Sleep Anxiety





Sleep anxiety is something that I'm personally very familiar with.  I've got an important job interview or meeting to attend the following day.  I set my alarm clock allotting myself a full eight hours to sleep.  Then I lay there staring at the ceiling.  I look a the clock and see that thirty minutes have already gone by.  "I HAVE to fall asleep within thirty minutes in order to get a full seven hours of sleep." I grumble.   

Thirty minutes later I again look at the clock.  Only seven more hours until I have to get up.  Now the pressure is on.  I get up, drink a warm glass of milk, hit the bathroom, and then lay back down.  Another hour goes by.  My anxiety level starts to rise dramatically.  Now I only have six hours to sleep!  "AND I CAN'T FALL ASLEEP!" I scream in my head.

I lay there listening to my heart pound.  As time passes the pressure builds and I actually become more awake.  The alarm rings at 7:00AM but setting the clock was unnecessary.  I've been laying there all night wide awake. 

The above story really occurred and basically describes the entire first week I spent at a new stressful job.  On my first day off I think I slept fourteen hours.  That was not a pleasant week.

Sleep anxiety can occur due to general worry and concern about an upcoming event, or as a result of normal day to day stress.  It can also be caused by disorders such as GAD, PTSD, and depression.  Simply having a job interview the next day can cause sleep anxiety.

If you have trouble sleeping it is important that you see a doctor.  Certain illnesses and medications can interfere with sleep so it is important to rule these out first.  Your doctor may prescribe medication to help you sleep and/or psychotherapy to help you get to the root of what's causing your sleep anxiety.  If the doctor finds you to be an otherwise healthy individual that simply can't fall asleep on time regularly, there are some things you can do to help yourself.

Always get up and go to bed at the same time every day.  You need to set your internal clock.  Changing your sleep pattern every day screws up your internal clock making it difficult to fall asleep.  If you didn't get much sleep the previous night, resist the urge to take naps.  This will increase the likelyhood that you'll fall asleep on time.  Also, resist the urge to sleep in if you had difficulty sleeping the night before.  Put yourself on a regular sleep schedule and stick to it!

Exercise regularly!  Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and elevate your mood.  Exercise regularly whether it be going to the gym, jogging, or walking.  Exercise releases muscular tension and pent up energy making it easier to relax and sleep at night.  Be sure not to exercise within a couple hours of bed time as it can keep you awake.  Be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

Avoid imbibing alcohol before bedtime.  Although it can help you fall asleep, as your body begins to filter the alcohol out of your blood stream, the exact opposite can occur.  You may wake up a few hours later and be unable to return to sleep.  There is a stimulant effect that can occur a few hours after drinking.

This tip is a no brainer but we'll say it anyway.  Avoid caffeine before bed time.  Depending upon your sensitivity to it, you should stop drinking caffeine anywhere from four to six hours or more before bed time.  Although there are a few rare individuals that drink a cup of coffee before bedtime to relax, this won't work for most of us.

When getting ready for bed drink a glass of milk.  Make sure there is no distracting noise near your sleeping area that may wake you.  If you live in a noisy apartment complex, it may benefit you to purchase one of those noise machines.  I have one that provides calming sounds such as rain, streams, wind, etc..   This can help block out irritating noise such as cars while at the same time providing a calming effect that can help induce sleep.

Make sure your bed is comfortable, the room temperature is set correctly, and that the room is well ventilated.  Practice deep breathing to relax your body.  Learning Yoga may be beneficial.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and are not able to return to sleep within 20 minutes or so, get up and do something relaxing.  Drink a glass of milk and read a book.  Make sure the activity is relaxing.  Don't watch television and don't do anything strenuous that will tend to make you more alert.  Just pick a boring book or magazine and read it.  When your eyelids feel heavy, head back to bed.

If you're repeatedly suffering from sleep loss you may suffer from insomnia.  See your doctor as there is relief available and your body needs sleep in order to function correctly.  Besides, going without sleep just isn't any fun.