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How to Sleep During Anxious Times

It’s common to have sleep problems. In fact, the CDC found that most Americans are getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep each night.  And that’s without a pandemic that has caused a resurgence in the popularity of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The PoliceWhen counting sheep doesn’t work, we‘ve got some techniques you can try instead. 

1. Get Comfy

By creating a comfortable environment, you set the stage to put your mind at ease. Make sure your mattress is supportive, and your bedding is fresh. Minimize noise, and light blocking curtains can help too. You also will sleep best if your bedroom temperature is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Relax

Many people physically hold onto their stress during the day and it just doesn’t magically disappear at nighttime. Proactively look for ways to relax your mind and body. Establish a wind-down ritual 90 minutes before bedtime that will set the mood and intention for the night ahead. This could include taking a hot bath, putting your phone away, practicing breathing exercises, doing progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or listen to calming music.

3. Snack time

You don’t want to go to bed with a full stomach of heavy, spicy, or sugary food. Digestive issues and heartburn can keep you up. But having a light snack can improve sleep. Get retro and have a warm glass of milk in your jammies. You’ll feel like Don Draper and you’ll be stabilizing your blood sugar throughout the night.

4. Fix A Wake-Up Time

Setting a wake-up time is a simple step to create a regular sleep pattern. Begin by waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. You might be tempted to sleep in if you didn’t sleep well the night before, but don’t give in! Set your alarm for a reasonable time you’ll more likely to adhere to and stick with it.

5. Beds Are for Sleeping Only

Many of us are home a lot more often these days. That does not mean you should be living out of your bed.  Don’t work, watch TV, hang out, play video games, crochet, pay your bills, or celebrity stock from the comfort of your bed. The only thing you should be doing in your bed besides sleeping is NSFW and none of our business. However, doing activities that will stimulate your brain will keep you from sleeping and if you do them in bed rather than at your deskyou’re sending mix signals to your brain.

6. Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Worrying is easy at a time like this. If you have racing thoughts keeping you up at night, give yourself permission to not think about them and that you’ll be able to tackle tomorrow’s problems better after a good night’s sleep. Don’t look at the clock and keep track of how much sleep you’re losing. Forgiving yourself of worrying can also help. Try keeping a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed and writing down your worries. This will help relieve the burden on your brain to remember.

7. Avoid Caffeine

Limiting your intake of certain foods or drinks that are known stimulants can greatly increase the quality of your sleep. Think how that afternoon cup of coffee helps keep you awake during the afternoon slump. You don’t want to feel that way right as you’re trying to focus on sleep. Research suggests you should avoid caffeine at least four hours before bedtime. This can include coffee, some teas, soda, and even chocolate.

8. Avoid Alcohol

It’s a common misconception that alcohol will help you sleep. Even though it will help you feel drowsy, alcohol interferes with your sleep cycle later during the night. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means it causes your body to remove fluids from your blood through your renal system and you can become dehydrated easily. So if you don’t want to find yourself awake and thirsty in the middle of the night, try to avoid consuming alcohol at least four hours before bed.

9. Avoid Smoking

Want another reason to put down those cigarettes for good? Nicotine, one of the main ingredients in cigarettes, is a powerful stimulant and those who smoke regularly can have their body’s natural sleep routine damaged, sometimes indefinitelyNot only does it increase your risk of developing sleep apnea, scientific studies have found that smokers wake up more frequently during the night, they often have a difficult time going to sleep, wake up feeling restless, and frequently develop insomnia. If you do smoke, give yourself a four-hour window before bedtime for the best sleep.

10. Consistency is Key

Having an awesome sleep routine is something that will need to be worked on. Beyoncé didn’t just wake up one morning and say to herself, “I’m going to rule the world.” Have you seen Homecoming? That queen works at it. And if you want to be the Beyoncé of sleep, you’ll have to work at it too. This means choose one thing to work on and make small changes over time. This is the key to successful sleep. Once you’ve become a master at one strategy, add on to your routine. Your goal is to ultimately increase behaviors that can help you sleep and reduce or eliminate interfering behaviors. Be patient with yourself and even charting your progress with a sleep diary might be the ticket. 

So you’ve become a Sensei at these 10 tips to conquering nighttime worry, but you still have a case of Coronavirus Anxiety? That’s totally okay. And you’re not alone. Many people are feeling anxious about everything right now. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming. Here are some habits you can practice during the day to conquer anxiety that can positively impact your sleep later at night: 

1. Take a break from the news

We have the world’s worth of news in the palm of our hand. People who have anxiety can fixate on checking the news from multiple sources sequentially. Take a break from reading, watching, or listening to the news. Limiting the recurring information will give your brain a break and allow you to regain equilibrium.

2. Channel Your Inner Olivia Newton-John

Exercising as little as 10 minutes at least three times a week has been linked to more restful sleep.  Not only does exercise improve sleep quality, but also sleep duration. It’s also linked to reducing stress, so if stress is keeping you up at night, going for a walk may be the best way to kill two birds with one stone.

3. Connect with Loved Ones

Even in isolation, we have the power (I just channeled my inner He-Man) to connect. Maintaining connection with those important to you is easy through technology. Take time to talk with the people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. It will not only bring you closer together, but you’ll feel a whole lot better after sharing your feelings.

4. Know Your Napping Etiquette

Naps are good, glorious even. But they can interfere with your normal sleep cycles if not done properly. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try to avoid taking naps altogether so you’re more tired at bedtime. If you must take a nap, do it smartly. Research suggests that napping for 10 to 20 minutes is the best length to help fight away fatigue, but also not too long to set in grogginess.

5. Get That Vitamin-D

Spending time outside every day has many benefits. Not only can it decrease stress, anxiety, and depression, but the sun can help set your body’s natural wake and sleep cycleThe artificial light that we surround ourselves with on a daily basis – from phones, TVs, even electrical light bulbs, mess with our body’s ability to create melatonin, the hormone your body creates that signals when it’s time to go to sleep. (6) Setting your internal clock to the sun is a great way to create a natural sleep cycle. 

Your behaviors during the day set the stage for how well your body performs at night. They can help you sleep soundlessly or can contribute to sleeplessness. When dealing with anxiety, many times our fears are ruling our behavior, rather than our logical, rational self. But if we take actions that can help us to combat our feelings of anxiety and create positive momentum, then we’ll sleep better. And better sleep can aid controlling your feelings of anxiety. These tips can help reduce stress, teach you how to self sooth, and learn how to manage sleep scheduling.  

Even though this list is stellar, remember it’s important to talk to your doctor if your sleep is being affected. Problems with sleep can be an underlying result of a handful of conditions or medical problems. 

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