How to sleep when you’re anxious

We have all experienced it. We get into bed and suddenly our brains start throwing up worries and lists and what-ifs.

If you are away from your family, you might be worrying about them too.

During times of anxiety and stress, it’s more important than ever to get a good night’s sleep.

Scientists have shown that adults need anywhere from 7-9 hours sleep per night but the exact amount varies from person to person. Keeping to a routine and aiming to be consistent in how much sleep you get each night is a good way to train your body into a pattern.

Below are some tips for harnessing anxiety and helping to support your sleep:

  • Physical activity of any kind will help to keep your mind and body healthy and may make it easier for you to drift off at the end of the day. Just 30 minutes of physical exercise per day can make a difference to how well you sleep.
  • Doing a yoga practice closer to bedtime can help relax your body and prepare it for sleep. Meditation is also a good option. You can find free meditations and yoga classes online or visit some of our useful apps below.
  • Write your worries down on a notepad or in a journal. Think about what you can change and what you can’t and then make a plan for the things you can change. While you’re at it make a list of the things you are grateful for. This may help you to gain some perspective and relax.
  • If you’re tired during the day, take a nap. Listen to your body and give yourself a break. Just try not to nap too close to your bedtime and keep your naps short. Prior to 3pm is a good idea and nap for less than an hour.
  • Avoid caffeine (particularly late in the day). If you must have it, try to have it before 12pm.
  • If you drink herbal tea at night, make sure it does not contain stimulants that might keep you awake. Similarly, don’t take vitamins at night that are likely to keep you awake, like Vitamin B.
  • Snacking while watching Netflix is always tempting and a glorious way to relax and concentrate on something other than the communal anxiety that is everywhere right now. Just avoid eating too close to your bedtime and try fruit and nuts instead of sugar and ice cream.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, without distractions like TV or a computer. Avoid using an electronic device to read in bed; the light from the screen can trick your brain into thinking it is daytime and keep you up.
  • Try not to work in your bedroom. Set-up a desk somewhere else in the house. Your brain is quick to make associations and you want your bedroom to be linked to sleep and other appropriate bedtime activities, not work.
  • Reading, listening to music, or relaxing in a hot bath before bed or simply practising deep breathing can also help you relax your mind and get to sleep.

Helpful links

Useful apps

  • Relax and Sleep Well - a free 27-minute hypnosis designed for relaxation and self-hypnosis.
  • Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock - an intelligent alarm clock that analyses your sleep and wakes you in the lightest sleep phase.
  • Smiling Mind - Stop, Breath, Relax
  • Calm - covers meditation, relaxing music, sleep stories, video lessons on gentle stretching and more.  You can get a free one-week trial.
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