How to manage anxiety that causes insomnia

Q:  When I get into bed I get tense and start to feel my heart pounding.  I get anxious about the idea of not sleeping, and when that happens I toss and turn for hours.  Any suggestions to counter this?

A:  What you are describing may be a conditioned negative response to your bed and the idea of sleep, likely from the frustration of dealing with insomnia. Fortunately, there are a number of effective solutions that can help you.

One is to plan a relaxing pre-bed routine every night.  The general idea is to minimize stress or anxiety during this time, to help transition from wakefulness to drowsiness.  This is one good way to help establish a positive conditioned response over time that you begin to automatically associate with a good night’s rest.

A second method is to consciously relax once in bed.  There are literally dozens of ways to do this, but some of the best involve deep diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Another way to counter anxious thoughts is to distract yourself, and there are number of ways to accomplish that.  One of the simplest is the age-old method of counting sheep, but you may find creating more elaborate images of relaxing waterfalls or calm beach scenes to be more effective.

The most permanent method is to get to the bottom of this in the first place.  In other words, treat anxiety at its root.  This is exactly what cognitive restructuring will enable you to do.

The idea is to identify and reality check the underlying negative thought patterns that are fueling your anxiety.  When you examine these thought patterns closely, you will likely discover your worry about insomnia is overblown and excessive.  These thoughts could be irrational, distorted, or unrealistic.  More importantly, these negative thoughts about sleep are likely perpetuating your insomnia.

With cognitive restructuring, you learn to replace the negative distorted thoughts with better, more accurate thoughts about sleep.  Such as this — the true reality is we can’t not sleep.  We can’t not sleep any more than we can’t not breathe.  The key is to manage the process for the best results.  So worrying, or putting negative mental energy into the idea of not sleeping, is enormously counterproductive.  In fact, letting go the worry about not sleeping is one of the best things you can do to help yourself sleep better!

With cognitive restructuring, you learn to take this negative mental energy and turn it into positive mental energy that supports good sleep.  The method works.  It is powerful and very effective.

You can learn cognitive restructuring methods by working with a counselor or psychologist, or there are many books and online resources that use this method.

So be confident that by proactively managing  your anxiety, you can help restore better sleep.

Explore posts in the same categories: Fear, Health, Insomnia, sleep

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5 Comments on “How to manage anxiety that causes insomnia”

  1. […] also includes methods for stress management and control of anxiety.  When used simultaneously, these methods are very effective at restoring and improving […]

  2. […] Second, learn to control and manage these intensely negative thoughts.  There are effective, drug-free ways to do this.  When negative thought patterns recur, they often underlie and cause anxiety.  And anxiety in turn is a potent fuel for insomnia. […]

  3. […] when feeling dead tired in the middle of the night and unable to sleep — is classic catastrophizing.  It is a distortion of rational thought.  Your reality is probably not that much different from […]

  4. […] control, sleep hygiene, consistent sleep timing, stress management, relaxation training, and control of anxiety.  Any of these issues, if not properly managed, can and will disrupt […]

  5. Marcus M Says:

    Hey great post:) really like the methods suggested in the post, I suffer from anxiety so will definitely give these methods a try! thanks for sharing

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