THE BLOG

Five Useful Ways to Deal With Anxiety-Based Insomnia

25/08/2015 18:02 BST | Updated 25/08/2016 10:59 BST

When you have insomnia, you're never really asleep... and you're never really awake. Fight Club

Anyone who has ever suffered from Insomnia, either short term or long term, will know how frustrating it can be!

Like staying hydrated and eating nutritious foods, a healthy sleep routine is pretty essential to maintaining a positive lifestyle.

But what if you can't seem to get the sleep you need?

What if, no matter how much you toss and turn you just can't seem to get comfortable?

You've tried counting sheep and those wooly bastards are just driving you two stops away from insanity road.

You've tried a spot of reading, but not even 50 Shades of Grey can send you into a plentiful slumber.

You are at a complete loss.

Insomnia is most commonly caused by stress and anxiety but can be a symptom of other mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar.

When we think of insomnia, we often think of a lack of sleep. But insomnia is also characterized by not obtaining a restful enough sleep, which in scientific terms, means you are not gaining enough rest within the REM stage (the deepest stage of sleep). You may believe you are sleeping well but will often have the typical symptoms of an Insomniac.

These symptoms can include:

• Tiredness and sleepiness during the daytime

• Irritability and feelings of anxiousness

• Difficulty holding your concentration or attention to tasks

• Forgetfulness

• Increased errors within work/educational environments

• Tension headaches

• Digestive problems

• Increased worry about sleep

If you are suffering from insomnia, you've probably been told a million times how you should be getting seven to eight hours of sleep. And if anything, it's just raising your anxiety even higher.

So I'll be speaking about five helpful tips that I've found can alleviate Insomnia both short term and long term.

(However, before you take up any of these tips, please remember to see your GP if you are finding it very difficult to function during the day with insomnia. Your GP can do a health check to make sure you have no medical issues and can refer you for help either with a sleeping disorder or anxiety/depression.)

Download Calm App by Calm.com

This genius little app is an amazing find that I downloaded last year when my anxiety was keeping me up. I found it while researching mindfulness meditation.

You don't need any silver balls or crossed legs to use this app so don't let the word 'meditation' put you off.

It's completely free to use but you can purchase a monthly subscription, which allows you to access meditations specifically for certain problems (such as lack of confidence or sleep disorders)

But the free features are amazing by themselves and allow you to free your mind from current worries by creating a calm mindset in the present time. You can also change the time setting for your meditation session. A calm mindset will allow you to sleep better.

Set up a Sleep Routine

Set up a scheduled routine to commit to each night. This can include relaxing an hour or two before sleeping, making sure you turn off all electronically devices, drinking a hot drink and going to bed at a decent time (which is not necessarily your definition of a 'decent time')

You can write it up somewhere public so whoever you live with can encourage you to stick to it and you'll also remember each stage until it becomes a force of habit.

Eat more Melatonin Foods

Melatonin is the hormone that helps us to sleep at night and regulates the time that we awake from our slumber. This hormone is like our own personal alarm clock, regulating our sleep naturally. Foods high in vitamin B6 allow our bodies to make Melatonin and Serotonin.

These foods include:

• Bananas (also contains important amino acids and magnesium) *But watch out for spiders...

• Oats

• Tomatoes

• Cherries

• Pineapple

• Sweet Potatoes

• Brown Rice

And many more!

You can mix some of these foods together for a healthy and delicious meal or snack (I recommend you don't mix sweet potato with the banana and oats though...)

Go on a Digital Detox

Try and cut out computer and phone time before bed or even consider not using certain digital services (such as Facebook) for a longer period of time.

Our digital lives can often lead us to distraction and cause unnecessary worry. It can also keep us switched on. You need to be able to be able to relax before sleep. Turning off your gadgets will also allow you to calm the constant activity in your brain. Added bonus, you don't have to see what Julie from next door had for dinner the fourth time this week!

Don't get your PJ's in a twist!

If you can't sleep, don't toss and turn with worry for hours on end waiting for your alarm to go off. Get out of bed and do something. Read a book, draw a picture or knock on the neighbors walls because if you can't sleep, no one else should be able to!!!

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, insomnia can lead to anxiety surrounding sleep. You don't want your negative perception of sleep to create the assumption that every time you try to sleep you won't be able to, so the key here is positive reinforcement.

Think 'I will be able to sleep' rather than 'I can't sleep'.

It's easier said than done and most people who suffer from insomnia get themselves into a mad circle they can't seem to get out of. But there is hope!

Helpful links:

http://sleepfoundation.org