If you’re experiencing insomnia and your getting anxious about it, the whole situation can become a vicious cycle. You try to go to sleep but you can’t, so you start to worry about the fatigue you’re going to feel tomorrow. You start to worry about not being able to fall asleep. But the more you worry, the more you can’t sleep, and the more you can’t sleep, the more you worry.
So, one thing to do is to neutralize the anxiety before you go to bed. But first let’s explore what insomnia is. Insomnia is a sleep disorder. It’s the experience of either not being able to fall asleep or it’s an inability to stay asleep as long as you would like. For instance, you might fall asleep and then wake up at 4am every morning. You might not be able to get a healthy 8 or 9 hours of sleep.
It’s common to see insomnia as a sign or symptom of a psychological illness or medical disorder. It is frequently a symptom of depression and anxiety, for example. What’s challenging about insomnia is that lack of sleep can cause impairments later in the day. Fatigue can lead to an inability to concentrate or perform well at school. You may not be able to do well on an exam or you might not be able to pay attention in class.
Common symptoms of insomnia include:
- Exhausting sleep
- Difficulty falling asleep despite being tired
- Waking up frequently during the night
- Trouble getting back to sleep when awakened
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Daytime drowsiness, fatigue, or irritability
- Waking up too early in the morning
If you’re in that worry-no sleep-worry-no sleep cycle, then the best way to break the circle is to make a strong connection between your bed and sleeping…and nothing else. If anxiety is getting in the way of being able to calm your mind enough to fall asleep, then perhaps the following strategies can help.
- Use your bed for sleeping only. The goal is to associate the bed with sleep, not anxiety. Don’t do your homework, watch TV, or use your computer or Smartphone while in your bed. Don’t do anything else in your bed except sleep or at least your attempts to sleep. This way, when you get in bed your brain and body get a strong signal that it’s time to sleep.
- When you can’t sleep, get out of bed. If you’re trying to fall asleep and all you’re doing is worrying, then the connection between your bed and your anxiety will only get stronger. Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. That will only make your anxiety get stronger. Instead, it’s actually better to get out of bed. Then, do something very relaxing like having a warm cup of tea, taking a bath, or listening to some calming music. Then, when you feel sleepy, climb back into your bed again.
- Get the clocks out of sight. When you’re lying in bed and your watching the minutes tick away, it can add to your anxiety. The thought that you’re going to be exhausted when it’s time to get up, only adds to the pressure to fall asleep sooner, and adding to your stress and worry. It’s okay to have the alarm in your room so that you can get up in time, but don’t let yourself see it. Keep the clock out of sight.
Insomnia could be a symptom of a larger problem. If these suggestions don’t work, the best step is to seek the support of a mental health professional. He or she can explore the specific cause of your insomnia and develop an appropriate treatment plan.