How to Sleep With Severe Anxiety

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Severe anxiety doesn't have to be something that keeps you up at night. Learn how to sleep with severe anxiety with help from an expert counselor in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Anxiety
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Video Transcript

My name is Gordon McInnis. I work here at Carolina Beach Counseling at Carolina Beach, North Carolina, and today we're going to talk about how to sleep with severe anxiety. It's not easy because that's one of the symptoms of anxiety, is disturbed sleep. You know, it interrupts sleep. It's a problem, and it's one of those things that compounds because if you get your normal six to eight hours of sleep a night, that kind of thing, and feel good and rested, great. You're doing really well and sleep has a big impact on our functioning. Some of the lower levels of sleep, like stage four sleeps, that's when we repair muscles and that's when we actually make more neurotransmitters and so we need that deep sleep. That's not necessarily when we dream but we need that deep sleep. When you don't get that, it can compound and so you know, probably everybody has experienced having a lousy night's sleep and then having to think the next day and just being a little keyed up and that kind of thing and maybe being a little grumpy, irritable, that kind of stuff. One or two nights of not being able to sleep, that's okay, it's not the end of the world. Our sleep cycles kind of ebb and flow. But when it persists on and on and you're not getting good sleep or you're not getting restful sleep, you need to do some things about that. One is, and it's all part of what's called good sleep hygiene. Your room should be cool, okay? A warm room will make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Our bodies naturally cool off a degree or two as we prepare for sleep which is a signal for us to release Melatonin which is the sleep hormone which helps put us to sleep. So, one of the things that you can do is have a cool room. You can always have a blanket at the end of the bed if you get too cold and warm up. Sometimes white noise helps, like a fan blowing, maybe some gentle music, that kind of thing. Turn off the TV. Some people need the TV to fall asleep to, that kind of thing, then put it on a timer, okay, and turn it off because we're very sensitive to light and what happens with the TV is that it flickers, you know, it changes channels or scenes change and the light changes and that bothers our sleep, that keeps us from sleeping. So that's important, so turn off the TV. Your bedroom should be used for sleep, don't bring your laptop into your bedroom, don't bring stressful things into your bedroom. The bedroom is a place to be calm and mellow. Also if you're having problems sleeping, don't lay there for hours and hours and toss and turn. If you can't get to sleep in about a half an hour, get up and go do something. It doesn't have to be super strenuous, I'm not saying go run a marathon, but do something. Get up, do something quiet, maybe read a little bit that kind of thing, outside of your bed and then try it again. Other things are you could take a lukewarm shower before you go to bed because that also will help decrease your body temperature, start that up. Relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, also imagery kinds of things. I tell people a lot that you know, the last five minutes or so before you're falling asleep imagine a world just of your own making where everything is pleasant and calm and it can be the greatest thing in the world and if you want to pretend like you can fly, then fly. If you want to pretend like you live in a lavish mansion, then live in a lavish mansion. It doesn't matter because it's your imagination and you go to sleep and you like we said before, marinate in that for the next eight hours it's a lot better in marinating in, oh God, what I didn't get done today and oh, what does she think about me or what does he think about me and oh gee, I didn't do this and didn't do that and you've got all these worries and anxieties. So, it's a way to kind of calm your mind before you go to sleep. There are over-the-counter sleep aids. They're helpful, Benadryl for some people, some of those kind of things. They are helpful. But again, it's one of those things that you don't want to use them too often because you don't want to become dependent upon them. And then, you can also talk to your therapist about it. You can also talk to your doctor about prescribing some other sleep aids to help. But, you know, with sleep aids there are some side effects that go along with them so you've kind of got to watch them. For some, like with some of the sleep aids, you can have sleepwalking, and some of those kind of issues, so you've just kind of got to watch that kind of thing, and if you can do it naturally that would be great. Again, watch caffeine intake. If it's got a half life of seven hours and you want to go to bed at ten o'clock, then you better stop drinking caffeine about three o'clock in the afternoon. That was just some advice on some various topics related to anxiety. As always, you should go seek professional help or go see your doctor if these things are continuing to bother you.

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