If you have been suffering from anxiety symptoms, it is quite likely that you will know what it is like to have insomnia.
And yet, getting better sleep is an important step in improving both your mental and physical wellbeing. Research has shown that better sleep can produce improvement in psychological conditions such as anxiety – often more than people expect.
How to Overcome Insomnia
Here are some tips and strategies to help you to overcome insomnia.
Know your own biological clock:
Many people don’t realise that it is important to get ready for bed before you feel sleepy. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Quite often people feel sleepy every few hours. If you should miss this timing, it is often difficult to fall asleep during the next several hours.
In addition, the activities involved in getting ready for bed (brushing teeth, feeding the cat, locking up the house etc), can mean you no longer feel sleepy by the time you finally turn out the light!
Try some calming exercises:
Focus on diaphragmatic breathing when lying in bed trying to sleep (there are lots of exercises available on YouTube); or try counting to yourself, as it is a boring activity that can reduce the activity of the brain. Meditation and mindfulness exercises before going to bed can also help (again, there are plenty available on YouTube).
Calming activities like these don’t just help to relax both body and mind, but distract the mind from the worrying or negative thoughts which can prevent sleep.
Things to avoid:
Exposure to blue light from television, computer screen, smart phones and other devices can awaken the mind, making it harder to fall asleep. Avoid blue light before sleeping – that means no checking your mobile phone in the dark while lying in bed!
Caffeine from coffee, energy drinks, and chocolate, stimulate the brain and impede sleep.
Alcohol and sleeping tablets may seem a “quick fix” as they can calm down mind and body and help people to fall asleep. However they prevent good REM sleep and reduce the quality of deep sleep during the night. As a result, people can suffer from increased anxiety and stress.
Try to keep worrying thoughts outside your mind by talking and sharing concerns with others who can be trusted, or writing in a journal. Also, try to recall any positive things that have happened in your day, even the small ones. There are always some good things in your life even in the worst situations.
Exercise and Diet:
Increasing the frequency and amount of exercise can burn excessive stress hormone, which reduces stress and anxiety, which in turn improves the quality of sleep. The influence of exercise on sleep and mental health in general is often underestimated.
Improving the quality of diet, and avoiding excessive intake of sugar and fat, can also help with getting better sleep
If you have tried the above tips, and are still struggling to overcome insomnia, seeing a psychologist can be helpful. You will likely learn how to better manage your stress and anxiety levels, allowing you to be more relaxed in both your body and mind; as well as strategies to deal with things like worrying and negative thoughts, which are detrimental to a good sleep habit.
Author: Yu Takizawa, B Sc (Hons), M Couns, M App Psych.
Yu Takizawa is a Brisbane psychologist, fluent in both English and Japanese. He is particularly interested in offering counselling and psychotherapy services to people who are facing cultural challenges, or problems with anxiety.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Yu Takizawa, you can try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) by freecalling 1800 877 924.