7-step routine for bedtime anxiety

bedtime anxiety

Did you know that 6 in 100 people in England are diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) each week, according to research by Mind? 

Anxiety can wreak havoc on your sleep, causing difficulties with falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up early, and experiencing intense nightmares or panic attacks.

To help with this, the sleep experts at MattressNextDay have created a seven-step wind-down routine to follow if you feel anxious before bed. This is part of their sleep routine calculator, which offers a personalised wind-down routine and bedtime based on how you feel and your desired wake-up time.

Sleep experts recommend this 7-step routine for bedtime anxiety

1. Take a hot shower two hours before bed

Taking a shower or even a hot bath no more than two hours before bed can help you fall asleep faster. It’s thought that the warm water – between 40 and 42 degrees Celsius – stimulates blood flow to our extremities which allows body heat to escape quicker, and it’s that temperature change that can signal to our brain it’s time to sleep. Just 10 minutes in a warm bath or shower reduces the time spent trying to sleep and is also said to reduce cortisol levels (or the stress hormone) which can contribute to feelings of anxiety before bed.

2. Once in bed, read for a minimum of six minutes

Reading has been proven to reduce stress. And, if you are not a big fan of reading, just six minutes of reading can reduce stress and anxiety levels by up to 60%. Losing yourself in a book can help calm any negative or intrusive thoughts, and even lead you into a restful sleep as you recant the last few pages of your book.

3. Invest in a weighted blanket to replicate the feeling of a hug

Yes, that’s right, weighted blankets work so well for calming anxiety because they replicate the feeling of being hugged or swaddled. The pressure from the blanket can help reduce levels of cortisol and, instead, increase the production of serotonin (your happy hormone) and melatonin (your sleep hormone) which helps you relax and, subsequently, drop off to sleep. If you like the feeling of being hugged but struggle to sleep up close to your partner, a weighted blanket is the next best option.

4. And, try the diaphragmatic breathing technique for 10 minutes

  • Lie down in bed on your back and relax your shoulders, ensuring they are away from your ears.
  • Place one hand on your chest, and the other on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose and feel your stomach expand, keeping your chest still.
  • Hold your breath for two seconds.
  • Exhale through slightly pursed lips as your stomach falls, while your chest remains still.

Multiple studies have shown that this type of breathing can reduce stress and any other negative emotions, likely as it forces you to focus on your breathing. If you do get into bed and still struggle with anxiety, try this for 5-10 minutes and try again if needed.

5. Scan your body when trying to sleep

A full body scan is a form of meditation that you might be familiar with, particularly if you use apps such as Calm. Essentially, you mentally ‘scan’ your body from head to toe, starting with your toes, feet, ankles, legs, hips and so on. As you pass through each area, you become aware if you are holding any tension and can, therefore, make an effort to relax your body as you attempt to sleep. Studies have shown that this type of practice – which can take as little as five minutes – can improve sleep quality and even reduce anxiety symptoms.

6. But don’t count sheep… or any other animal for that matter

If you’ve ever been told to count sheep to help you sleep, don’t listen. Researchers have discovered that counting sheep does nothing at all to help you sleep, simply as it is so boring. The task is so easy to do that it doesn’t distract you from the anxious thoughts keeping you awake. So next time you start counting sheep, try our other suggestions instead.

7. If you still can’t get to sleep after 20 minutes, get up and move around

This might be hard, particularly if you feel comfortable. But lying in bed when you have been attempting to sleep for over 20 minutes is going to reinforce your inability to sleep and could even make you associate your bed with an inability to fall asleep. But, getting up to read, meditate or even try breathing techniques could help you to relax again, so you can try to attempt sleep again.

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