I thought I would start my blogging journey on my new site sharing some thoughts about my favourite pastime - sleeping, specifically about a fairly common issue surrounding sleep.
Why, I wondered, does my brain wait until 4am to wake me up to re-run a conversation I had months before, telling me how it could have gone much better! And then, what's worse, it won't let me get back to sleep and I will literally lay there for hours as my mind jumps from topic to topic.
You may think nothing is happening when you sleep. But parts of your brain are quite active during sleep. And enough sleep (or lack of it) affects your physical and mental health. When you sleep, your body has a chance to rest and restore energy. A good night’s sleep can help you cope with stress, solve problems or recover from illness. Not getting enough sleep can lead to many health concerns, affecting how you think and feel.
It's thought that this overnight brain activity means it's possible for any pent-up worries or anxieties to manifest in our unconscious brains, leading to nocturnal panic attacks.
Simply being aware that others are sleeping soundly can lead to a sense of isolation and worsen anxiety at night, too. Small problems, such as forgetting to post a letter, can suddenly seem much worse than they actually are. There may also be increased anxiety about waking others up.
There are fewer distractions at night, so if you suffer from anxiety during the day you may well find those feelings aggravated in the wee small hours.
Poor sleep then begins the vicious cycle whereby a person can experience low mood as a result which in turn makes them more susceptible to these nocturnal episodes.
All is not lost! Here are 5 simple things you can do to calm night-time anxiety.
Not just tea and coffee, lots of fizzy drinks have caffeine in them. You could also try herbal teas, including chamomile or valerian extract, which can aid sleep.
Prepare for the next day
Organise yourself for the next day, this can prevent that feeling of unpreparedness that can easily tip over into anxiety. Maybe have a to-do list.
Establish a sleep routine
Developing a 'wind-down' routine before bed helps your body recognise when it's time for sleep. If you can include a relaxation activity such as a breathing exercise, a bath or gentle stretching. Avoid laptop or phone use at this time, the brain is stimulated by these devices and it is thought the blue light they emit can interrupt our sleep.
If you can't sleep, get up
Insomnia is frustrating, but lying in bed and trying to get to sleep is only going to make you feel worse. If you can't get back to sleep within 20 minutes, get up.
Get professional help
If you struggle with anxiety at night which is impacting your sleep or other aspects of your life, it's important to get help. You can talk to your GP or a talking therapy practitioner who may be able to help you change the way you think and behave, particularly when it comes to negative thinking.