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We all experience anxiety to some degree in our lives. A feeling of unease in pressured situations, worrying about doing something or low-level fears are types of anxiety that can be part of everyday life. However, for some those anxious feelings are harder to control and can develop into episodes of anxiety.
When an episode occurs our bodies release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Once they’re released we start to worry, our levels of fear starts to rise, and we feel like there may be no escape. Aside from what goes through our mind during an episode, we may also experience physical symptoms, including:
Having a bad nights sleep and cause more anxiety and stress as you can't function normally when you are tired or have a lack of energy and this can be frustrating and not help but hinder your episodes of anxiety. Stress and sleep have a two-way relationship. High stress levels can make sleeping more difficult. They can even lead to sleep disorders. At the same time, getting a good night’s sleep can help reduce the effects of stress.
Life is stressful. From daily stressors like bills, work, and relationships, to the bigger ones like losing a job, moving to a new house, or coping with an illness can all affect the way your body works. Stress often influences sleep which has a direct impact on how we live our lives. And not getting enough sleep can even make your stress worse. Sleep is a powerful stress reducer. Following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making. You are a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress when you’re well-rested. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy and diminishes mental clarity
There are four main factors that affect the quality of your sleep:
The important thing is that you get good-quality sleep. The following advice can help to HEAL your sleep problems.
As anyone who has tried to get to sleep with a blocked nose or headache knows, physical health problems can stop you from getting a good night’s sleep. Speaking to your GP or pharmacist about appropriate medication can help with this. Try to avoid taking medication without speaking to a medical professional, as sometimes the medication itself can stop you from sleeping properly if it’s not right for you.
Mental health problems like anxiety and depression can also affect our sleep. In these cases, a combined approach to tackle both the mental health issue and the poor sleep is often the most effective method of treatment. Speak to your GP or mental health worker (if you have one) for advice on this, or have a look at the ‘Attitude’ and ‘Lifestyle’ sections of this guide for general ways to maintain good mental wellbeing.
The bedroom should be somewhere that we associate with sleep. Where possible, you should try to remove distractions from you bedroom. It is better to watch TV, play computer games and eat in another room. This will allow you to relax with no distractions in your bedroom.
Be mindful of the presence of gadgets and electronics, such as computers, phones, tablets and TVs. The backlit ‘blue light’ displays suppress melatonin production – the hormone that helps you sleep; the suppression of melatonin causes sleep disruption. You should stop using these devices two hours before you go to sleep to reduce their impact on your sleeping.
Although everyone is different and has their own personal preferences, the common factors that can affect our sleep are light, noise and temperature. Too much light or noise can prevent you from falling asleep or staying asleep. If you have sources of light and noise that you can’t control, such as light from a street lamp or noise from a neighbour’s music, you might want to use an eye mask or ear plugs.
The temperature of the room is also important. A heater or thicker duvet can help if you regularly find yourself too cold at night; a thinner cover or opening a window can help if you’re too hot. If you are struggling to work out the best sleep environment for you, then it can be useful to keep a sleep diary (there’s one in the back of this guide) to keep track of the conditions that helped you get a good night’s sleep.
Lying awake in bed, particularly before an important day, can make us worry. However, this worry then makes it harder for us to get to sleep. Progressive relaxation techniques can help you to relax and unwind at these times. Alternatively, instead of staying in bed and getting more and more frustrated, you could get up and make yourself a warm drink, such as warm milk, and return to bed when you feel sleepier.
If you continue to have sleep problems for more than a month, you could speak with your GP about the possibility of using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is used to treat some mental health problems. It can encourage a more positive attitude, which can then help to break the cycle of negative thoughts causing your lack of sleep, and thus can help you to develop a healthier sleep pattern. Alternatively, practices like mindfulness (a type of meditation) can help by reducing stress and anxiety levels.
There are a number of things that you can do every day to improve the quality of your sleep. Eating rice, oats and dairy products can produce chemicals that increase our desire to sleep. However, food and drink containing lots of caffeine or sugar can keep you awake, so drinking less tea and coffee and eating less chocolate and other sugary foods late in the day might help you to sleep better.
Although it can make you feel tired and can help you get to sleep, alcohol often impairs the quality of your sleep and makes you more likely to wake up during the night as the effects wear off, and you may need to go to the toilet frequently or get up to drink water if you are dehydrated. Exercising on a regular basis is thought to help us sleep, as, among other things, it can help to reduce anxiety and relieve stress. It is, however, important to exercise at the right time. Exercising earlier in the day is better, as exercise increases the body’s adrenaline production, making it more difficult to sleep if done just before bedtime.
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