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Sleep is so important, but unfortunately, when it comes to anxiety, it is a catch 22- when you are anxious, you may find it difficult to sleep, but the less sleep you have, the more anxious you are. There is compelling evidence that sleep deprivation can cause anxiety disorders. Research indicates that nearly all psychiatric conditions are paired with sleep disruption, illuminating the importance of proper sleep. Lack of sleep is also linked to many other health problems, including poor cognitive function, stroke, metabolic changes, weak immune system, diabetes, heart attack, low libido, weight gain, increased risk of loss of balance, and poor memory.
Practice good “sleep hygiene”, meaning healthy habits that help you sleep deeply and enjoy daytime alertness. Monitor your caffeine use and do not have more than one serving a day, as excessive caffeine can cause increased anxiety and racing thoughts.
Put your cell phone away an hour before you plan to snooze, and create a calming bedtime routine to prepare you for sleep. This can include a hot bath, deep stretching, lighting a candle, skincare routine, relaxing music, meditation, or reading a book. Focus on sensory-related tasks that calm your nervous system. Avoid eating or looking at any electronic devices, as these stimulate your brain and prevent sleep.
Discipline yourself to go to sleep at the same time every night and rise at around the same time each morning. It is not always easy, mainly if you cannot fall asleep at night, but you will find that you become sleepy earlier if you wake up at consistent times. Avoid daytime napping, as it makes it more challenging to fall asleep in the evening, and ensure you do not exercise right before bed, as that makes it harder to sleep.
Ensure your bedroom is conducive to good sleep: remove electronic devices and create complete darkness if you can. Use a sleeping mask or earplugs if you need to create a quiet and dark environment beneficial for sleep.
Seek professional help
Generalized anxiety disorder is severe and has real health implications, and should be treated like any other medical condition. Seek help from a qualified professional, be wary of fraudulent treatments, and not ignore symptoms.
First, talk to your primary care provider and discuss your treatment options. They should refer you to a mental health specialist such as a psychiatrist or psychologist who can better assess and determine your needs. From there, they will determine if medication is appropriate and what treatment is necessary. They may refer you to cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy, which is proven to be very effective against anxiety.
Do not be embarrassed to seek help for mental health concerns. Anxiety is prevalent and does not mean that you are mentally weak; know that professionals will help you feel better, not judge you.
If you struggle with anxiety, know that you are not alone. There is no shame in seeking help, and there are abundant available resources to help you. Anxiety is challenging to cope with, but it is possible to effectively treat and manage the condition and live a good and healthy life. Try these ideas out today, and see how they can help you manage your symptoms and live a better life.