Too anxious to sleep?
It is by now established that stress affects us both physically and mentally. While the right amount of stress actually helps us face daily challenges, too much of it affects us in negative ways including robbing us of sound sleep. This in turn makes you irritable, increases anxiety and stress levels and again, causes sleepless nights!
Insomnia refers to a condition characterized by difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. Worldwide around 15 percent of people suffer from it. Its exact prevalence in India is as yet unclear.
Causes of loss of sleep can include:
* Thinking or worrying too much: Thinking about or trying to solve day-to-day problems
* Irregular bedtime: Erratic bed timings can prevent you from getting good, deep sleep.
* Relying on stimulants: Too much caffeine (from coffee and to a lesser extent tea) in your system stimulates the brain, delaying sleep. Green tea has amino acids and ingredients to help you sleep better and is preferable. Nicotine present in cigarettes also acts as a stimulant. Alcohol is a nervous system depressant that, though once considered to be a sleep aid, is now perceived as a cause of sleep disruption; it may help you fall asleep faster but disturbs the duration, depth and structure of sleep so that you wake up restless and tired.
Insomniacs usually suffer from lack of sleep for long durations leading to mental health problems like anxiety and depressive disorders.
Here are some tips to handle stress and anxiety in order to sleep better and break the chain of stress-induced sleeplessness:
* Identify stressful factors – whether a difficult colleague, impending promotion, a domestic squabble or financial crisis – and try to avoid them. Once you do that, you can keep the stress trigger away. Practice planning techniques and writing down worries. You will see that once you have the problems written down with possible solutions, your stress will reduce to a great extent.
* Socializing with family and friends will help you unwind and allow you to relax better at the end of the day. This will help you sleep better at night.
* Think positive. This is a great stress buster. A constant feeling of “what will happen”, “what will I do” or “why did this happen to me”, can undermine your peace of mind and rob you of restful sleep. Reducing unnecessary expectations and impossible targets also help in reduction of stress.
* Share responsibilities and delegate work. Do not take on all family and work related problems on your shoulders alone.
* Simple lifestyle changes like healthy meals at regular hours, regular physical exercise and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes will help you sleep soundly. Also avoid fast foods and soft drinks that are low in nutrition and high in calories and only leave you feeling lethargic. A healthy balanced diet will keep your energy levels high and help you cope with stress better. Also exercise releases chemicals called endorphins in the brain that fight depression and anxiety, thereby inducing good sleep.
* Follow sleep hygiene. Avoidance daytime naps, especially in the late afternoon or evening. Before bedtime, avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine or alcohol, stimulating exercise or heavy fluid or food intake.
* Enhance your sleep environment. Use your bedroom only for sex and sleep. To make it conducive to sleep, have only soft low lighting in it and ensure quiet. If you are unable to fall asleep, leave the room and indulge in a relaxing activity like meditation. Reading, surfing the Internet, and watching television will only delay sleep further.
* Sleep at a regular time each day. You can practice meditation or muscle relaxation to relax your body. Lie down flat on your back and consciously relax each part of your body. Relax the muscles each time you exhale. This will ease the tension in your muscles and help you sleep peacefully.
* Sex can be a great sleep inducer as the hormones associated with it help you sleep better. However stress can reduce your sex drive to a great extent. Practise relaxation techniques to unwind before you can indulge in sex.
* Behavioral therapy measures employed by psychiatrists can help severe insomniacs who suffer from anxiety. This can include cognitive psychotherapy, stimulus control therapy and other therapeutic techniques. Sleep is monitored through sleep diaries. Some medications may also be prescribed in the short term to alleviate sleeplessness and anxiety and induce a good night’s sleep.
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