We’ve all had a night of tossing and turning. It’s frustrating, and usually leads us to spend the entire next day longing for a nap. Fortunately, sleeplessness is temporary – for most people.
But, for others – especially those with depression or anxiety – that’s rarely the case. “When somebody is depressed and anxious at the same time, when they go to look at their bed, they become anxious at the idea that they can’t actually sleep, so it’s a self-perpetuating problem,” Junaid Malik MD, of TriHealth Pulmonary Medicine, explains.
#1: Stop Worrying
Dr. Malik says sleep is physiological and a natural part of everyone's life. “It’s just like how you have to drink water or you have to go to the bathroom. Sleep is just like that. If you leave it alone, it will happen,” he says.
If you’re a chronic worrier, Dr. Malik suggests writing down a list of things you are concerned about before you attempt to sleep and mentally note that these are the things you will worry about tomorrow, not at that present moment.
#2: Make it a Ritual
Help prepare your body for a night of sleep by following a particular pattern each evening. For example, turn off the television, brush your teeth, read a book, and aim to be in bed by the same time each night.
#3: Dim the Lights
As you’re getting ready for bed, start lowering the lights, but leave enough light so you can safely navigate your home in the last minutes before bedtime.
Also, avoid watching television or using an electronic object – like a mobile device or computer – with an artificial light source within an hour of heading to your bedroom. While many people claim they easily fall asleep in front of the television because they’re calm, Dr. Malik says “if you’re calm doing something else, you’ll actually fall asleep much faster.”
#4: If You Can’t Fall Asleep, Don’t Force it
If you are not able to fall asleep within 20 minutes of getting into bed, then get out of bed, leave your bedroom, and try something else that’s relaxing, like reading a book. The more you associate your bedroom with sleeplessness, the more anxious you will feel at bedtime.