Recap from Part One: For those living with an anxiety disorder, insomnia can be part of a vicious cycle. Anxiety can cause sleeping problems, and sleep deprivation can cause symptoms of an anxiety disorder because a lack of sleep stimulates the part of the brain most closely associated with depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders.
The good news is that insomnia and anxiety disorders are treatable. Read on.
It’s important to obtain an accurate diagnosis for any medical conditions that may contribute to a sleep disorder or anxiety disorder, as well as to determine which is the primary condition.
Treatment options for an anxiety disorder include CBT, relaxation techniques, and medication. Your doctor or therapist may recommend one or a combination of these treatments. To find a therapist near you, search ADAA’s Find a Therapist.
Try following these guidelines to reduce your anxiety and sleep more soundly.
To reduce anxiety and stress:
- Meditate. Focus on your breath — breathe in and out slowly and deeply — and visualize a serene environment such as a deserted beach or grassy hill.
- Exercise. Regular exercise is good for your physical and mental health. It provides an outlet for frustrations and releases mood-enhancing endorphins. Yoga can be particularly effective at reducing anxiety and stress.
- Prioritize your to-do list. Spend your time and energy on the tasks that are truly important, and break up large projects into smaller, more easily managed tasks. Delegate when you can.
- Play music. Soft, calming music can lower your blood pressure and relax your mind and body.
- Get an adequate amount of sleep. Sleeping recharges your brain and improves your focus, concentration, and mood.
- Direct stress and anxiety elsewhere. Lend a hand to a relative or neighbor, or volunteer in your community. Helping others will take your mind off of your own anxiety and fears.
- Talk to someone. Let friends and family know how they can help, and consider seeing a doctor or therapist.
If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, see a primary care physician or mental health professional, or visit a clinic that specializes in sleep disorders. (To find one near you, go to www.sleepcenters.org.) Treatment options include sleep medicine and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches how to identify and modify behaviors that perpetuate sleeping problems.
To sleep more soundly:
- Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority. Block out seven to nine hours for a full night of uninterrupted sleep, and try to wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid stimulants like coffee, chocolate, and nicotine before going to sleep, and never watch TV, use the computer, or pay bills immediately before going to bed. Read a book, listen to soft music, or meditate instead.
- Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using a fan to drown out excess noise, and make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable.
- Use your bedroom as a bedroom — not for watching TV or doing work — and get into bed only when you are tired. If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, go to another room and do something relaxing.
- Exercise. Regular exercise will help you sleep better, but limit your workouts to mornings and afternoons.
- Avoid looking at the clock. This can make you anxious in the middle of the night. Turn the clock away from you.
- Talk to your doctor if you still have problems falling asleep. You may need a prescription or herbal sleep remedy.