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Managing Sleep Anxiety: Your guide to a good night’s rest

19 March, 2019
Sleep anxiety

Sleep anxiety in Australia

Sleep anxiety can do more than ruin your morning or make a third coffee an inevitability – it can have severe consequences on your health and wellbeing.

Sleeping problems in Australia are common, affecting between 33-45% of adults in all age sectors, directly costing the healthcare system upwards of $800 million and indirectly costing $4.3 billion in lost productivity, absenteeism, and expenses surrounding car accidents. At the milder end of the consequence spectrum, 17% of people have missed work due to sleeping issues and 17% have actively fallen asleep on the job. The more serious end of this spectrum is shocking, with 29% of people reporting to have driven while drowsy, 20% having fallen asleep while driving, and 5% being involved in accidents after falling asleep at the wheel.

The costs of an improper night’s rest – both personal and financial – are high. Here’s what you need to know to ensure a good night’s rest.

Exercise helps sleep

Exercise promotes sleep in two ways – firstly, it’s tiring. The combination of ‘damaged’ muscles and resource consumption means that your body needs to rest to recover, encouraging drowsiness and eventual sleep. Secondly, exercise has been shown to help manage anxiety and depression.

Keep in mind that after exercise primes your body for action, and it takes a while for all the physiological changes that exercise brings to subside. Try to finish your exercise at least an hour before you go to bed.

Obesity is linked to poorer sleep

Those with obesity report sleeping longer hours, but the quality of this rest is less than the non-obese. Whether obesity is the symptom of a different problem, like depression, anxiety or living circumstances, addressing obesity can have a beneficial overall effect.

Making small changes to diet, like swapping processed foods for fruit and veges, and getting in half an hour to an hour of intense exercise per day, can help address obesity and any other factors that might be related.

Caffeine can affect sleep

Your coffee feels great in the morning for the same reason that it can stop you sleeping at night – the sharp adrenaline rush of anxiety. Caffeine blocks the neurotransmitters that tell your brain it’s tired, causing the release of endorphins and adrenaline.

Watching what you drink and eat before rest can be beneficial in getting a good night’s sleep. Things like coffee, tea and chocolate contain caffeine, so try to consume these at least four hours before going to bed.

Associate your bed with sleeping

If your room doubles as your recreational space, you might want to think about getting more use out of your living room. Your body and mind adjust to your environment, meaning that your brain might see your bed as the place to watch tv, play games or look at your phone. The closer the association between bed and sleep, the more likely you'll be able to nod off when you hit the covers.

Scheduled sleep and relaxation

Having a bedtime ritual can be extremely beneficial. It might involve a comforting drink and a book, or meditation, or a stretch – whatever it is, getting yourself into a routine can inform your body that ‘this is the time for sleep’.

You also might like to try:

  • Relaxing music
  • Natural sounds, like fire, rain, or wind
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • A daily journal

Talk to a professional

If your sleeping problems are having fundamentally negative consequences on your day to day living, it’s important to speak to a mental health professional. They can suggest strategies, methods, or medication depending on your needs.

Sources:

ADAA – Sleep Disorders

NCBI – Caffeine, mental health, and psychiatric disorders

Sleep and mental health – Harvard Health

Sleep Health Foundation – Anxiety and Sleep

Sleep Health Foundation – Depression and Sleep

Sleep Health Foundation – Good Sleep Habits

Sleep Health Foundation – Reawakening Australia

Sleep Health Foundation - Survey

 

If you need support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp or call the Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 224 636 or visit www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/contact-us

If you’re a CBHS member with hospital cover or packaged product, you maybe eligible for our Mental Health Program. For more information on the program, contact CBHS’ Health and Wellness team on 02 9685 7567 or email at wellness@cbhs.com.au.

 All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click here.

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