Living with stress is never easy. But what makes stress even harder to live with is the way it affects sleep. Anxiety and stress have a strong tendency to cause insomnia, because your stresses occupy your mind and physically affect your body in ways that make it hard to focus and relax.
What makes it even worse is that sleep is one of the most powerful coping tools for anxiety and stress. Sleep not only makes it easier to get over stress – it also prevents stressful events from having as much of an effect on you. So when stress keeps you awake and causes you to get less sleep, it ends up causing more stress later, ultimately creating a cycle of stress and anxiety that can be hard to break.
Avoiding the Prescription Solutions Prescription sleep aids do help you sleep, but the risk of dependence is frightening and there are very few examples of the long term implications of taking these medicines. Ideally, you should always first look for a natural solution. Here are several safe and natural ways to help you get sleep when you’re stressed:
- Jog – Jogging, and other high intensity exercise, is extremely useful for sleeping. First, jogging fights anxiety by burning away stress hormones and increasing production of endorphins, which act as natural relaxants. Second, jogging tires muscles, which can essentially convince your body to make you sleep. Daily jogging, especially after work, can be highly effective.
- Herbal Sleep Aids – Herbal sleep solutions are often as valuable as prescription sleep aids, but without side effects or addiction risk. Valerian and Melatonin are both effective for sleep, and kava and passionflower may be beneficial for reducing stress so that sleep comes more easily. Never double up, however, as the herbs may interact.
- Write in a Journal – What people don’t realize about stress is that one of the things keeping them awake is their persistent thoughts. It’s not the stress itself – it’s the inability to turn your brain off from your thoughts and worries. Writing your thoughts down is a solution. It essentially takes the thoughts out of your mind and places them somewhere permanent – something that tells your mind it can relax and not focus on it anymore.
- Create a Routine – Routines are inherently comfortable, and great for turning your brain off from its stresses. Create a long and routine – a routine that involves no technology and little light and takes at least 10 to 15 minutes. Perform this routine every night before you go to bed, in order. After a few weeks, you should find that as soon as you start performing the routine you get tired, and fall asleep incredibly easily.
- Create a Distraction – For those that aren’t easily woken by light or sound, consider using technology to distract your brain. There is only so much your mind can process at a time. As long as you’re not easily woken, you can use technology to your advantage. Download some type of funny/upbeat but boring podcast on your phone. Turn the volume on as low as possible where you can make out some words, but barely. Listening to the podcast will make it harder to focus on your stresses, but because the podcast is quiet, it shouldn’t keep you awake. You can also try this with a radio, or with the TV as long as you turn your face away from the light.
Falling asleep with stress isn’t easy, and the best thing to do is try to reduce your stress. But the above tips should make sleeping with anxiety easier, and while none of them are anxiety treatments, the more you sleep, the easier it will be for you to deal with life stresses.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera suffered from serious sleep issues with his anxiety. He now writes about anxiety solutions at www.calmclinic.com.