How to Get a Better Night's Sleep

Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep

Man sleeping in bed
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People with anxiety disorders often have a difficult time falling and staying asleep through the night. For instance, people with panic disorder can be more prone to having anxious and fearful thoughts at night. And it's not uncommon for panic attacks to be more prevalent before bed, preventing you from getting a good night’s rest.

Tossing and turning needn't be your fate, though. Employing these tips will help you reduce your nighttime anxiety and establish better habits to promote peaceful slumber.

Set Aside Enough Time for Sleep

Many people don't put enough time aside to get a proper night’s sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults obtain seven or more hours of sleep a night to avoid the health risks of chronic inadequate sleep.

Research shows that getting the recommended amount of rest can improve mood and performance, making you feel more alert, happy, and refreshed.

To get the right amount of sleep, try going to bed sooner than later. Many people will wait to get to bed until it's too late to actually get the proper amount of sleep. Anxiety can be heightened if you're constantly watching the clock and noticing that you won't be getting enough rest. For example, a lot of people will get to bed late and think, "It's so late. Now I'll only get five hours of sleep. I'm going to be such a mess tomorrow!" Such negative thinking will only contribute to your worry.

Create a Bedtime Routine

A bedtime routine is a great way to relax and unwind before bed. By creating a routine, you're telling your body and mind that you're preparing for sleep. This pre-sleep ritual can consist of many activities, such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or praying. These activities are meant to be calming and low energy so you're better able to transition to a restful sleep.

Relaxation techniques are also an effective way to let go of tension before bed. For instance, visualizing can help you get your mind off your worries and focus on more calming thoughts. Progressive muscle relaxation or engaging in a few yoga stretches can help the body release stress. Other self-care strategies, such as journaling or reading, can help you reflect and slow down your thoughts.

Prepare for the Next Day

Part of what can keep you up at night is worry and nervousness regarding the following day. To eliminate some of the stress, it can be helpful to be more prepared for the next day. For example, you may find it anxiety-reducing to lay out your clothes in advance, write a list of to-dos, or pack up your things for work so they're ready to go. You can make these preparations a part of your before-bed routine.

Keep Consistent Sleep Hours

To keep your body in a regular cycle of sleep, it's important to stay consistent with your sleep hours. That means trying to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning around the same times every day. Your body will become used to the sleep schedule you set, helping you more easily fall and stay asleep throughout the night.

Many people find it difficult to maintain routine sleep hours over the weekend. However, if you're always having irregular sleep hours on the weekends, you're setting yourself up to have sleep issues throughout the week. Shifting your wake and sleep times an hour or two shouldn’t completely throw your sleep schedule off for the rest of the week. But if you're committed to getting better and more consistent rest, you'll need to keep your hours as stable as possible.

Cut the Caffeine Early

If you're having a hard time falling asleep, it's important to stop drinking caffeine much earlier in the day—by 2 p.m. to help ensure you're asleep by 11 p.m. Abruptly cutting caffeine out of your diet can cause some major withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and increased anxiety. So instead try to gradually reduce the number of caffeinated beverages you drink a day. Eventually, you may want to limit your caffeine intake to the morning only.

Other common food triggers for people diagnosed with panic disorder include alcohol and sugar. Try reducing your consumption of these foods, along with caffeine, and notice if you feel less jittery or anxious at night.

Use Your Bed Only for Sleep and Sex

With all of our technology and entertainment, many of us find it difficult to keep our bed a place designated only for sleep and sex. It can be tempting to turn our beds into home offices, by texting on our phones, answering emails on laptops, or reading documents for work. The bed is also not a place for constant entertainment, such as watching hours of television, reading magazines, or talking on the phone.

To get a good night's sleep, stick to the 15-minute rule. When you get into bed at night, only allow yourself 15 minutes of wake time. If you don't fall asleep during that time, get out of bed and engage in a low-key activity, such as reading a book. Don't do anything that may be too over-stimulating, such as watching the news or doing physical exercise.

After about 20 minutes, get back into bed and try again. If 15 more minutes go by and you don't fall asleep, get out of bed again and go back to a quiet activity. This can be very challenging at first, but if practiced over time, you'll begin to make sleep a priority and get a better night’s rest.

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