Sleeping with Anxiety

One of the wonderful possible side effects of anxiety is having some sort of sleeping problem. Of course it is different for each person; not everyone with anxiety has a sleeping problem, and not everyone with a sleeping problem has anxiety.

Anyways, if you are one of those people that has a lot of issues with sleep, this one is for you.

Ever since I was little, for as long as I can remember, I have had issues falling asleep and staying asleep. Have I always had anxiety? I’m not sure. What I do know is I would constantly get out of bed to get my parents and tell them I couldn’t sleep and have warm milk. My mom would tell me to think of different things, “Think of puffer clouds and rainbows. Count sheep”. Even when I would finally fall asleep, the quietest noise would wake me up.

I would always be really frustrated, and I figure that’s one of the reasons I was never a morning person because that is when I would finally be sleeping – so it took an insane amount of effort to get up, at least an hour.

To this day – it takes me a while to even speak after I wake up.

Finally, a little over a year ago I went to my doctor about it and asked “Does it usually take people hours to fall asleep? Like, at least two or more hours?” To no surprise, they said “It shouldn’t take that long besides if you have a bad night here or there.” Well, I have a bad night every night.

I almost did a sleep study – I would highly recommend that if certain medications don’t work because it could actually be a thyroid issue or something else. I had blood work done and it is not due to anything with my thyroids.

I was prescribed the generic version of ambien and my doctor needed to up my dose a few times because even that wasn’t really working. I didn’t want to keep doing that so they tried giving me an anxiety medicine – this was before I started seeing a therapist and psychiatrist again.

The reason my doctor wanted me to try an anxiety medicine strictly for sleep is because one of my racing thoughts that keep me awake. It feels like my days are so busy and I don’t have enough time, so when I finally settle down to go to bed, my mind has about 1,000 thoughts a minute.

Basically, nothing was working which is one of the big reasons I went back to a therapist and psychiatrist to get to the bottom of it – hence discovering more of the anxiety, depression, etc.

I really don’t want to rely on ambien or another medication for my sleep unless absolutely necessary – I am on just one anti-depressant now and that has helped. However, here is what I think helps more (strictly for sleep):

Sleep Aids

  • Melatonin: I think everyone knows about melatonin now – if you have more severe problems I would get 10mg, fast release.
  • CBD: Cannabidiol works wonders my friends. It is legal, and no, it does not get you high nor have THC in it. They have CBD more tailored for relaxing, too. Here is he brand I get, which you can find in some shops too. Select CBD. 
  • Valerian tea: Cozy up with a nice hot cup of Sleepy Time tea with valerian. The valerian root has relaxing and calming properties along with passion flower. Make sure you get the “extra” with the valerian vs. regular Sleepy Time tea – here are two different brands you can find at Target and other stores as well. Traditional Medicinals and Celestial Seasonings.
  • Indica-dominant THC: *Only if you have a medical marijuana license!* It helps to increase mental and muscle relaxation, decrease nausea and acute pain, increases dopamine, and for night time use.

Nighttime Wind-downs

If you have problems falling and/or staying asleep – getting on a routine, including regular exercise and winding down at night, can really help improve your sleeping habits. Here are some wind-down activities you can do before going to bed.

  • Get off your phone and computer:  I think this is another things pretty well known now how the blue light on your phone stimulates your brain more, so power down 30 minutes or more before bed. But here is more info if you want it!
  • Read a book: It is so relaxing to curl up with a cup of tea and a book before bed. Even if its only for fifteen minutes, give it a shot.
  • Make a to-do list: This is especially helpful if you have racing thoughts/restless mind. Keep a notepad by your bed or anywhere that’s easily accessible to your room. Make a list of things you need to do the next day or maybe forgot about. Clear your head. It can be a list of anything.
  • Draw: If you’re not a reader, try one of those Adult Coloring books! There are also different painting apps, free or to purchase. My favorite is Procreate. It’s something that’s just satisfying and everything else seems to fade.
  • Shower: Before starting any of my wind-downs, I like to take a nice shower or bath first. There are a ton of different aroma therapy sleep body washes, bath bombs, etc. Finish it off with a sleepy lotion.
  • Meditate: Something my therapist recommended I try is meditating. It may seem odd at first for anyone who never has before, but it does help to take your mind off of everything else. I will say, it takes a lot of time and practice and I still find myself thinking of other things while my meditation is going on. There are a lot of apps now, but my two favorites are Headspace and Stop, Breathe, & Think. Going along with meditation – there are also a lot of podcasts that are meditations or bed time stories. Two podcasts on Spotify I really like are called Sleepy and Nothing Much Happens – it is literally people reading stories in a calming voice, and I love it.

Per usual, different things work for different people. On the bright side, you can keep trying different things and see what helps – I like combining a lot. Sleep isn’t something that is fixed over night, but with the help of a routine and learning to wind-down, you’ll be in a better place.

Sweet dreams!

-Riley

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