Do You Have Sleep Anxiety?
“Some people are so focused on sleep that it impairs their ability to get it – a type of performance anxiety with sleep,” says Dr. Maureen Ceresney, co-director of the UBC Sleep Disorders Program. “If you’re lying there at 2 a.m. calculating the number of hours left, it can be really stressful. Sleep is a passive process. There’s a reason we call it ‘falling asleep’ – you have to be able to let go.”
So what do you do if you can’t fall asleep when you want to?
If 20 minutes pass and you’re still tossing and turning, leave the bedroom and go to a dark, quiet room. Your brain wants to sleep, but your mind just won’t let it, so the trick is to distract it. “Do something that allows your mind to calm down, whether it’s reading a book, listening to music or trying a deep-breathing exercise,” says Dr. Ceresney.
If you know you suffer from “busy brain,” she also recommends setting aside time during the day (not too close to bedtime) to write down some of the problems, concerns and tasks from that day. Additionally, write one or two next steps for each. This is called the “constructive worry” exercise, created by Dr. Jack Edinger. “That way, if you do wake up, your brain will think ‘Oh yeah, I dealt with that,’ and you can go back to sleep.“