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How to overcome anxiety so you can sleep

If anxious thoughts make it hard for you to get enough shut-eye, these tips may help.

Have you ever noticed that your anxiety seems to be worse at night? Right around the time that we should be winding down for the day, our brains seem to go into overdrive, worrying about anything and everything. If you are prone to anxious thoughts, you may find them getting in the way of a good night’s sleep.

Anxiety is not uncommon. In fact, anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults in the U.S., according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. And that’s just the number of people with a diagnosis. Many other people deal with anxiety on occasion or due to particular triggers.

Anxiety tends to rear its ugly head when we’re trying to sleep because we have no other distractions. That gives our anxious thoughts free reign to run through our heads and keep us awake.

There’s no reason to let your sleep suffer. It may take a bit of work on your part, but you have the power to win the battle against stress, worry and anxious thoughts at bedtime. These tips may help:

∙ Schedule time for thought earlier in the day. Give yourself permission at some time during the day (preferably not right before bed) to let yourself think hard about whatever is on your mind. During that time, try to come up with ways to address what makes you anxious.

∙ Make a to-do list or write in a journal. One way to get those thoughts out of your head is to put them on paper. If you can’t stop thinking about all the things you need to do tomorrow, next week or whenever, make a to-do list or put them on your calendar. If you have other thoughts swirling in your head, take a few minutes before bed to write in a journal.

∙ Practice deep-breathing exercises. Take slow, deep breaths while you pay attention to nothing but the air filling up your lungs and then exiting your body. Keep your focus on your breathing so your mind doesn’t wander.

∙ Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Figure out what helps you relax and then do it before bed. What you do during this time is up to you — you can take a bath, read, drink a cup of herbal tea or meditate. Just try to avoid anything that’s stressful or stimulating. Keep off your phone and computer, don’t watch the news and avoid getting into heated discussions.

∙ Don’t lie awake in bed too long. If you find it hard to fall asleep, don’t spend too much time giving your mind a chance to wander. Avoid turning on bright lights or screens, but get up and spend a few more minutes doing something relaxing before trying again to drift off to sleep. 


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Date Last Reviewed: November 18, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD
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