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These psychologist-approved strategies will help give you peace of mind.

| By Antonia Day & Rebecca McWilliam | Wellness

How to Beat Anxiety Before Bedtime for a Better Night’s Sleep

These psychologist-approved strategies will help give you peace of mind.

There’s no worse feeling than being struck with a bout of anxiety as soon as your head hits the pillow. Perhaps the thought of a looming deadline pops into your head, or maybe your brain has decided to play an embarrassing memory on repeat as soon as you shut your eyes.

Whatever the catalyst is – or even if it’s unknown – experiencing anxiety before falling asleep is unfortunately something many people suffer from. While it can be difficult to eradicate these nervous thoughts and feelings as soon as they become present in your mind, there are steps we can take to minimise the frequency of them.

Below, Holistic Psychologist, Rebecca McWilliam explains some of the common causes for experiencing anxiety before sleep, and provides her top solutions on how to reduce this pervasive experience.

What causes sleep anxiety?

Anxiety before sleep is a common issue that many people face, and it can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of the common causes for feeling anxious before going to bed include:

Stress and worries

Everyday stressors, such as work, relationships, finances, or academic pressure, can often carry over into the night. When you're lying in bed, it's a quiet moment for your mind to dwell on these stressors, leading to anxiety.

Overthinking

Racing thoughts, also known as overthinking, can make it difficult to relax and fall asleep. This can include thinking about past events, anticipating future challenges, or simply having a busy mind.

Health issues

Physical discomfort or health problems can trigger anxiety. Conditions like sleep apnoea, acid reflux, or chronic pain can interfere with sleep and cause anxiety about the upcoming night's rest.

Caffeine and stimulants

Consuming caffeine or other stimulants before going to sleep can make it challenging to unwind. These substances can disrupt your natural sleep cycle and lead to increased anxiety.

Screen time

The use of electronic devices, such as smartphones or computers, before hopping into bed can negatively impact sleep. The blue light emitted from screens interferes with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

Environmental factors

Noise, uncomfortable room temperature, and an uncomfortable mattress or pillow can also contribute to anxiety before sleep.

Anxiety disorders

Generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety, or specific phobias can lead to heightened anxiety at night. The quiet and stillness of bedtime can make these anxieties more pronounced.

Trauma or PTSD

Individuals who have experienced trauma may be more vulnerable to night time anxiety, as traumatic memories can resurface during the night, leading to nightmares and disrupted sleep.

Lack of a relaxing bedtime routine

Not having a regular and calming pre-sleep routine can make it difficult to transition from wakefulness to sleep. Engaging in relaxing activities like reading, meditation, or a warm bath can help ease anxiety.

Nutrition and diet

Consuming heavy or spicy meals too close to falling asleep can lead to indigestion, causing discomfort and anxiety. It's also important to note that alcohol and certain foods can disrupt sleep patterns.


If you find yourself frequently experiencing anxiety before sleep, it may be helpful to identify the specific causes that apply to you and seek strategies to address them.


How can you prevent sleep anxiety?

If someone is feeling anxious before going to sleep, there are several strategies that can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. Here are some techniques to try:

Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Establishing a calming pre-sleep routine can signal to your body that it's time to wind down. Activities like reading, taking a warm bath, or practising relaxation exercises can be beneficial in reducing anxiety.

Limit screen time

Avoid electronic devices like smartphones and computers at least an hour before going to sleep. The blue light emitted from screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.

Mindfulness and meditation

Practising mindfulness or meditation techniques can help calm racing thoughts and promote relaxation. Guided meditation apps or deep breathing exercises can be particularly helpful.

Physical activity

Engaging in regular exercise can reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. However, avoid vigorous workouts close to going to sleep, as they can be stimulating.

Create a comfortable sleep environment

Ensure your bedroom is conducive to sleep. This includes a comfortable mattress and pillow, optimal room temperature, and minimal noise and light. Consider using earplugs or blackout curtains if needed.

Limit stimulants

Avoid caffeine and other stimulants in the hours leading up to going to sleep, as they can exacerbate anxiety and disrupt sleep.

Journaling

Writing down your worries or thoughts before bed can help clear your mind. Consider keeping a journal to offload any concerns you may have.

Stay hydrated

While you should limit fluids right before bedtime, ensure you're adequately hydrated throughout the day and afternoon. Dehydration can affect sleep quality.

Seek professional help

If anxiety before sleep is a chronic issue and significantly interferes with your daily life, it's essential to consider speaking with a mental health professional. They can provide therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), or recommend medications if necessary.

Limit alcohol and nicotine

Alcohol and nicotine can disrupt sleep patterns, so it's best to avoid them.

Set a regular sleep schedule

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Consistency can regulate your body's internal clock and improve sleep quality.

Progressive muscle relaxation

This technique involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in your body to release physical tension, which can help reduce anxiety.

Limit exposure to stressors

Minimise exposure to stressful or anxiety-inducing situations, such as intense work or personal discussions, close to going to sleep. Avoid watching or reading disturbing or negative news stories before bed, as they can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Instead, focus on more positive or relaxing content.

Avoid napping

While short naps during the day can be beneficial, long or late-afternoon naps can interfere with night time sleep. If you need to nap, keep it short (20-30 minutes) and earlier in the day.

Remember that it might take time to find the strategies that work best for you. What works for one person may not work for another, so be patient and willing to experiment with different approaches.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call Suicide & Crisis Lifeline on 988. In an emergency, call 911. If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, you can also speak to your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.

For more from Rebecca, follow her @psychologistbec or visit her website https://rebeccampsychology.com.au/

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