Whether it is a test, presentation, or new situation, falling asleep the night before we have something anxiety-provoking planned can be a challenge.
You may find yourself tossing and turning prior to the day before any of these situations. Other times, it can feel impossible to get a good night’s sleep when feeling anxious.
Five ways to get a good night’s sleep when you are feeling anxious:
1. Reduce Caffeine Intake
It can be helpful to think ahead and reduce your caffeine intake the day prior to an anxiety-provoking situation. Sleep hygiene research suggests that if you do drink caffeine during the day, it is best to stop consuming caffeine at 3:00pm. This will help the caffeine wear off during the day, which in turn should help make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Chemically, caffeine blocks sleep receptors in our brain, so reducing the intake can help build up sleep receptors during the day, which in turn will lead us to feeling sleepier as the day goes on, rather than being awake and alert.
It can also be helpful to think ahead and participate in some physical activity the day prior to an anxiety-provoking event. Research shows that exercising during the day can help us fall asleep faster and can help us feel less tired during the day. Planning ahead of time and incorporating exercise the day prior may be helpful in falling asleep. This can also be helpful in the long term as well.
3. Allow for “Worry Time”
Set aside an allotted amount of time to have “worry time.” Worry time is exactly what it sounds like – a time spent focusing on your worries and what is making you anxious. Spend about 30 minutes each night journaling about your worries and anxieties.
It can help to set this time before completing a task such as making dinner, or engaging in self-care time so you can have a clear start and end of your worry time. It is important to set a task to end the worry time in order to end the worry time.
4. Deep breathing
It can also be helpful to set a breathing routine into your nightly routine. Deep breathing has been shown to decrease your fight or flight response and activate a part of your brain that helps you feel more calm and relaxed. Oftentimes when we feel anxious, our breathing can become faster and more staggered, and this is something deep breathing can help.
Building a breathing exercise into your routine can help give you something to focus on (your breath) while also decreasing the fight or flight response that we feel when we are anxious.
Meditation can help you get a good night’s sleep due to a few reasons. When we meditate, we activate different parts of the brain that are related to sleep, therefore engaging in meditation can initiate changes in your brain that can help promote sleep. Meditation is relaxing, calming, and when we are relaxed and calm it is easier to fall asleep.
These tips can be helpful for trying to fall asleep when anxious. Remember to also treat yourself kindly and remind yourself that it is normal to be anxious about a new experience, a test, or presentation. If you notice that your sleep is regularly being impacted by extreme anxiety or excessive worry, it may be helpful to make an appointment with a therapist in order to help better your overall mental health.
- Nunez, Kirsten. “Meditation for Sleep: How to Use Meditation for Insomnia, Better Sleep.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 13 Jan. 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/meditation-for-sleep#how-to-meditate.
- “Learn to Sleep Better with Breathing Techniques.” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/breathing-techniques-sleep.
- “How Can Exercise Affect Sleep?” Sleep Foundation, 6 May 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-activity/exercise-and-sleep.
- “Caffeine’s Connection to Sleep Problems.” Sleep Foundation, 6 May 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/caffeine-and-sleep.