A good night’s sleep is an important component of good health, something that may seem obvious, but is also confirmed by research. Yet, many of us go to bed each night and struggle to sleep, and this is especially true for people suffering from anxiety. Given that seven out of 10 Americans report experiencing stress or anxiety daily, this is cause for concern.

A 2007 study found that eight out of 10 American adults experienced some type of sleep-related difficulty, such as trouble falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep or not feeling rested after sleeping.

Anxiety and Sleep Disorders

Those who don’t sleep well are at risk for any number of more serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure. They are at risk for being involved in traffic accidents, since drowsiness while driving has an impact akin to that of drunkenness.

Sleeplessness also impairs cognitive processes, affecting attention, alertness, concentration, problem solving and reasoning, all functions necessary to a productive work day. It can also interfere with the libido; sleep deprived men and women report lower sex drives, which can affect their intimate relationships.

How Anxiety Causes Sleep Problems

Research has shown that people who worry incessantly and those suffering from clinical anxiety disorder are very vulnerable to the deleterious effects of sleeplessness. Lack of sleep heightens anxiety by firing up the regions of the brain associated with emotional processing, the amygdale and insular cortex, actions that are similar to the neural activity seen in people with anxiety disorders.

How to Deal with Anxiety and Sleep Disorders

Given that anxiety and sleeplessness are so closely related, it’s important to look for ways to reduce anxiety. Consider employing the following strategies:

  • Get moving: Exercise improves both mental and physical health. During exercise, the body releases mood-enhancing endorphins.
  • Salute the sun: For centuries, yoga and its renowned poses, such as sun salutations, downward dogs and warrior, have been associated with helping the mind to calm itself through focus on breathing and posture.
  • Meditate mindfully: Various types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation, help you to stay in the present moment, rather than allowing your mind to focus on worries or run through mental to-do list.
  • More music: Listen to some soft, calming music to relax your body and mind and lower your blood pressure.
  • Pick priorities: Review your to-do list and focus your energies on the items that are important. Try dividing larger endeavors into smaller, manageable chunks and find ways to delegate some of the tasks.
  • Turn outward: Get involved in some volunteer work or assist a family member or friend with some chores. Giving someone else a helping hand has the dual benefits of making you feel good about yourself and diverting your energy from your worries.
  • Get help: There is nothing to be ashamed of in talking with a professional about your concerns. They are trained to assist you in coping with anxieties.

More Sleep Techniques for Anxiety

In addition, there are a variety of healthy sleep habits, known as good sleep hygiene, which can be used to help improve your bedtime experience. Try them out to see which ones work best for you:

  • Stay on schedule: Stick to a regular bedtime and waking hour, even on days off from work. This will help to regulate your body clock and may help you sleep through the night.
  • Relish your routine: Establish a relaxing nightly routine that prepares you to sleep. For example, brush your teeth, turn down your bed, turn out the lights and listen to some soothing music while you visualize pleasant experiences or beautiful scenery.
  • Power down: Turn off your brightly lit electronics an hour or so before you retire. Televisions, computers and e-readers stimulate, rather than relax, the mind.
  • No napping: Naps may revive you in the short term, but they may also interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.
  • Cool and calm: Make sure your bedroom is designed with comfortable sleep in mind. Keep it cool — 60 to 67 degrees. Make sure it is dark enough; blackout curtains can be a lifesaver, and sleep masks are also an option. Keep it quiet, too. If you are sensitive to noise, earplugs are a possible solution.
  • Create comfort: Choose a comfortable, supportive mattress and pillows. If your mattress has outlived its life expectancy – usually nine or 10 years – it may be interfering with your ability to sleep well, so consider replacing it.
  • Sleep country: Use your bedroom only for sleep and relaxation; watch television or use your computer in other rooms of the house.

These strategies are designed to reduce anxiety and promote sleep. If they don’t work as well as you would like, perhaps it’s time to talk with a mental health professional and address some of the root causes of your anxiety.