The relentless, fast pace of modern life can interrupt our body’s natural need for rest, and this can be especially obvious when it comes time to wind down at the end of the day. Neglecting to take time to adequately prepare for sleep can leave us at the mercy of repetitive, anxious thoughts when we climb into bed. If you have trouble with anxiety before sleep, consider the following easy techniques:
Self Reflection and Meditation
Even 5 to 10 minutes of quiet, meditative time can help calm frantic or anxious thought patterns. This could take the form of formal, timed self reflection or meditation (you can use a meditation app or a timer on a digital watch) or breathing exercises that help you reconnect with your body and slow down your mind. One good technique is to focus all your attention on counting ten, slow breaths. It doesn’t take long (no need to commit more than 20 minutes). It’s amazing how just 30 seconds of concentration on the body can transform our mood and thoughts. You can also simply reflect on moments of your day that you enjoyed—moments that will take you away from any repetitive, anxious thoughts.
Have a Journal
If your anxiety is still relentless after a few minutes of meditation or breathing, it can help to write down everything on your mind. Try not to think too hard or judge your own writing—just get it onto the page. After 2-3 pages, most people feel a sense of release or relief. This exercise can also be helpful if you are having a hard time reaching a conclusion or decision about something. Writing down your nagging thoughts and opinions can help bring clarity and ease (and help you get to sleep).
Limit Screen Time
There is some controversy in the scientific community about the long-term effects of the blue light emitted from our phones, computers, and television screens, but some research suggests that the light may make it more difficult to fall asleep. Try to limit your screen time in the evenings and turn off devices an hour before bed. Reading before you sleep will naturally help you transition to a slower pace (no swiping or scrolling!) and can give you some much needed respite from your digital life. Technology is a wonderful resource, but it can cause unnecessary anxiety.
Focus on Images That Bring You Joy
One particularly helpful exercise is simply to close your eyes and imagine people, landscapes, or moments that make you feel joyful. You can even keep a few images by your bed to jog your memory before sleep. Studies have shown that people who concentrate more on the things or people in their lives that they feel gratitude for report greater overall happiness. What better way to combat anxiety before bed?
Author and motivational speaker Dr. Janelle Kim is devoted to integrating the philosophy, medical wisdom and expertise of East Asia with the advancements of modern life and medicine of the West in order to touch and positively affect the lives of others, including helping with anxiety before bed. Jenelle holds a Master of Science Degree in Traditional Oriental Medicine (MSTOM) and is Nationally Board Certiﬁed in Herbology, Oriental Medicine, and Acupuncture.