Anxiety, along with depression, is a term that’s being abused, which made it lose its true value and meaning. Both of these are actual disorders and should be treated seriously. Since anxiety is an emotion that describes tension and fear, it is somewhat normal to have a certain level of anxiety. It can help you survive, as not being afraid of anything isn’t exactly a healthy way of life. However, when too much anxiety kicks in, the repercussions are troublesome: from sleep deprivation to irrational fear.
What Makes People Anxious?
Difficulties in falling asleep are merely one of the most common anxiety symptoms. Aside from being deprived of sleep and facing insomnia, you can also experience a lack of concentration, rapid breathing, and an increased heart rate.
People who experience an anxiety attack are very different from another, as are the symptoms they experience. For some, it’s a gradual process, which makes the anxiety attack get worse with the approach of a stressful event. If you’re experiencing a panic attack, you might sweat excessively, feel a lot of fear and worry, have a dry mouth, experience hot flashes, feel dizzy, faint, and so on.
Aside from the fact that treating anxiety is a process that often requires plenty of force of will, the other problem is that scientists have yet to be able to pinpoint what exactly causes anxiety. So far, they have established that it can be a mixture of different environmental factors, but might have something to do with brain chemistry as well.
There are areas of the human brain that are responsible for controlling heart, and specialists believe that those who suffer from anxiety have these areas affected. Further research is needed to determine what exactly causes anxiety.
Considering the fact that anxiety is often irrational fear of something or a bad feeling that’s often amplified without rational justification, anxiety can be triggered by anything from financial difficulties to trouble with personal relationships.
It’s not rare for people to even suspect that they have heart disease (because they feel like their hearts are racing out of the blue) when they actually suffer from anxiety. Since it can be a medical disorder, anxiety is diagnosed by a doctor, and treating it can imply professional counseling or even medication, in more severe cases, where anxiety has led to a huge decrease in a person’s ability to handle day-to-day life.
Tips to Fall Asleep When You Have Anxiety
Falling asleep with anxiety is increasingly more difficult if you have other bad habits before going to bed. If you often find yourself staring at the ceiling or spending hours with your eyes closed and failing to fall asleep, here are some suggestions that might help you out:
- Alcohol and caffeine are your enemies when it comes to sleep. It’s true that one glass of alcohol can help you relax and put you in a sleepy mood, but anything above that can actually cause further anxiety and prevent you from sleeping. As far as coffee is concerned, you should know that caffeine-based drinks are only good in the first half of your day. Otherwise, they might stand in the way of nocturnal rest. It takes hours for caffeine to get out of your system, so make sure your last cup of coffee was no later than lunch.
- Exercise can also wear you down and get your body ready for sleep, but it’s really important that you don’t exercise right before going to bed. When you’re exerting your body, you get your muscles pumped up and your blood moving, which makes it more difficult for you to calm down before you go to bed. Instead, you can work out or go jogging right after work. That gives you the daily dose of exercise needed to stay healthy, but it also gives your body enough time to cool down in time for bed.
- You also want to control as much of your sleeping environment as possible, and there are some conditions that you have to meet in order to create the perfect sleep setup. For example, the temperature inside the bedroom is an important factor. While you might be tempted to turn up the heat, you actually want to lower it, because it’s better for your body to rest at a lower temperature. You also want to make sure that the room was properly ventilated, which means you can open the window for 30 minutes before bed, just to let some fresh air inside. If you have any devices that are plugged in and are making sounds or emitting light, know that a dark and quiet environment is also helpful in falling asleep faster. How often have you tried to fall asleep with the TV on, only to find yourself eavesdropping and getting distracted from your sleep? And speaking of TVs…
- Technology should be limited before bedtime. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, TV sets, these all emit a certain type of light that’s sending your brain the wrong signals, thus keeping you awake. If you really have to do something before bed, read a book. Not only are books light-free objects, but if you read some of your favorite fiction stories, you can emerge into a fantasy land that will help you disconnect from your daily worries and ease your anxiety. This is especially helpful when trying to figure out how to help a child with anxiety fall asleep.
While the tips above are focused precisely on what to do and what to avoid doing before you go to bed, there are other things that you can do throughout the day to tone down those anxiety levels:
- One technique that could prove useful in calming down anxiety is to make a list of positive and negative aspects of your life. You can make two columns: in the first one, write all the things that trigger your anxiety constantly, and in the second column, write all the positive things in your life right now. Every time one of those negative thoughts comes to mind, instantly switch it with one from the positives column. Through habit and will, you will be able to slowly eliminate the thoughts that trigger your anxiety.
- Meditate. If you’ve ever seen at least one video or documentary about Buddhism, you already know that it’s one of the most rewarding and peaceful religions of the world. That’s because the Buddhists don’t focus on material possessions in order to be happy: they promote the idea of binding one’s soul to nature and achieving tranquility through meditation. You can think about meditation in any way you want: a process of self-introspection or a way to disconnect from the daily worries. Whatever form it takes and how you want to perceive, meditation brings you into the “now” and helps you become more aware of yourself in a society where it’s easy for people to get lost in the noise and lose their true self.
- If you make room in your schedule for your hobbies, you’re one step closer to getting rid of anxious thoughts. When you’re doing something you like, you are more likely to focus your attention and channel your energy into doing that one specific thing (whether it’s playing a video game or painting), and this helps shit your train of through from negative feelings to something more beneficial for your mental health and depression.
- Talk. Whether it’s with your friends, your family, or a support group, the emotions of problems that trigger anxiety are best said out loud. There’s a reason why counseling works better than alone introspection: it’s because saying things out loud and discussing them with someone else is a way more efficient method of getting to the root of a problem. When you were a teenager, how often did you talk to your best friend when you were in a jam? When you’re an adult, your problems aren’t less important, but your current experience makes you think that you’re not a child anymore, so you can’t go complaining to someone else about your problems. There is a difference in consulting with a friend about your problems and whining to everyone about how miserable your life is. Don’t be afraid to talk, it can put things in a whole new perspective.
Having a certain level of an anxiety disorder is a good thing because our reptilian brain tends to get anxious in the face of whatever we find threatening. It’s a way of survival. However, living with the irrational fear that something bad is going to happen is exhausting from both a physical and mental point of view. It’s like living in the middle of the Amazonian jungle and constantly being afraid that something is going to attack you. That’s how people with anxiety live their daily lives.
When anxiety is so severe that it leads to sleep deprivation, the consequences can be devastating. It can lead back to attacks throughout the day, exhaustion, and paranoia. So, if you find yourself in a situation where, instead of lying in bed and falling asleep in the next half hour, you spend hours lost in thoughts that make you angry or afraid, that’s a sign that you need to do something about it.