Is there anything worse than being super, can’t-even-function tired? What about being super tired but not being able to sleep!? A lot of people are kept up at night by either clinical anxiety or just regular, day-to-day worries. We all have a lot on our plates, right? So, how do we get our minds to quiet down so that we can fall asleep despite the anxiety?
If you’ve ever been to this site before, you probably know all about my struggles with anxiety. I’ve written about it multiple times, because it pretty much affects every aspect of my life.
Trust me when I say I know how hard it is to get your brain to just shut up so you can get some rest. It’s super hard. It sucks. But there are some things you can try! I’ve learned a ton of tricks in my quest for better sleep, and I want to share these tips with you. If your anxiety keeps you up at night, you’re in the right place.
Of course, for some of us, we need medication to help us, and there is no shame in that. I freely admit that I take medication. But if you want to try some things before making that commitment, or if the medication isn’t fully helping you, read on!
A Bedtime Routine
Sounds a bit childish, right? But there’s a reason we create bedtime routines for our babies. It’s because they work. And they don’t suddenly stop working the older we get. Life just gets in the way, and we neglect this powerful strategy.
All of the things in this article can be worked into a bedtime routine, which is why I mention this one first. The reason this works is because your brain will start to make associations. Eventually, you will start feeling more tired and relaxed not just because the activities you are doing are calming, but also because your brain associates them with sleep.
Personally, I think everyone should have a nighttime ritual (that sounds more grown up, right?). Even if you don’t have trouble sleeping, an evening routine will help you unwind after a long day.
Ditch the Devices
This one sucks, I know. I love my phone. As a stay-at-home mom, my phone is sometimes my only connection to the outside world (and conversations with other adults). However, this tip is super important. You should give yourself at least 30 minutes before bedtime without any screens, including the TV.
There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that the blue light emitted from screens hinders the production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone your body releases that signals it’s sleep time. Not good!
One thing you can do, if you absolutely cannot avoid screens before bed, is to get a blue light filter app. I personally use Twilight and love it. But you can search “blue light filter” and you’ll get loads of options.
Another reason devices don’t help when you want to fall asleep is because they keep your brain engaged. You may think watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy isn’t engaging your brain, but you’re wrong. Simply following a storyline signals to your brain that it needs to stay awake. Same thing goes for texting your bestie. Like I said, this trick works, but it sucks.
Also, devices are pretty easy to “get lost” in. How many times have you gone to check one thing on Facebook, and the next thing you know, an hour has passed? Or you google that one thing that has been bothering you all day and two hours later, you come up for air. Sure, now you know how the British monarchy works, but was it worth missing all that sleep?
Dim the Lights
Remember when you were a kid and for the first few weeks of summer vacation, you’d wake up at the same time as when you had school? That’s because of your circadian rhythm, which had trained your body to go to sleep early and wake up early for school.
Your circadian rhythm is, essentially, a 24-hour clock. It tells your body when to start waking up in the morning and when to start winding down at night. Although part of your circadian rhythm is controlled by your brain, outside forces also influence it. The biggest threat? Light.
Again, we can relate this to babies. When you first bring your baby home, they will likely get their days and nights “confused”. The best tip for fixing this is to have lights bright during the day and keep things dim or dark at night.
And guess what? Again, this works for adults, too! About an hour before bed, try to keep your lights dimmed. Turn off the overhead light and switch on the lamp. After a while, your circadian rhythm will adjust and make you feel tired at roughly the same time each night.
Use Serenity Lotion
I was lucky enough to discover one of my new favorite ways to fall asleep faster. It’s Fay Farm’s Serenity Lotion. I was pretty skeptical, not gonna lie. The instructions say to rub it on your spleen or the bottoms of your feet… Like, is that even a real thing? But, I did it obediently.
Related: Using Gratitude to Help with Anxiety
Holy crap. I was out within fifteen minutes. Even though I follow a lot of these tips, it still takes me about an hour to fall asleep at night. My brain just won’t shut up!
