How to Sleep Better with Anxiety
Getting consistent, quality sleep on a regular basis is one of the most basic ways to stay healthy. This post includes 8 ways to sleep better with anxiety.
It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard to get good sleep, but our modern lifestyle combined with other factors have made it harder and harder to avoid sleep problems. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who also has anxiety, then you’re even more likely to experience sleep difficulties.
Prescription Sleep Drugs
It’s easy to understand why prescription sleep drugs were developed and why patients want to get their hands on them. The problem is that there are numerous studies that show prescription sleep drugs are counter-effective for getting good sleep, promote dependence, and have serious risks, including overmedication.
Not only that, but if zolpidem (the drug used in Ambien and other prescription sleep medications) is combined with alcohol or other prescription drugs, there can be serious adverse consequences. One study even showed an increased risk of mortality with the use of sleep medications.
Prescription drugs for anxiety can also be dangerous, leading to dependency and unwanted side effects.
Over the Counter Sleep Drugs
Taking over the counter sleep medications and drinking alcohol are also poor choices for getting quality sleep, especially with anxiety. You might be better off with supplements and lifestyle changes, although it’s always important to check with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your supplement routine.
Holistic Sleep Tips
While our modern lifestyles with artificial lighting, over-stimulation, and chronic stress don’t promote good sleep quality, the bottom line is that it is possible to use natural and holistic remedies to sleep better and avoid the risks associated with prescription and over-the-counter sleep medications.
Here are eight healthy sleep hacks for how to sleep better, even if you have anxiety.
1. Get morning bright light
No matter whether it’s summer or winter where you are right now, it’s important to try and get exposure morning bright light as soon as you wakeup. At least one study has shown this to be an effective strategy for both better circadian rhythm and to prevent seasonal affective disorder (winter depression). In this way, you should also have less anxiety if you are feeling happier and more relaxed.
Even walking outside in the morning on a cloudy day is better than not, or you can buy a special lamp to sit in front of for 30 minutes in the morning. I have a bright light therapeutic desk lamp similar to this one.
2. Use blue-light blocking glasses after dusk
A study published in 2017 showed some benefit in sleep quality for blue-blocking glasses worn at night for people with depression who also suffered from insomnia.
Be sure to get blue light-blocking glasses that are comfortable and that you don’t mind wearing! I have prescription glasses for near-sightedness, so I got these amber glasses that fit over my regular glasses I wear after I take out my contact lenses.
While it may sound silly to wear sunglasses at night, the truth is that even a small change like this can help balance your circadian rhythms, reduce anxiety, and promote better sleep.
3. Take a relaxing bath a few hours before bedtime, or just warm your feet!
Studies have shown that it’s helpful to warm the body (or just your feet) before bedtime, or a few hours before. Not only does the change in body temperature induce sleep, but a warm bath also helps promote general relaxation and reduced anxiety.
4. Get a massage or practice self-massage to promote relaxation
Massage has so many benefits in general, but a gentle massage a few hours before bedtime can actually improve sleep quality, too. At least one study using patients who recently had surgery shows that because massage can reduce pain, then it can also improve sleep.
This brings up a good point that it’s important to address any ongoing pain issues if you’re suffering from insomnia. You can also use a handheld self-massager to use on your neck and shoulders.
When your body is more relaxed in general, then you are likely to experience less anxiety. Feeling more calm before bedtime will certainly promote better sleep.
5. Try supplements
There are lots of different natural herbs and supplements that have studies showing their effectiveness in helping sleep and managing anxiety.
You can also try my Homemade Sleep Gummies recipe using tart cherry juice, which also helps naturally increase the body’s production of melatonin. You might also like my article on the best supplements for anxiety.
6. Eat one serving of starch with dinner and don’t go to bed hungry
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with a growling, empty stomach, you might need to try eating more complex carbohydrates with starch at dinner. Try adding a serving of rice or potato and see if that helps.
Chris Masterjohn, PhD, wrote an interesting article about the reasons why this might help, and Lara Briden, ND, also noted in her book, The Period Repair Manual, that starch can help keep blood sugar stable throughout the night.
In general, when we feel fed, nourished, and safe, then we are more likely to be less anxious and to sleep better throughout the night.
7. Be cautious of your nighttime lighting
Studies show that ambient lighting at night can inhibit melatonin production and impair proper sleep cycles. There are several options to prevent this including installing black-out curtains in your bedroom or wearing an eye cover to create complete darkness.
If you’re concerned about falling at night, you can still keep on a nightlight, but do try to cover your eyes to block out any light in your room. I like this type of eye cover that doesn’t press up against my eyelashes.
If your anxiety prevents you from sleeping in a dark room, you can keep a nightlight on, but do wear an eye cover to shield your eyes from ambient light.
8. Manage Your Stress 3 Hours Before Bedtime
You always hear the advice to reduce your stress, but it’s especially important to reduce anxiety and manage your emotions a few hours before bedtime. That way, when it’s time to go to sleep, your mind is at ease and your body will get the message that it is safe.
One way to do this is to write in a Worry Journal a few hours before bedtime. This has been an effective practice for me personally, especially during times of change or uncertainty.
You might also be interested in my article about holistic health tips for beginners to learn to take better care of yourself. Anxiety may a symptom or a sign that you need to make some changes in your lifestyle.
My Personal Experience
I’m no stranger to sleep issues. Hashimoto’s disease, hypothyroidism, PCOS, and stress have caused me to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. I know the anxiety associated with not sleeping well, and how horrible it feels to wake up feeling more tired than the night before.
I was never prescribed sleep medication nor have I ever requested it, because I have always been too scared of becoming dependent on a prescription sleep drug. But, I sure have been tempted because I know how debilitating it is to not sleep well.
The first few months after I was treated for thyroid cancer, my sleep was the worst it has ever been. I’m pretty sure I had some post-traumatic stress response happening, along with my hormones being all out of whack. I would wake up around 3:30 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. It was truly a nightmare and I can empathize with anyone who is currently dealing with insomnia or ongoing sleep issues.
I’ve read all the sleep books and listened to all the experts to come up with the previous eight natural remedies for how to sleep better. I’m not going to say that I never have sleep issues now, but I sleep well most nights, especially when I practice healthy sleep hygiene and these healthy home remedies for how to sleep better.
If you are suffering from anxiety and insomnia, or a combination of both, then you might try these lifestyle techniques to reduce stress, feel more relaxed, and get your much-needed rest.
You might also want to check out my index of Holistic Health Topics.
Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.
Do you have sleep problems? What has worked or not worked for you? Please share in the comments.