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Dealing with Morning Anxiety? These Sleep Hygiene Tips Can Help

Creator:
Published:
June 20, 2024
June 17, 2024
Read this article to learn about the sleep habits that can get your anxiety in the morning under control and help you feel excited to face the day.

For the longest time, I would start off my mornings with intense feelings of dread. I’d awake with fierce anxiety, not wanting the day’s activities to commence and getting overwhelmingly stressed before I even had the chance to get up. Sometimes, I could identify exactly why I was feeling this way. Other times, I found absolutely no reason. In many cases, there simply wasn’t one.

To make matters worse, I found myself caught in an endless loop. My mind was so anxious that even when I was asleep, I wasn’t sleeping well and rarely getting a full night’s rest. Because of this, I went through my entire day feeling tired and restless. Then I would go to sleep and once again wake up with that same feeling of anxiety. And so the cycle continued to repeat itself again and again.

Knowing what I was dealing with, my best friend (who is himself a chronic insomniac) introduced me to the concept of sleep hygiene. And man, it was a game-changer. Sleep hygiene refers to the lifestyle habits, behaviors, and environments that can be altered and adjusted to provide a good night’s sleep. After all, many sleeping problems are caused by bad sleep habits developed over a long period of time.

Our bodies and minds work best with a consistent sleep and wake schedule, so it makes sense that how we sleep affects how we wake up. In the same vein, good sleep is pivotal to both a healthy mind and a healthy body. Here are the practices I’ve adopted to establish good sleep hygiene — and keep my morning anxiety at bay.

Light Reduction

If you’re anything like me, you tend to get sleepy when the sun goes down. During the winter in particular, I often feel tired by 7 pm, far too early for bedtime. This isn’t particularly unusual — it’s just how our bodies work. When the sun is out of sight, our brain releases melatonin, a natural hormone responsible for regulating our sleep cycle. When it’s dark, that’s our bodies’ cue to wind down and prepare to go to sleep for the night.

Because of this, dimming the lights and turning off screens (phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, etc.) as one unwinds in the evening is crucial, as even just a little bit of light can disrupt one’s sleep schedule. Darkness reduces potential distractions and disruptions to sleep while maintaining one’s natural sleep schedule. When we intentionally create a dim and dark environment, it helps us relax and get into the right mindset for a good night’s sleep!

Now, since I’ve been practicing good sleep hygiene, I start to dim the lights and end any screen time an hour or two before I plan to fall asleep. This can look like turning off all lights and electronics besides a single lamp, or it can also be turning down the lights to a point where they are softer and more faded.

Journaling

It can often be overwhelming to think about all the tasks we need to complete. Job applications, academic deadlines, planning for the future — the list seems endless. It can be stressful thinking about our to-do lists, and, unfortunately, many of these tasks are top-of-mind in the morning. 

To combat these overwhelming thoughts, I started to incorporate journaling into my nighttime routine. Ironically, as a writer, I find it extremely difficult to journal. I find myself wanting things to be perfect: my grammar, my handwriting, and even the overall tone of what I’m writing down. But, I decided to care less about the quality of writing and just write freely for a few minutes, about an hour before bed. Journaling looks different for everyone, but for me, it means simply gathering all the thoughts that come into my head and putting them on paper. Often, I make to-do lists in my notebook. Knowing that I have an organized plan to tackle all the stressors in my life relieves a lot of worry.

The journal, physical or digital, can be your own private and personal space that you use to share and express any unfiltered thoughts or emotions. Nobody has to read it; you don’t even have to reread it! Journaling helps us get thoughts onto paper, so they don’t have to take up valuable space or energy in our minds. By journaling before bed, we can put all of our stressors onto the page so that we’re not letting them stick with us as we sleep. Depending on how you approach your journaling habit, the practice can focus your thoughts, serve as a creative outlet, or even help in problem-solving. Keeping a journal before bed might help you relax and leave the mind feeling at ease. In doing so, you improve your likelihood of a restful night’s sleep. 

Sleep when you’re tired

This one might seem obvious. Of course we’re going to sleep when we’re tired! It’s not like we’re going to sleep when we have a lot of energy, right? But take a moment to stop and reflect. How many times have you decided to stay up later than you needed to? I know that, in my own life, I tend to want to stay up later than my original bedtime, especially when I feel like I haven’t had time for myself during the day. 

Too often we feel tired and decide to push through the fatigue for a variety of reasons. Maybe we want more time to study or watch our favorite TV show. However, delaying sleep can often make it harder to sleep later on, which doesn’t allow our minds to rest. Our minds and bodies can easily mistake our activity at night as a sign that we should be awake. Later on, when we really want to go to sleep, we won’t be able to.

When the desire for sleep comes, no matter what time it is or what we might be doing, it’s important to act on it. I know that I often choose to stay awake and fight my sleepiness to pursue pleasures of mine such as listening to music or watching vlogs on YouTube. But, every time I fight my urge to sleep, I find myself later in a state of insomnia, which makes matters worse. On the flip side, every time I go to sleep when I start to feel tired, I wake up feeling energized and refreshed, without the looming feeling of anxiety.

Move your body

The benefits of exercise are truly endless, and a healthy body often contributes to a healthy mind. When it comes to getting better sleep, exercise is crucial! Just a few minutes of aerobic exercise can decrease tension, elevate one’s mood, and improve sleep quality. By incorporating even just a little bit of exercise a day, you will not only improve your health physically but mentally as well. 

Exercising doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym to lift weights or running a certain number of miles each day. Any physical movement will do, including yoga, walking, cycling to work or school, and even dancing. Because morning anxiety happens early in the day, exercising before work or school can help keep the anxiety at bay. A bonus benefit is that morning exercise improves energy, concentration, and productivity for the entire day.

Physical activity increases endorphins which can boost our mood after doing it. For example, running in the morning may help you ground yourself and bring your thoughts down to earth, reducing negative thoughts or anxiety. Even something smaller such as taking a half-hour walk around the neighborhood can be a great respite from the feeling of dread in the morning. Essentially, exercise is a natural and effective treatment that has the dual benefit of reducing our anxiety levels and making it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and improve sleep patterns. 

***

Anxiety in the morning can negatively affect our days in a myriad of ways, and it often sets up the day to be a bad one. The great news is that this cycle can be broken, and sleep hygiene can be a big help. Through practicing good sleep hygiene, I now ensure that I’m no longer “wired but tired.” By prioritizing good sleep, we can all improve the function of our daily lives.

Creators:
Ivan Brea
Published:
June 20, 2024
June 17, 2024
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