Since the pandemic commenced, the number of Aussies battling insomnia and other sleep issues has almost doubled from 25% to 46%. Research suggests that at least 50% of insomnia cases are related to stress, anxiety or emotion. So if you’re battling insomnia or anxiety is affecting your sleep quality or duration, then this post is for you! Follow these 5 steps and you’ll be asleep again in no time.
1. Avoid Blue Light Exposure
Whatever you do, don’t check your phone. Your phone emits blue light which suppresses melatonin (the sleep hormone) & enhances cortisol (the stress hormone). Research has shown that just 5 minutes of blue light exposure delays your circadian rhythm by 2.3 hours. What does this mean? If your circadian rhythm is delayed by 2.3 hours, it’ll take you an extra 2.3 hours to feel alert and energetic when you wake in the morning.
So if you decide to read or watch tv, be sure to put on your night time blue light blocking glasses.
2. Practice Deep Breathing and/or Meditation
Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety by inducing a physiological state of deep rest. My favourite apps for meditation and breathing exercises are Head Space and The Resilience Project. The Resilience Project also comes in hard copy form too.
But if meditation isn’t your thing, don’t worry – deep breathing has your back… or mind! Give this deep breathing exercise a try:-
- Lay down and close your eyes.
- Gently breathe in through your nose, with your mouth closed, for a count of six seconds. Don’t fill your lungs too full of air.
- Exhale for six seconds, allowing your breath to leave your body slowly and gently.
- Continue for up to 10 minutes.
3. Follow my Evening Sleep Routine
If you followed my sleep routine the night before, don’t worry you can follow it again (I have omitted the steps that aren’t applicable).
Each step in my routine activates your parasympathetic nervous system which counteracts cortisol (the stress hormone) and is the underlying reason for insomnia and 3am wake-ups.
- Avoid electronics and screen time if possible. Opt for reading, journalling or activities that emphasise relaxation and do not involve screens or significant exposure to artificial light.
- If journalling, reading or watching tv, wear blue light blocking glasses.
- Re-apply lavender oil to the insides of both wrists and soles of feet. Alternatively, you can use a lavender diffuser.
- Set bedroom temperature to 18-21 degrees C & maintain a clean, cool and dark bedroom.
- Play white noise.
- Practice deep breathing or meditation.
- Sleep with a weighted blanket.
See my post ’11 Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep’ for the extended version of my sleep routine.
4. Brain Dump!
Anxiety often = mind racing uncontrollably. So grab your journal and brain dump. It’s best to keep a journal specifically for this purpose and keep it beside your bed for easy access. Brain dumping is a tool often recommended by healthcare professionals to remedy anxiety because it slows your thoughts and gets everything off your chest (or mind) which means you don’t become overwhelmed or consumed by your thoughts.
When journalling, ask yourself the following questions:-
- Am I safe right now? Look around. Are you safe in this moment? If so, acknowledge it.
- What is making me feel stressed/anxious? Identify the stressor and write it down. Once identified, ask yourself: Is it true? Most likely, it isn’t.
- How can I learn from this experience?
- How can it benefit me?
- What is the positive in this situation?
- What do I have in my life right now to be grateful for?
Don’t forget to wear your night time blue light blocking glasses while you do this.
5. Sleep with a Weighted Blanket
In a recent study, 63% of people reported feeling less anxious when sleeping with a weighted blanket and 78% preferred using a weighted blanket to calm down. Weighted blankets are designed to provide a warm, gentle pressure on the user that mimics the feeling of being held (known as Deep Touch Pressure). This type of pressure has been shown to increase serotonin (happiness hormone), a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of sleep that has a calming effect. Similarly, that feeling of being held from a weighted blanket encourages your body to produce oxytocin (the love or cuddle hormone), which can relieve pain and stress while boosting your immune system. Research has also shown that using a weighted blanket helps reduce movement in the night which can boost the amount of time you spend in deep, rejuvenating sleep cycles.
When choosing a weighted blanket for an adult, experts recommend choosing a blanket that is 10% of your body weight. For children, experts recommend choosing a blanket that is 10% of the child’s body weight plus an additional 1-2 pounds.
If after 20-30 minutes you still can’t fall asleep…
Then get up and go out to the lounge room or another room (just not your bedroom) and go about your activities. It’s important to keep the bedroom for sleep and sex only and to not use it as a multi-purpose room. Eliminate all electronics from your bedroom including mobile phones, TVs and laptops as well as clutter. This ensures that your brain associates your bedroom with sleep and sex only, which makes falling asleep easier and distraction harder.
You may also like to have a cup of chamomile tea.
Give these tips a try and let me know what you think!