I have anxiety. It seems like everybody does these days. I’m not surprised with all the crazy stuff going on in the world. But I’ve had it since I was little, when I would lie awake until 3AM, going over everything in my head, listening to every little creak and crack in the dark and sometimes working up an overactive imagination.
Somewhere in my early 20s I got in the habit of taking over-the-counter meds like Tylenol PM or Zzzquil to just knock me out. By my 30s I got a prescription for Xanax and became dependent on that to fall asleep. When I went through IVF and later got pregnant, I had to stop taking everything. I really never liked having to take anything every single night, so afterwards I decided I didn’t want to get my Xanax refilled and would try alternative methods.
So here’s what helped me overcome my nighttime anxiety and finally get some rest:
1) Make a list – if it is bugging you and still in your head, write it down and plan to go back at it tomorrow. Once it is out of your head and on paper, you can easily revisit it later and can rest easy knowing it won’t be forgotten.
2) Read a mediocre book – I find if it’s a great book, I’m up until dawn trying to finish it because I just can’t stop. So I actually like reading books that are good enough to hold my attention, but not so good that I can’t put it down as soon as I feel sleepy. That’s the trick here – don’t push through it to read more. Put it down as soon as you notice you aren’t really paying attention anymore and skimming through.
3) Try a weighted blanket – When I saw these weighted blankets by Weighting Comforts, the concept reminded of the ThunderShirt I got for my dog when she was afraid of storms. The blankets are recommended for people with anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, restless leg syndrome and depression. The idea behind the heavy blankets is that they increase serotonin and melatonin in your body, which helps you relax, feel more calm and fall asleep much easier.
Since I’m in Florida, I went with the CoolMax style. The blanket is comprised of many little pockets filled with weighted beads made from a non-hazardous PVC compound. My son refers to it as “that weird bead blanket.” lol
It took a little work to find the right way to use it for me. They suggest trying it over the covers, under the covers, just the top half of your body and just the lower half. My perfect combo is over the covers, just on my lower half. It calms the urge to fidget and flop around while drifting off to sleep, and makes me feel a little more secure and snug.
4) Clear your head by listening to white noise – Sleeping with a loud fan or white noise machine helps in two ways – it blocks out all of the little noises that can sound super loud and creepy in a dark quiet house, and it helps clear your mind. One method I use is to concentrate on the hum of the noise and just the word “sleep.” Everytime my mind wanders and I start to fall in the trap of getting caught up in my own head, I just think “sleep.” Sometimes if I’m really having a hard time I kind of repeat it over and over loudly in my head.
5) Use a night light – There’s nothing wrong with still using a nightlight! My husband travels a lot and I find if I have a little light out in the hall, not in my bedroom, that it’s comforting. I know if I need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom or check on our son, I’ll be able to find my way around. A little light helps, but if it’s too bright and right by your bed it’s just going to keep you up. So the key here is to just have the minimal amount of light needed to make you feel like secure without keeping you up.
Does all this work every time? No. Sometimes I want to grab that bottle of sleepy stuff and take the easy way out. But I don’t want to fall into that cycle again, so I just read a book for 20 minutes or so, turn up the noise machine, tuck my weighted blanket over my legs and try again. What are your tricks for falling asleep and beating nighttime anxiety?