How to Get Restful Sleep with Anxiety: 5 steps to Wind Down the Anxious Mind
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
Sometimes I can feel so tired at night but the minute my head hits the pillow, I have a million and one things running through my mind.
Frustration about things that I forgot to do. Worries about things that I need to get done. Which then of course goes deeper into fears about the future and before I know it, I'm wide awake trying to get things done.
With anxiety, a lot of nights can be the hardest part of my day. It feels like my mind just won't shut off, I start feeling anxious and overthinking all the things that happened or might happen. Then I can't fall asleep and I start feeling even more anxious about that. It's a cycle.
And we don't really make it any easier on our minds because we just go, go, go and then have this expectation that when our head hits the pillow our minds should just instantly get the message that it's time to sleep.
But that's not usually how it works, especially in the anxious mind. We need to give our minds time and support to wind down.
Do you have a wind down routine? If not, don't feel bad.
When I was a kid, my mom would always have us go through our "wind down" routine. We would do activities that helped our bodies to relax and know that it was time for rest.
Somewhere along the way I stopped doing my own "wind down" routine. I just got so busy and life can be so stressful that when I'd get home from a long day, all I wanted to do is veg out and binge on my favorite TV shows or play games on my phone.
Then I wouldn't get very restful sleep or it would take forever to fall asleep. I'd get anxious and stay up even later. I'd wake up feeling super tired. Go through a stressful day. And then I'd do it all over again the next day.
I was in a rut ...stuck.
But I finally realized that it didn't have to be like this. I could get restful sleep even while I was overcoming anxiety. Here's how you can do it too.
1. Check in with your body and mind throughout the day
Winding down shouldn't be entirely left for the evening time. In an anxious mind, a lot of things build up throughout the day so it's important to give yourself time to relieve some of those stressors.
This can be taking a walk at lunch, practicing meditation, talking to a friend. I had a co-worker who would do yoga in an empty room and another one that would take a nap in her office.
Read my entire blog post about how to take 2 minutes a day to check in with your body.
2. Let go of your electronics
About an hour before you're planning to get into bed just turn off your electronics. Put your laptop away, set your phone aside, turn off the TV.
Even though they can feel relaxing, these activities usually keep our minds active. Plus with all of the endless possibilities of distractions, you can lose track of time and end up staying up way later than you wanted. I'm definitely guilty of that!!
Pro Tip: Try not to use your electronics in bed. This confuses your mind and it'll think that your bed is the time to do other activities than sleep.
3. Start a restful evening routine that works for you
I'm not here to give you "the best" evening routine that will MAKE you sleep better. Nobody's routines has to look the same.
Because I don't really believe that one size fits all. So I'll give some examples of activities that could be restful for an evening routine and then do what you feel will work best for you.
If it works for you then you're also more likely to keep doing it.
Ideas for restful evening activities:
Practice meditation Read Listen to music
Take a bath Light yoga Journal
Reflect on your day Massage your feet Use essential oils
Pray Watch the stars
4. Write out the things that are on your mind
An anxious mind usually needs time to think about and process things.
But I definitely had a tendency to push away my thoughts and never took the time to honor them.
Instead of trying to avoid ever thinking about things because they might cause anxiety, try writing down your thoughts in a journal.
It can help you to process through the day and release those things that have been weighing on your mind so that you can actually get a restful sleep.
Plus, our minds still process through things even while we sleep. So who knows, when you wake up, you could have a solution!
5. Remind yourself that it can wait until tomorrow
Things can seem like they're urgent especially when we're feeling anxious.