The reason I didn’t label this one “sleep issues and anxiety” is because a lot of mental illnesses can affect your sleep cycle. The two I am going to be talking about in this post are anxiety and depression, because well, it’s what I struggle with and what I know best.
Sleep is a big issue for me, and it has been for as long as I can remember. I remember being in middle school and high school and just thinking I needed 14 hours of sleep because I was a teenager, and that’s normal, right? On other nights, I would sleep for about 3 hours, and I blamed that on the fact that I slept for so long on other nights, so I didn’t need as much on those nights. Also normal, right?
WELL, honey, did I have a big storm coming. When I turned 20 and continued to have a wonky sleep schedule I was confused because I thought only teenagers needed a lot of sleep. But then I realized that not even teenagers need 14 hours of sleep, and in fact, it’s pretty much just infants and cats that do.
Well now I realize that I was pretty damn depressed, fam,
and the nights I was sleeping 14 hours were nights that I was feeling low. I
was also very anxious, and school was a major trigger for me, so there were
many a night when I would lie awake until 3:00 AM, just worrying, then squeeze
in a good 3 hours before having to wake up and get ready.
Below I’m going to explain some of the reasons anxiety and depression may affect your sleep and give a couple examples of what you can do to help ease the symptoms and rest easily.
A lot of things can trigger anxiety, and a lot of those triggers can be in relation to work or school. I know personally, if I have to go to work, have an appointment, or something that NEEDS to be done first thing in the morning, I might as well pull an all nighter because I’m going to get MAYBE three or four hours of sleep max. Another thing I struggle with is sleep anxiety.
You know that feeling of “If I go to bed right now, I’ll get this many hours of sleep”. Or where you constantly look at the clock worrying about not getting enough sleep. This sucks, because you have anxiety about sleeping, which causes more anxiety, which causes less sleeping. It’s a vicious cycle. Ruminating thoughts and worries can keep you awake at all hours of the night, and it can really affect your day if you are running on empty. Here are some things I do to ease my mind before bed.
Melatonin is a chemical produced in your brain, so taking melatonin isn’t harmful because it is natural. A lot of people say not to take Melatonin on a usual basis because it may affect the natural production of melatonin, but taking it once in a while may help you to fall asleep on nights when you can’t turn your brain off. The melatonin I take is melatonin with magnesium, because magnesium also aids in the falling asleep process. I find on nights that I take this, it kind of slows down my mind. It doesn’t get rid of the anxiety completely but it allows me to focus on the feeling of sleepiness other than the panic of tomorrow.
Read a book
Ending your screen time a bit before bed makes it way easier to fall asleep. The light from your phone is blue light, which interferes with the natural production of melatonin. I know it’s tempting to scroll on your phone until it’s time to shut the light off (or even well into the night), but it makes falling asleep very hard. Try to set the phone aside at least an hour before bed and take some time to read a book. Reading something that isn’t particularly exciting for you is even better, because it makes you even sleepier. The way this helps anxiety specifically is that reading can take your mind off the things that are causing you anxiety, and give you time to naturally get tired without anxiety ruining it.
Blue light filter
If you aren’t a big reader, or you read on a device like your phone, you can actually get an app that filters the blue light for you. The one I use is called Blue Light Filter- Night Mode, Night Shift by Leap Fitness Group.
This app allows you to choose the filter you want, it gives you lots of options like incandescent lamp, candle light, and dawn. It also gives you the option to control the intensity of the filter. This allows you to still have screen time before bed, but it protects you from the negative effects of blue light. If you are the type of person that needs to be looking at a screen or scrolling to keep your mind off of your anxiety, the blue filter can give a buffer between you and the screen.
Depression can cause both oversleeping and not sleeping at all. One of the big causes of insomnia is depression, and although for me, it appears as sleeping for 12 hours at a time, for others it can show as not sleeping at all.
Stop Drinking (or at least slow down)
Booze is a downer, literally. It is a depressant and can
make your depression levels rise. It also disrupts your sleeping. Since I’ve
slowed down on drinking I’ve realized I’ve been able to sleep through the night
Talk to a professional
There’s something to be said about having so many thoughts in your head and nobody to talk to about them. See a therapist or counselor and get out all of those bad thoughts so you won’t ruminate on them during the night. Sometimes intrusive or irrational thoughts are a little above friends and family’s pay grade, but keeping them inside can do more harm than good, so talk to someone who knows what to do with the information, and breathe a sigh of relief when its out in the open.
Listen to a guided meditation
This is something I have been LOVING. It works on nights when I am feeling anxious, and nights when I’m feeling depressed. You can find guided meditations on youtube for free and they really help to get you out of your head and to focus on just relaxing. One person I really enjoy listening to is Lauren Ostrowski Fenton. She has such a soothing voice and it is a sure fire way to get me to sleep every time.
Sleep is extremely important to maintain your mental health, so do what you can to get between 7-9 hours of sleep nightly, and as always Take care of yourself