Anxiety and sleeping difficulties are often closely intertwined. Stress and anxiety can cause problems like insomnia and sleep deprivation, which can create even more mental health problems.
By improving your sleeping routine, you can boost your mood and productivity during the day, as well as getting a good night’s sleep.
In this post, I’ll provide some actionable tips, calming activities and relaxation techniques that will help you improve your bedtime routine and get a good night’s sleep.
Reinforce your routine (or get into one)
The best way to improve your bedtime routine is to make sure you stick to a similar sleep schedule every night — even at weekends. This means avoiding temptations like sleeping in late, which can disrupt your body clock and natural sleeping patterns.
Try to stick to a set time to go to bed each night, and wake up the next morning. This helps your body to get into a routine where it feels ready for bed — and you’ll be able to wake up feeling more refreshed and energized.
If you’re struggling to manage your stress or anxiety, then setting a regular nightly routine can also help you feel more in control and manage symptoms.
Avoid disruptions to this sleeping routine, such as post-dinner snoozes on the sofa or napping during the day; mini 15-minute naps are okay, but any longer will make sleep much harder that night. If you feel sleepy, get up and do something more active.
Use light exposure to control your body
Our bodies are naturally attuned to sunlight — it helps to regulate our circadian rhythms (the internal body clock that controls your sleeping and eating patterns).
When it is time for bed, your body releases the hormone melatonin to let your brain know that it’s time to sleep. Sunlight inhibits the production of melatonin, meaning your body feels more alert in the daytime.
You can use your body’s natural response to light and dark to improve your bedtime routine.
For example, when you’re winding down for the evening, try using dimmer light sources such as your bedside lamp or candles. This will help your body prepare for sleep. Making your room darker by using heavy curtains or black-out blinds to block out any light will also make sleeping easier, especially in the lighter summer months.
And in the morning, expose yourself to bright sunlight. Throw your curtains open as soon as you wake up, open your window, and eat breakfast in the sun — it’ll make your body feel better and more awake.
Put your phone (and other screens) away
We’re all guilty of not being able to switch off these days. Our minds are always moving at a million miles an hour, constantly ticking off never-ending to-do lists, juggling our work, social and family obligations. It’s no wonder so many of us struggle to switch off at night and get a good night’s sleep.
One of the ways you can help yourself to wind down at the end of a long, hectic day is to put your phone — and other screens — away.
Phones, laptops, and televisions all provide overstimulation at a time when you should be winding down and preparing yourself mentally and physically for bedtime.
Not only does the bright blue-ish light emitted these screens suppress melatonin (that sleep chemical) and trick you into feeling more awake, but they keep your brain buzzing. If you’re trying to fall asleep, it stands to reason that you shouldn’t be trying to answer complex work emails and increasing your stress levels.
Try to put your screens away an hour before you go to bed. Instead, why not read a book, or listen to a soothing podcast or nature sounds? Give your brain time to slow down before it switches off for the night.
Swap out your coffee for a herbal tea
You probably already know that drinking coffee is a bad move before bed — while it’s a great pick-me-up during the day, caffeine can disrupt sleep and diminish sleep quality. But did you know that the effects of caffeine can last for up to six hours?
If you’re an avid coffee drinker, then try to cut off your coffees in the late afternoon. Stick to just drinking coffees at work, and if you feel like you need to have a hot drink before bedtime, why not substitute your coffee for a caffeine-free, soothing herbal tea?
Herbal teas like chamomile, valerian root, and lavender tea have a calming effect; they can help you to relax, settle your nerves, and aid sleep.
Create your own relaxing bedtime ritual
Creating your own relaxing bedtime will help you to wind down after a stressful day and get a good night’s sleep.
Everyone’s got something that helps them to relax and de-stress. What do you find calming? Listening to some of your favorite music or reading could work. Or perhaps this could be running a bubble bath or warm shower. Adding a few drops of soothing essential oils like lavender to your bath can ease tension and frustration, calming the mind.
You can also try practicing some relaxation techniques. This could be doing some meditation, mindfulness activities or breathing exercises.
Remember that everyone is different, so pick whatever works for you to make you feel more peaceful. Repeat this each night and turn it into your bedtime ritual — not only will it clear your mind, but having a regular routine will help your body recognize that it is bedtime.
Don’t sweat it if it’s not working
If you’re feeling out of sync and can’t nod off, try some of the relaxation methods we mentioned above, like meditation, listening to calming music or practicing breathing exercises. You can do all of these in your bed.
And if you still can’t get to sleep and nothing seems to be working, then take yourself out of the bedroom and go to another room. Do a calming activity like reading or coloring in until you feel sleeping again.
By following these practical tips and teaching yourself techniques for relaxation, you’ll be able to improve your sleeping routine and help yourself get a good night’s sleep.
Ultimately, this will have a knock-on positive effect on your mental health — helping to tackle feelings of stress and boosting your overall mood throughout the day.