you have an anxiety disorder, it can be really hard to fall asleep. Whether you have generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety, or panic attacks; the physical and mental symptoms that accompany these disorders can make sleep seem impossible. You might feel like there is no escape from your thoughts when lying in bed at night, which will only continue to fuel your anxieties. The good news is that there are some things you can do to help yourself get a better night’s sleep. This article contains 5 tips for getting more sleep despite your anxiety.

1) Take deep breaths

When we are experiencing stress or fear our bodies release adrenaline into our system causing our heart rate and breathing rates to increase dramatically. Taking deep breaths can not only calm your body down but it can help you fall asleep faster.

One simple breathing technique that can be calming is a box breath which calms the nervous system and focusses your mind on the counting and breath.

Breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, then hold for another four seconds. Repeat until you feel calm or fall asleep!

2) Try visualisation

For this technique, all you need to do is close your eyes and picture yourself doing something you find relaxing, for example laying on the beach or sitting by a fire. Mentally take yourself to your special spot and focus on all of the senses you experience in that moment. This can help calm your body down, especially when paired with deep breaths.

With some time and practice, you can create your own calming visualisation. Or if you would rather not think up one on your own, there are plenty of apps and online audio tracks to help you find a calming guided visualisation.

3) Talk about it

If you are trying to fall asleep but struggling with anxious thoughts keeping you up at night, tell someone about them. Whether you decide to call a friend, family member, or mental health professional make sure that someone knows exactly what is on your mind. You can also write in a journal before bed about everything that is causing you stress so you don’t keep repeating these thoughts in your head when trying to sleep.

4) Eat foods that help promote sleep

Eating foods high in magnesium like spinach, pumpkin seeds, and almonds can help promote restful sleep by relaxing muscles and nerves in the body. You should avoid foods high in vitamin B which help convert food into energy that can keep you up or wake you up at night. Eating healthier before bed will ensure that your body is working properly to rest when it should be resting.

5) Exercise early in the day

Almost everyone knows that exercise is great for the body, but did you know it’s also good for your mind? Working out not only releases endorphins into your system, it can also help relieve stress and promote a healthy sleep cycle. If you find yourself having problems sleeping at night, go for a walk in the park or take a jog around your neighbourhood to get rid of some energy during the day. Try and exercise early in the day as it increases your adrenaline – meaning it can be difficult to fall asleep straight after a workout.

Alternatively, you could try a relaxing stretch to calm the nervous system before bed such as restorative or yin yoga which are known to calm the stress response and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

Related: What causes insomnia?