As we have explored so far, there can be many things that contribute to your anxiety. One other aspect of your life that can lead to your feelings of anxiety is sleep. Recent studies show that sleep deprivation plays a negative role in emotional processing. The ability to manage your emotions healthily is essential to keeping both stress and anxiety at bay. If you are getting less sleep than you need to manage your emotions in a way that benefits you, it would seem that getting more sleep can help. Let’s take a look at the ways sleep can affect your body and mood. Then I’ll offer some suggestions to improve your chances of returning to a regular sleep pattern.
The portion of your brain responsible for protecting you in times of danger is called the amygdala. It communicates perceived threats to the prefrontal cortex, which then determines whether flight or fight is necessary. These two portions of the brain usually work pretty well together. However, under periods of distress, such as those stimulated by lack of sleep, their signals can be crossed. This causes the brain’s emotional centers to take over, leading to difficulty in concentration, increased irritation, slower reflexes, and higher anxiety levels.
Also, REM sleep cycles, the part of the brain that handles learning, are engaged. Three to five REM cycles are average, and science has shown that more is better for improved mood. If you’re not sleeping, you’re not going into these much-needed REM stages. Not only is the amount of sleep you get essential. The quality is also vital to strong mental health.
There are some habits you can pick up that can contribute to sleep and less insomnia if these are issues for you.
- Avoid exercise before bed, as this can stimulate you. Instead, shoot for five or six hours beforehand. Sessions of 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day can help.
- Also, the timing of your meals can contribute to a smoother time sleeping. Try not to eat three hours before bed.
- Spread out your meals and snacks throughout the day to avoid intense hunger pangs or spikes in blood sugar.
- Caffeine and alcohol can rob you of your rest, so avoid them as much as possible.
- Set up your surroundings in a soothing way. Make your bedroom your night time sanctuary. Play soft music for ambiance and add a scent like lavender, known for its calming properties.
- Be sure your routine before sleep isn’t stimulating, so lay off the electronics about a half-hour ahead of time.
- If you can’t sleep once you lie down, get up and read or drink some tea. Tossing and turning leads to more anxiety.
These habits should help ease you into slumber when bedtime arrives. Peaceful slumber is always good for your body, mind, and soul. So give these suggestions a try if you’re experiencing high levels of anxiety. Better sleep can help.
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