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Too Stressed to Sleep? How to Curb Anxiety at Night

It’s time to go to sleep but your mind won’t stop racing. You try to focus on soothing music or breathing exercises, but you can’t stop thinking about something you forgot to do at work, or a big presentation happening tomorrow, or your never-ending to-do list. Then before you know it, you are worrying about not falling asleep and having the energy you need to do it all again tomorrow.


Does this sound familiar? The good news is that you are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 50% of adults say that anxiety affects their ability to fall asleep at night. This is no surprise given the stresses of today’s 24/7 world coupled with the fact that we just lived through a pandemic. These stresses can often lead to our minds filling the “quiet time” before sleep with negative thoughts or worry about the future.


Thankfully, there are steps you can take to help curb anxiety at night so you can relax and get the restorative sleep you need. Please note that these are tips for those managing daily stress and anxiety that’s impacting sleep. If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder or if you have anxiety that’s not improving, speak with your doctor before making any lifestyle modifications.


Here are some things you can do throughout your day to help combat stress and set yourself up for better sleep:


Expose yourself to natural light. Studies have shown that exposure to natural light first thing in the morning can help set your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep at night. Studies also show that exposure to natural light throughout the day has a positive effect on mood, which may help to fight toff stress and anxiety.


Get moving. Exercise releases “happy” endorphins, which can help boost your mood and break a cycle of negative thinking. Studies have also shown that those who exercise regularly tend to fall asleep faster and get a better quality of sleep.


Eat a Balanced Diet. Certain foods can have a negative impact on your mood and your ability to sleep. That’s why it’s important to eat a balanced diet consisting of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and veggies with less processed foods and sugars. Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the hours before bed  as these stimulants can impact your ability to fall asleep.


Take Breaks. As stress builds up throughout the day, it’s important to take breaks to clear your mind and refocus. Some ways to unwind include taking a short walk (bring the dog if you can), doing a quick meditation, calling a friend or loved one, or journaling.  


Talk It Out. At the end of a hectic day, it often helps to talk with a loved one about things that caused you to feel stress. Not only can you get some good advice, but by sharing your stress with someone else you’ll feel much less isolated. Another option is to write down your stresses with the intention of leaving them there until the morning.


Create a Bedtime Ritual. When you create and stick to a bedtime ritual, you’ll help your body and mind relax and prepare for sleep. Ideas include taking a warm bath, doing nighttime yoga, sipping herbal tea, or journaling. Whatever you choose, it should be an activity that truly relaxes you and that you look forward to.


Listen to Music. Music can help you fall asleep by promoting feelings  of relaxation and ease. In fact, a recent study found that adults who listened to 45 minutes of music before going  to sleep reported having better sleep quality starting on the first night. (Source: The Sleep Foundation). With a variety of sleep apps and pre-curated playlists from streaming services available today, there are enough options to satisfy every type of musical taste.


Use Natural Sleep Aids. If it’s difficult to work through nighttime anxiety on your own, you can try natural sleep aids like melatonin, magnesium, CBD, or aromatherapy. Unlike over-the-counter medicates for sleep,  these are less likely to leave you feeling tired and groggy the next day. Always consult with your physician before adding a natural sleep aid to your routine.


Remember, stress and anxiety are an inevitable part of life. By making the commitment to curb anxiety at night so you can sleep better, you are taking an important step towards prioritizing your sleep – and your overall wellbeing.


Happy Sleeping!

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