Anxiety happens when your mind travels to the future and finds an imagined scenario threatening. Chronic anxiety isn’t just limited to your mind, the symptoms start showing up in your body as well. One of the many forms of anxiety is sleep anxiety. Have you ever found yourself dreading the idea of sleeping at night? You could be suffering from sleep anxiety. Also, if the term is new to you, we have it all covered here along with some management techniques to help anyone suffering from the problem cope.
Health Shots got in touch with Dr Pavana S, Consultant Psychiatrist, Bangalore, to understand how to deal with sleep anxiety. “Sleep anxiety, another term for Somniphobia or sleep-related anxiety, is a condition in which a person experiences heightened feelings of fear, stress, or apprehension around the act of sleeping,” she says.
In the realm of mental health, sleep anxiety can impact your well-being, affecting both the quality of rest and overall mental health. Individuals experiencing sleep anxiety often find it challenging to maintain sleep due to persistent worries and concerns. One can often experience feelings of fear during the sleep process, persistent worry and overthinking, and difficulty relaxing which can impact daily functioning. These feelings can be associated with night terrors, and these issues can reflect as chronic insomnia leading to other underlying mental health disorders like depression, and anxiety.
Let’s explore effective management techniques for those grappling with sleep anxiety.
Encourage individuals to create a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends, helps regulate the body’s internal clock, Dr Pavana S tells Health Shots.
You should try including relaxing activities before bedtime, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practising gentle stretching. These rituals act as signals to the body that it’s time to doze off.
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“You should avoid consuming stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. These can interfere with the ability to fall asleep and contribute to heightened anxiety,” says the expert.
Try including mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing exercises in your daily routine to help individuals shift their focus away from anxious thoughts and promote a state of relaxation, conducive to sleep.
“Create an environment that is conducive to sleep—cool, dark, and quiet. Investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows can significantly improve sleep quality,” suggests the expert.
Discourage the use of electronic devices before bedtime. The blue light emitted from screens can disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone crucial for regulating sleep.
“Promote regular physical activity as it can contribute to better sleep. However, advise against vigorous exercise close to bedtime,” says the expert.
Regular physical activity can induce feelings of exhaustion that can promote healthy sleep. Alongside, exercise is also known to aid in the release of feel-good hormones in the body that further help in curbing stress levels in the body.
When sleep anxiety persists, a comprehensive treatment plan may involve therapeutic intervention. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) has demonstrated efficacy in addressing the underlying factors contributing to sleep anxiety. This therapeutic approach focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors that disrupt sleep.
In some cases, medications may be considered, such as sedative-hypnotics or anti-anxiety medications. However, the use of medication should be approached cautiously, and individuals should be closely monitored for potential side effects and dependency, advises the expert.
In conclusion, the journey to overcome sleep anxiety involves a combination of lifestyle adjustments, behavioral changes, and, when necessary, professional guidance. By tailoring strategies to individual needs, we can guide our patients towards restful nights and improved overall well-being.