Sleep Anxiety & Improving Sleep Health
What is sleep anxiety?
There are 5 different stages of sleep split into non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement sleep. All are important but a lot of the memory consolidation and repair functions occur during the deep stages of sleep. Stage 3 and 5 in particular.
A number of causes can disrupt our ability to sleep, stress and anxiety being the more common reasons. However, medication, alcohol, caffeine, smoking and exercising late in the day can all disrupt our sleep patterns too.
Sleep anxiety is a fear of sleep. Stress and anxiety can cause serious disruption to our sleep patterns which can, in turn, cause anxieties related to sleep itself. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder with difficult symptoms like struggling to get to sleep, maintaining sleep, early morning awakening or waking unrefreshed.
What is insomnia and what are the best treatments?
Insomnia can be caused by many different factors, both internal and external. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression and others can affect your sleeping patterns, and cause a disruption to the production of serotonin which helps you sleep. Medicines can also cause insomnia as a side effect.
External factors that can affect sleep patterns and result in the development of insomnia and other sleep disorders include:
- Noise or environmental factors like heat or cold
- Medications e.g. Steroids
- Recreational drugs e.g. MDMA and Cocaine
- Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
- Jet lag
- Shift work
If you suffer from insomnia, it’s worth speaking to your doctor, as they can help offer advice and support. There are some small changes that you can make to your daily routine that sleep studies have shown to have a profound effect on your sleep. Such as:
- Implementing a wind down regime before bed - ensuring you avoid food, alcohol, and electrical stimulants at least an hour before bedtime
- Exercising earlier in the day, or trying gentle bedtime yoga or stretches to wind down
- Addressing the bedroom environment, including the temperature of the room and the bedding, for example, try investing in a comfortable mattress, bed linen and pillows
- Reducing light and noise - using an eye mask can help to block out any unwanted light and earplugs can stop any disturbances
- Medications from your pharmacy or prescribed by your doctor
Can you die from too much or too little sleep?
We don’t believe there is any evidence of this but lack of sleep impairs our ability to function and therefore may have an impact on our day to day life and activities, for example, driving. Not directly, but too much sleep is linked with obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression and pain which could result in early death.
A good sleep pattern varies from person to person but ideally one should have 7-9 hours daily. It is best if you can aim to go to sleep at the same time each night to help ensure you are getting enough sleep.
Improving sleep for mental health
At Soak&Sleep, we understand that there is a close relationship between our mental health and sleep, and if your sleep suffers you can wake up feeling sluggish. So here are our top 5 tips for drifting off, when you are feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders.
1. Breathing Exercises
Deep, slow breathing can be a powerful method to clear the body of stress and tension and relax your mind in preparation for sleep.
Before you start you must be in a comfortable sleeping position. Lay on your back and place your arms by your sides with palms facing upwards, then either straighten the legs or bend the knees.
Start by taking a deep slow breath in through your nose. Try to breathe as deeply as possible without forcing it, then allow the breath out through the mouth. It may be useful to count as you breathe. Taking a breath in, counting up and a breath out, counting down. Repeat this 3 -5 times to allow your body to become used to this method.
You may also want to try the 4-7-8 breathing method. This is a structured breathing exercise that can help relax the body and improve sleep by adopting the breathing pattern your body uses when it’s falling asleep.
Inhale for four seconds.
Hold your breath for seven seconds.
Exhale slowly, for eight seconds.
Repeat several times.
2. Relaxation Methods
Busy minds can keep you awake at night and prevent sleep when it’s needed the most. Practising relaxation methods such as meditation and/or yoga may be the sleep aid your mind and body need. Over the past few years, whilst we've been spending much more time at home, mindfulness apps and relaxation techniques have been of vital importance. Try a few different apps until you find one that works for you.
Meditation helps train the mind to be aware of perspective and to think about and observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement. This method can be practised at any time during the day but can be helpful to clear your mind from negative and unwanted thoughts at night when you should be getting quality sleep.
Yoga not only helps stretch your body, enhancing your physical strength but can also reduce stress and help focus your mind. Yoga has been shown to lower cortisol or “the stress hormone” levels in the brain which can help minimise stress. Practising yoga before bed can help clear your mind of daily tensions allowing you to wind down and relax before you sleep.
3. Keep a Sleep Diary
Figuring out why you are unable to sleep could introduce unwanted stress at night. There are many reasons why you may be finding it hard to drift off and it may not be consistent each night.
Keeping a paper sleep diary close to, or next to your bed can be a useful way to record daily stresses, food and drink consumption as well as exercise, all of which may be causing poor sleep or aiding better sleep.
By recording the above, along with how you sleep during the night you may be able to discover patterns, helping you to make small lifestyle changes to your daily routines to improve your sleep habits and long-term sleep problems.
4. Create a comfortable sleeping space
It’s important that your body is comfortable and supported correctly at night. Be sure to think about your sleeping position, body temperature and sleeping pattern when you create the foundations of your bed.
Your mattress, duvet and pillows have a huge effect on your sleep comfort, so it’s important to get these right and tailor the choice to your sleep habits. Bed Linen is just as important, with selected ranges aiding sleep through breathability and softness.
Looking after your bedding and keeping it feeling fresh will help you create the perfect sleep sanctuary and can minimise sleep-related health problems. Read our bedding care guides for more information on good sleep hygiene and how to care for your bed.
5. You time.
Taking time to focus on yourself is vital for a healthy body and mind. It’s important to find time in the day to have “you time”. This may be in the form of a hobby, going for a run, having a bath, or catching up on your favourite TV. It’s important to give yourself the space to enjoy what you love the most.
Soak&Sleep are passionate about great sleep. Everyone deserves to have the very best sleep, every night. If you are struggling to sleep don’t suffer in silence, gaining quality sleep is vital for healthy minds and bodies.
Mental Health awareness week 2022 will take place from 9th-15th May. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, the week aims to encourage people to speak about Mental Health to help share and support. This year the focus will be on loneliness. Research has shown that two-thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and loneliness can play a key part in this. You can read more from the Mental Health Foundation here.