Do You Suffer from Sleep Anxiety?

We all know how important it is for our health and wellbeing to get a good night’s sleep, but what happens when we get so obsessed with the idea of sleep, that it stops us from sleeping at all?

Known as somniphobia or sleep anxiety, it’s a phobia that presents itself as a fear of going to bed or falling asleep. Although it’s often associated with a trigger point such as a sleep related trauma or incident, in recent years, experts are seeing more cases of orthosomnia, a related condition whereby sleep anxiety presents in those who are striving to achieve the perfect night’s sleep. This obsession, is of course fuelled by a global sleeping aids market of sleep tracking and apps, which according to experts is set to be worth $162.5 billion by 2030.

Although getting just a few hours of shut eye a night used to be seen as a badge of honour, our approach to sleep has rightly had an about turn in the last few years. With the ability to seriously affect mood, mental health, cognitive ability, cardiac health and the immune system, good quality, regular sleep is essential for proper functioning of just about every system in the body.  Little wonder then that most of us place huge emphasis on the importance and value of a good night’s sleep and do our best to get it, whether it’s with the help of tech, pillow mists or sleep-inducing supplements. Much of this is bound up in the worry that inadequate sleep will mean we function at subpar levels the next day and that we won’t be able to cope with the demanding nature of daily life, whether it’s looking after children or facing a big work meeting.

Of course, this worry then manifests itself in turbulent thoughts around bedtime, incessant clock watching and ultimately a fear of not getting the perfect night’s sleep. Unsurprisingly, all that extra pressure leads to elevated cortisol levels and racing thoughts that naturally make it harder to fall asleep and get the kind of restorative hours that we so desperately need.

While there may not be any quick fix for the problem, one thing we can do is reduce the amount of bedtime related stress to ensure anxiety doesn’t threaten to overwhelm us. Practising mindfulness before bed, whether it’s meditation or simply taking time to stretch out a relaxing skincare routine, will help slow your mind down, reduce your stress levels and relax your breathing. Making sure any devices are switched off at least two hours before bed will limit your exposure to stimulating blue light and any distracting sleep apps; use the time instead to practise something that will enhance relaxation such as stretching or yin yoga. Taking up journaling to get your anxious thoughts out of your head and on paper instead is another good way to reduce stress levels and quieten a mind that’s racing with anxious thoughts.

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