How changing your evening routine can help manage anxiety
Nothing beats the feeling of a good night’s sleep. But anxiety can get in the way and keep us from falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up feeling rested. So, what can you do to help reduce anxiety and have a great sleep?
Anxiety (which is defined by anxious feelings that don’t go away and may not have a clear cause) can significantly affect our mental and physical health. Ironically, its impact on sleep can exacerbate the anxiety itself, causing more anxiety when sleep is disrupted or prevented. By looking at your evening routine, you may be able to add or remove elements that improve your anxiety symptoms, increasing the likelihood of a restful night’s sleep.
These practical ideas for changing your evening routine can be implemented all at once or bit by bit, helping you to develop a practice that sets you up for sleep success.
The importance of winding down before bed
If you’ve ever tried to lie down to sleep right after a stressful or exhilarating event, you’ll know what it’s like to feel too agitated to sleep.
Taking the time to properly wind down and decompress before settling into bed can be a powerful way to reduce anxiety, sending cues to your brain and body that it’s time for sleep. This can also provide time and space for you to reflect on your day, allowing any concerns to be processed before it’s time for lights out.
Try creating a wind-down routine that sees you removing external stimulation 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Some of the steps below can then be implemented in that time, sending signals that it’s time to rest, not spring into action.
Incorporate strategic relaxation techniques
A wide range of relaxation techniques can make a significant difference when it comes to how effectively you’re able to wind down and switch off. These can include taking a warm, soothing bath, reading a book, a yoga routine or meditation.
The right relaxation technique can depend on personal preference. If you’re unsure which is going to be most effective in helping you to switch off, experiment with these techniques until you find the right fit for your needs.
Regulate your circadian rhythm
We each have an ‘internal clock’ that either promotes or discourages restful sleep. Our circadian rhythms play a crucial role in how we’re able to prepare for sleep. By going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, you’re able to train both your brain and your body to recognise when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up for the day.
While the recommended amount of sleep for adults is between seven to eight hours each night, each of our individual sleep needs are different. By understanding how much sleep you personally require to be sufficiently and genuinely rested each day, you can regulate your circadian rhythm accordingly.
The first step in establishing a regular bedtime routine is to create a relaxing, welcoming environment. This includes switching off electronics, using dim lights, and making the most of those relaxation activities. Save any stimulating activities for the morning to support your circadian rhythm’s ability to fall asleep at a regular time.
Removing blue light is also crucial. The blue light our screens emit can disrupt your body’s melatonin production, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep. This can make it more difficult not only to fall asleep, but to stay asleep throughout the whole night. Instead of getting into bed and scrolling on your phone, try reading a book until you’re ready to drift off.
Experiment with deep breathing techniques
Deep breathing exercises can be another way to minimise anxiety and promote a greater sense of relaxation. By slowing down your breathing, you can help to calm your mind and body, using simple techniques to create a sense of peace and presence.
Take a look at deep breathing exercises and experiment with incorporating these into your bedtime routine. As these can be completed while you’re lying in bed, or during yoga or meditation, this is an effective way to build another positive element into your sleep routine.
Move your body regularly
One of the greatest tools we have in regulating sleep and anxiety is exercise. Regular exercise can play a significant part in managing anxiety and promoting positive mental health. As exercise releases endorphins, it can help to increase your mood and reduce stress and anxiety.
Experts recommend the average adult completes at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise per week. Whether you’re focused on cardio or strength exercises, these activities can all help to improve your sleep hygiene and reduce the impact of anxiety on your ability to sleep well.
Make the most of professional support
While many lifestyle changes can help to minimise the impact of anxiety on sleep, professional help may be integral to seeing a positive change in this area. Seeking help for any mental health challenges is a sign of great strength. Open up pathways to a richer relationship with your mental health with the input of an expert practitioner.
Therapeutic treatments can be highly effective in treating and managing anxiety. In various therapy forms, you may be able to develop coping strategies that lead to a better understanding of how anxiety relates to thought patterns and emotions. Medication can also help individuals to achieve relief from anxiety symptoms, building vital support for emotional regulation throughout the course of daily activities.
By strategically changing your evening routine, you may be able to manage the anxiety symptoms that are disrupting your sleep. Relaxation techniques, bedtime routines, paying attention to your circadian rhythm and seeking the help of a mental health professional can all lead to sustainable changes in the role anxiety plays in your day-to-day experience.
If you’re looking to learn more about how you can manage the impact of anxiety on your mental health, take a look at the resources on the GreenHeart Medical blog.