The link between anxiety and sleep

Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in New Zealand with more than 200,000 Kiwis living with an anxiety disorder.

One of the body’s natural anxiety coping mechanisms is sleep. While we sleep, our mind and body relax, so the next day we’re sharper and able to withstand life’s requirements and stresses. It’s almost ironic then, that anxiety can actually make it harder to sleep. Sleep problems are extremely common in those with persistent stress, and in many cases it can actually cause a cycle that makes it harder to overcome anxiety in the future.
Below are some tips and ideas to calm the mind and help you get a good night’s sleep:
  • Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority. Block out 7 to 9 hours for a full night of uninterrupted sleep, and try to wake up at the same time every day, including weekends
  • Keep a journal beside your bed and write down any worries before sleep. Your brain is a fascinating thing, and when your mind knows that you have written a persistent thought down, it will feel better about letting the thought go, knowing that it’s in a permanent place
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid stimulants like coffee, chocolate and nicotine before going to sleep, and never watch TV, use the computer or pay bills before going to bed. Read a book, listen to soft music, or meditate instead.
  • Regular exercise is a great stress relief and will help you sleep better. Limit your exercise to mornings and afternoons.
If you’re still having problems with anxiety affecting your sleep, talk to your doctor.
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