Anxiety and sleep: my top tips to help you nod off

My anxiety has been particularly high the past few days and, as many of you will know yourselves, night-time can be the worst – when the distractions of the day are gone and you’re trapped alone in the dark with your restless mind and endless thoughts.

So I thought I’d share with you some tried and tested ideas on how to calm down, switch off and actually fall asleep at bedtime.

Before bedtime

Take a bath
If you want to really go for it, invest in a bath caddy. They’re such a neat little invention, designed to help you transform your bath into a full spa experience. Get the bubbles up to your eyeballs and grab everything you need: your favourite beverage, a candle or two, all your pampering products from scrubs to scrapers and – if you need to maximise time like me – your iPad, so you can catch up on the latest Drag Race whilst you preen (just ensure you have a waterproof cover).

If you prefer something a little more low key, swap out bubbles for bath salts. Your wobbly bits will no longer be hidden beneath a sea of honeysuckle-scented foam, but actually it might be better for you. Bath salts supposedly offer a whole host of benefits from combatting stress and fatigue, to reducing inflammation and detoxifying the skin.

Personally, my absolute favourite bath is in winter: totally dark outside, the water as hot as I can handle, candles burning. Then I open the window. The biting cold winter air blowing in across my hot skin makes me feel both peaceful and alive.

Watch a film or read a book
This is totally down to personal preference, and can also depend on how severe your anxiety is at the time. I love reading but often find it isn’t enough to quiet my brain when I’m particularly anxious. I find that a film, with both audio and visual distraction, works better for me. That being said, be careful with your choices and make sure to avoid triggers.

Horrors are my favourite. Sometimes I’ll watch some generic crap where it doesn’t matter if I’m actually paying attention or not; sometimes I’ll rewatch an old favourite – I find comfort in repetition and often find I’ve actually fallen asleep before the end.

At bedtime

Put down your phone
I know it. You know it. But let’s all hold our hands up and say it’s the piece of advice we always ignore.

Crowbar that phone out of your clutching paw well before bedtime!!

Don’t allow your last lingering thoughts to be the snarky email in your inbox, or the photoshopped selfie of an instagram influencer wearing a thong bikini next to a Balinese infinity pool, when you just ate half a cheesecake in front of Bake off.

Get a routine
I don’t mean anything complicated – there’s no need to delay bedtime by two hours with a complex beauty and yoga regimen. Just a couple of simple things that are personal to you, and help remind your mind and body that it’s time to sleep, are enough. It could be taking your meds, stretching, moisturising, using roll on essential oils or reciting affirmations.

In bed

Background music
If your mind is still busy, try some soothing background sounds. I personally like the sound of a crackling fire or stormy night, but lapping waves, babbling brooks or even the lively sound of the rainforest work well. You can also find some brilliant spa or zen playlists on Spotify or YouTube.

If you’re like me and are prone to emotional triggers, steer clear of regular music where a particular melody or lyric might stimulate an unwanted response.

Mind games
Try lulling your brain into a calm, pre-sleep state by playing little games or making lists in your head. I often play I Went To The Shop And I Bought… or the Alphabet Game, for example listing all the foods beginning with C or all the girls names beginning with S, to give me something to concentrate on other than my constant stream of thoughts. I guess it’s the adults version of counting sheep.

Tell me, what tips do you have to achieve a restful night?

35 thoughts on “Anxiety and sleep: my top tips to help you nod off

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  1. I have a free meditation app called Petit BamBou, and I do five minutes of the Cardiac Coherence breathing exercises before sleeping (in bed after having turned off all lights, so when I’m done I can just drift off). I also read a few minutes in bed before sleep, just long enough to get me thinking more about what I’m reading than what’s worrying me.

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  2. These are excellent tips! I love bubble baths! I never thought of a bath caddy but I will be checking that out. Thank you for sharing this!

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  3. What brilliant ideas. I am blessed with the ability to sleep regardless of what is going on in my head.

    But I think it is so important to have a good bedtime routine.

