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Sleep Tips for the Worrying Mind

There are many things that can affect our ability to get good quality sleep such as stress, caffeine, light, noise or our own biological makeup. For some people, thoughts or worries can get in the way of sleep. These thoughts can be part of a larger concerning stressor or sometimes these thoughts are simply just a part of our regular everyday worries (e.g. I wonder what outfit I should wear to that event this weekend?).
Below are some helpful tips that may help you manage worrying that’s getting in the way of sleep:

If you find yourself having a worry that’s getting in the way of sleep use a post-it or note card to jot it down if you are concerned you will forget it.
Schedule a time to worry and/or problem-solve during the day. This time can last 5-15 minutes and should end at least 2-3 hours before bed time. Delay your worry until your scheduled time. At your scheduled time, write down your worries and what you want to do about them. Then, if you worry when you are trying to sleep, remind yourself that you have made a plan that can be re-addressed at your next scheduled time. Click here to see a printable Worry Sheet that can be used to organize these thoughts.
If you find that after 30 minutes you’re still thinking about that thought and unable to put it to the side, get up. Get out of bed, get a notebook and write down a few details about the thought that’s causing you to worry. Keep writing and re-writing those same worries down until you find yourself becoming bored with this and find that the thought no longer leads to worry. Then, once feeling calm again, try returning to bed and give falling to asleep another attempt.
Additional Sleep Hygiene Tips:
Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine helps train your brain to know when it’s time for sleep. Try having a regular sleep time and wakeup time daily to help your body naturally feel sleepy at an expected time each night.
Eating Close to Bedtime
Heavy meals before bedtime activate your digestive system making your body feel more awake. Try avoiding heavy meals a couple hours before it’s time to go to sleep. If you’re feeling hungry, a light carbohydrate-based snack may be fine.
Avoid Lights and Technology at Bedtime
These days, we’re all very connected to our devices. We use them when we need them and we also use them just to pass the time. The light coming from these devices restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls our circadian rhythm responsible for our sleep wake cycle. Try shutting off all screens 30 minutes before bedtime to avoid being naturally kept awake by the light emitted by your screens.
Prepare Your Sleep Environment
We all sleep better when we’re comfortable so it’s important to make sure you’re sleep environment is one that promotes good sleep. Prepare an environment that’s comfortable, quiet, cool and free of light. Consider a fan to circulate air or dark curtains to shut out light early in the morning.
Physical Fitness
Keeping up with a physical fitness routine is likely to have a positive impact on sleep as individuals who are physically fit tend to report better sleep quality than those who are not. Exercise, however, increases arousal and causes us to naturally feel more awake so it’s best to plan exercise at least three hours before sleep time.
Behavioral and environmental factors can lead to either improvements or disturbances in sleep quality and duration. Practice managing your worry time and if unsuccessful, allowing yourself to momentarily worry to the point of exhaustion can help prevent that worry from intruding on your sleep time. Making a few changes to your sleep environment and bedtime routine can make the difference between a good night of sleep and another night of tossing and turning. The goal is to identify and then modify areas of needed change that will lead to long-term improvements with your sleep patterns.