I kid you not, there is something magical in this stuff. I cannot recommend it enough. The scent is very soothing, but that isn’t it. I’ve used lavender scented lotions before, and while they might relax me, none have ever helped me sleep.
If it takes you a while to fall asleep, you need to pick this up. This lotion has changed the game for me. It has amazing, organic ingredients, so you can feel comfortable with what you’re putting on your skin. It also contains CBD oil (this comes from the hemp plant but isn’t going to get you high, I promise).
Have Your Partner Give You a Massage
Anxiety causes us to carry around a lot of tension. I know personally that my shoulders and neck get insanely sore because of the stress I feel.
Even if your muscles aren’t particularly sore, a massage is so relaxing! I’ve been close to passing out on the massage table before. Oops.
The Fay Farm also makes a Warming Muscle Rub, which is a bestseller for them! I was able to test this out as well. It’s really great for massages because of the formulation. It goes on kind of like a salve, but rather than quickly absorbing into the skin, it spreads.
My husband used just a tiny dab to rub my shoulders, and he had enough left over to rub onto his foot (which has been killing him lately). They mention on their site that a little goes a long way, and they are definitely not kidding.
The scent is pretty strong, although I actually liked it. I’ve read the ingredients, but I’m not sure what the smell is! A little bit of menthol, but a lot of other herbs, too. This has CBD oil in it as well, for its pain relieving properties. They have a whole line of products that do not contain CBD oil over at their Fay Farms website.
Meditation or Progressive Muscle Relaxation
I am a huge fan of progressive muscle relaxation. There is something about tightening and releasing my muscles that just makes me melt. Which, I suppose, is the whole point. So that makes sense, huh?
I’ll be honest (because, hello, I always am!), meditation just doesn’t do it for me. I was in a treatment center where they made us do meditation every week, and it did one of two things for me. It either gave me time to think about a bunch of random things, or I fell asleep (simply because Sue had a very soothing voice).
I just can’t follow along with a guided meditation, and if I try to just quiet my mind, I end up thinking of a thousand things that all seem very important to think about. My mind wasn’t made for meditation, I suppose.
Loads of people swear by meditation, though, so I included it on my list. Personally, I prefer a round or two of progressive muscle relaxation. But you gotta try these things to find what works for you.
Pour a Cup of Tea
There are so many tea blends out there aimed at helping people fall asleep! Personally, there’s something about that warmth in my belly that makes me feel cozy and ready for bed! It’s why I prefer iced coffee, to really wake me up.
You will likely have to try a few teas before you find one that does the trick, and that you enjoy the taste of. Here are a few suggestions.
Try an Herbal Supplement
Don’t enjoy the taste of tea? Yeah, I’m super particular about my teas, so I feel you.
I’ve personally used melatonin, so I can vouch for its effectiveness. Start with a smaller dose, and work your way up if it isn’t enough. When my son was first born, I couldn’t sleep at all. I was so anxious about his wellbeing that it kept me awake. My doctor and I decided to try a low dose of melatonin. It worked really well and is a super-safe supplement.
Other options include Valerian root (which can be found in a lot of sleepytime teas but is also sold in capsules), passionflower, lemon balm, and CBD oil.
You can find a few of these at mass retailers, but if you’re having trouble, you can check your local health food store, or buy online. Just make sure you’re buying from a reputable source.
My Secret Weapon
My grandmother taught me this one. I’ve never heard it anywhere else, but I’m going to share it with you because that’s how I roll.
Rather than trying to clear your mind and get it completely blank (which is what I used to try to do), try this little exercise. Go through the alphabet and think of as many names as possible for each letter. I like to break it up into girl names and boy names, for some reason it keeps me more focused.
For example, I’ll list out in my head:
A – Abraham, Aiden, Adam, Andrew…
B – Bryce, Benjamin, Brian, Brent…
And so on. It’s fun in the morning to try to remember what letter you got to. The next night, I’ll either continue, starting with the letter I left off on, or I’ll switch to girl names. I know this sounds insanely simple, but try it and leave me a comment letting me know if it works for you!