Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults every year. Anxiety disorders are treatable and many people will seek treatment from an outside source.
Treatment of anxiety should not stop once you leave your therapist or doctor’s office—lifestyle changes at home are key to your success in attending to your anxiety disorder. Sleep hygiene is one of the most significant ways we can manage our anxiety at home. Sleep is incredibly important for our mental and physical health, and lack of sleep is commonly linked to anxiety disorders. Anxiety can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep, and lack of sleep can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety.
This vicious cycle can be eliminated by practicing these three habits to get a good night’s sleep.
1. Create a comfortable bedroom environment.Falling asleep is a mental task, but largely a physical one, too. If your surrounding environment is distracting or uncomfortable, it will be difficult to fall asleep. Comfortable and clean bedding can make a huge difference. If you have trouble falling asleep because your upstairs neighbor is stomping around at all hours of night, try playing white noise or using a fan to drown out the irritating sounds. Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature and light or dark enough based on your preferences. Another part of creating a comfortable environment is removing distractions. If you are able, make your bedroom solely the place where you sleep. Remove televisions, computers, and cell phones. If it’s within easy reach and you are struggling to sleep, it is very easy and tempting to grab your laptop to binge watch a favorite television show.
2. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.The particular time that you go to bed is not as important as the consistency or duration of your sleep. Adults should try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. If you are going to bed on the weekends at two or three in the morning and waking up at noon, it will be incredibly difficult to go to bed by ten and wake up at six for work on a Monday morning. You will likely stay awake Sunday night until the wee hours of Monday morning and return to work with half of the sleep your body needs.Creating a consistent sleep schedule starts by setting a time to go to sleep and wake up that makes sense according to your schedule. Straying from this sleep schedule every now and then is reasonable, but you want to avoid constantly going to sleep at different times each night. Your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, can only be maintained through a consistent sleep schedule.
3. Monitor your nighttime activities Some obvious no-nos before heading to bed are consuming caffeinated food and drink, drinking alcohol, and doing nighttime exercises. There are also plenty of other behaviors that can keep you up at night. Eating a heavy meal or drinking too much water can result in unwanted trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. If you become too engrossed in a television show or phone conversation, you might find yourself struggling to fall asleep.
Practice partaking in activities before bed that soothe and comfort you. Read a few pages of a book, meditate, take a hot shower, or listen to calming music. Try to limit your time in front of electronic screens and guide your mind and body into a relaxed state.
Tending to your anxiety is not an easy task. Sometimes addressing some of our most ordinary behaviors can make all the difference. Adults spend almost one-third of their lives sleeping—it is an incredibly important and life-changing function that should be taken seriously.