    I’ll be implementing some of these x

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    1. Ooh, I do love spa music, and that crackling fire background noise is flipping amazing.

      Cold air when you’re in a hot bath though – that’s braaave!

      At the moment I have trouble keeping my knackered eyes open rather than sleeping, although I’ve had plenty of insomnia too. It sucks.

      Stinky thoughts. Hope you’re feeling better. Xx

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  4. I sleep pretty well but my husband really struggles so i’ll Be passing your tips on to him! Particularly like the idea of playing I went to the shops, better than counting Sheep!

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  5. I always put a playlist of my favourite podcasts on before bed. I quite like old radio comedies too. If I wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep I can put a podcast on and be asleep again in minutes.

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  6. These are good tips to develop I think with sleep in general too. My issue is turning off my mind. I keep thinking of what I need to do and making checklists and on and on. Luckily I’ve been so exhausted lately I have no choice but to fall asleep.

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  7. Excellent tips. Bathing before sleeping does help get a great sleep. I’ve done it a few times, and it makes me feel good the following day. Overall, a great read! (:

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  8. Love your tips! I usually read before bed. I agree that watching a movie is wonderful for steering my mind away from the day’s worries. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. This topic is right up my alley. I plan to try all of these things. I generally read before bed, however it doesn’t always work for me. Thanks for the ideas!

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  10. Such a great post! I know that putting your phone down is so important but it’s also so hard! I’ve read about the blue light from screens really messing with your sleep cycle. Thanks for sharing!
    Jessie

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  11. Ah yes, nothing beats a nice relaxing hot bubble bath!
    I like the idea of listing stuff in the store or going through the alphabet. I visualize myself painting numbers on a canvas from 99 and down. Usually I fall asleep by 80!

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  12. This is great! Been needing to read a post like this, and here it is! I also do the alphabet game. It doesn’t require too much brain power depending on the topic, but it distracts you from negative thoughts to 😅

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  13. These are great tips! For years (And still sometimes if I really can’t sleep), I would make up stories in my head where I went on some grand quest or fell in love with some dreamy guy. I would always doze off, then pick up the next night from whatever the last part I remember was! 😂

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  14. Thank you for sharing this! My anxiety has also peaked lately and I’m noticing I am triggered later at night when there are no distractions of the day! I’ll be sure to try out some of your tips! I hope your anxiety manages to subside!

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  15. I have the hardest time falling asleep. Actually last night I didn’t sleep at all. Sometimes reading works for me but a lot of the time I find I’m too tired to read. I used to fall asleep to the same channel on the tv every night for background noise but my boyfriend has a fit if the tv is on while he’s going to sleep. I will turn Spotify on quietly after he falls asleep. I am SO guilty of the phone thing tho. If I can’t sleep it’s the first thing I grab.
    Love your post!

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  16. I recently wrote a post on how a few months ago I got diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and it can be a real struggle to fall asleep. I personally love to use a mixture of essential oils, those little oils really help me. I also like to repeat affirmations of self-love and I pray.

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  17. These are really good tips. I’ve struggled with anxiety for different reasons throughout the years. It definitely takes practice in knowing what works for you and what does not. Playing Sudoku helps me to fall asleep before bedtime.

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  18. Great tips, I never make time for baths but they can be so relaxing and help still an anxious mind.

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  19. Excellent post! I have something similar booked in for the end of the month! Sleep is so damn important to your mental health, not just your physical health. And it’s paramount that we allow it to happen.

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  20. This is really helpful! Also your perfect bath is spookily similar to mine haha. I often have trouble falling asleep and hadn’t actually considered playing a mind gamr. I remember trying them as a kid but have no idea if they worked, time to try again I guess!

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  21. Having a bath, reading a book, and getting off my phone a few hours before I want to go to sleep has really been helping me manage my anxiety-induced insomnia. Sometimes, instead of physically reading a book, I’ll listen to it as an audiobook instead or listen to a podcast while lying in bed. It seems to help. I’ve heard a weighted blanket is supposed to help as well so I’m looking into getting one of those to help me sleep at night.

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