When I hear from most people who share with me their struggles with sleeping well, reading between the lines, I pick up a lot of issues with anxiety. A common reoccurring theme with people who struggle to sleep well at night, seems to stem from worries about ongoing issues, or unaccomplished tasks for the day. Often times when people have these worries on their mind, they fight to stay up as long as possible, however the longer they stay up the less productive they become. Our minds and bodies are like rechargeable batteries, there is only so much energy we can hold, before we need to recharge through sleep.
So imagine this scenario, you are up all day procrastinating, or doing things that don’t benefit you, the day starts to wind down, and you realize that you have accomplished very little. Then you start hustling, trying as fast as possible to get at least one thing done. The problem is that you can’t decide on what to start doing first. Then you decide to take a break from the hard thinking you are doing, only to procrastinate some more. Before you realize it, it’s past mid night and you have still not started on a project, or maybe you have and are only quarter of a the way through on something. Then you take another break, because now you are thoroughly tired and cannot focus regardless of how hard you try. You leave the television on, for some white noise background and eventually you fall asleep.
Depending on your commitments for the next day, you are most likely going to wake up tired which leads to the vicious cycle repeating itself. So if you can relate to what you just read, here are three strategies to help you get a good night’s rest.
Tidy up your room.
It’s easier to fall asleep in a less cluttered setting, this is because people tend to feel more at ease in tidy and organized environments than cluttered ones. Tidying up your room, from your bed to your clothes, creates the perception of a more predictable environment that puts your mind at ease.
Prepare a to do list.
Write down all of your pending commitments and it helps the more detailed you are, in regards to specifying when you are going to initiate the task and when you estimate you are going to complete the task. Having something down on paper puts your mind at ease, as opposed to all your commitments trying to sort themselves out in your head. By putting your commitments in writing, you have inevitably accomplished the task of sorting your commitments according to priority and possibly establishing a plan on how to accomplish these tasks.
Turn off all dis tractors.
Some people believe in keeping on some device that produces noise, while they sleep, usually this device is a television or radio. In order for your body to properly recharge, it can not have any consistent stimuli in the background ground. In a previous post, I wrote about a ground breaking research on how sleep influences our ability to learn.
Given that numerous studies have shown that your brain processes your experiences for the day while you sleep, don’t you think that an ongoing stimuli during your sleep could interfere with this process? It is important to be alone with your thoughts and not have any interference. Keep in mind that this is ideal, so if you live by a rail road or close to an air field, there is only so much you can do (short of moving) and that’s understandable. However keep in mind that if you leave the television and radio on, you will be contending with subliminal messages from advertisers.
There are other reasons that cause people to lose sleep, however this post is focused on how anxiety affects sleep.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling and life coaching practice.