If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or an exorbitant amount of stress, you may find yourself tossing and turning in bed at night. Sleep, which was once a welcome respite from the daily grind, can quickly become an enemy. You may find yourself dreading the inevitable as night approaches or watching the clock, calculating how much sleep you will be getting (or not getting) before your long day at work tomorrow. Common responses to compensate for sleep loss include napping, excessive caffeine intake, or the use of alcohol or sleeping pills in an attempt to self-medicate. While these practices may provide short-term relief, they may not be the most productive long term solutions for insomnia.
When basic functioning-such as sleeping and eating- shift dramatically, there is a good chance that this is your body’s way of telling you there is something amiss. Addressing the root cause of the issue (such as depression or anxiety) through counseling and/or medication can often alleviate these physical symptoms. If you are caught in the spiral of sleepless nights, here are some helpful tips and tricks to try:
- Set a regular schedule – Once upon a time, before the invention of electricity and electronics, people would sleep when it was dark and rise when it was light. We now have the capability to sleep and wake as we please, and with that comes a resetting of our natural internal clock. While it is no longer realistic to sleep and wake with the sun, setting a routine time allows your body to acclimate to predictable patterns. This practice is particularly challenging on the weekends, when the desire to stay up late and sleep in are strongest. While it may not be a practical goal to have a sharp bedtime and wake time indefinitely- it is strongly advised for those suffering from sleep disturbances.
- Watch your caffeine intake – The half- life of caffeine is approximately 4 hours, which means that if you drink coffee at 5 pm, it won’t be completely out of your system for another 8 hours- landing you at 1 am. Therefore, a cup of coffee in the morning is generally okay, but if you’re sipping caffeinated drinks throughout the day it may be impacting your ability to sleep.
- Stop napping! As enticing as it may seem, napping can often exacerbate the cycle of insomnia by throwing off your sleep schedule. If you are exhausted mid-day, try some light exercise to increase your energy.
- Your bed is sacred territory – You should only be using your bed for two things: sleeping and sex. Avoid reading, eating, working, or watching TV while in bed. Your mind can be trained to associate being in bed with feelings relaxed and restful. If you are tossing and turning in the middle of the night, getting out of bed to engage in a quiet activity before returning assists in maintaining your bed as a place of rest.
To learn more about insomnia, reach out to one of our licensed counselors by booking an appointment here.
Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P