In our younger, wilder days, we could go out ’till 4am, get four hours kip and be up and ready for lectures without so much as a slight headache. sleep anxiety
But as get further into our 20s and responsibilties start to pile up, getting a good amount of quality sleep starts to become ever more important.
How many times a week do you turn up to work, only to immediately tell your colleagues just how tired you are? sleep anxiety
How many of us wake up every morning wishing that we’d had another couple of hours?
Loads of us aren’t getting enough good quality sleep anxiety.
In fact, more than 50% of Brits don’t even get six hours a night.
And then there are those of us who have sleep anxiety – who are constantly worrying about getting enough sleep and working ourselves into a state where, although we’re in bed, we can’t stay asleep.
I have been suffering from interrupted sleep for over a year.
I try to aim to be in bed for 10.30pm during the week – which can be a struggle if you’re going to events or training after work. But if I leave it much later than that, I start to worry about my potential lack of sleep and the prospect of feeling rotten when my alarm goes off at 6am.
Once in bed, I’m off in a matter of minutes. So far, so good.
And then 3am comes round and the hourly time checking begins. I can’t control it – I wake up every hour and check the time. I need to know the time even if I don’t want to know the time.
3am – good, three hours sleep left. 4am – phew, two hours more. 5am – crap, just an hour snooze. 5.45am – argh, 15 minutes. 6am – God, I’m so tired.
And then I get on the tube and fall into a deep, head nodding sleep all the way from one end of the line to the other – often waking up at the stop before I need to get off (40 minutes later). By the time I get into the office, it’s like I’ve been drugged. Reading the paper is impossible.
Waking up for work is an obvious anxiety that many of us share, even if we’ve never slept through an alarm. When you share a house or flat, the behaviour of the people you live with can also detrimentally effect your sleep anxiety.
I find myself dozing until my partner comes back from work at 1am. The difference is that he then doesn’t have to wake up until 3pm whereas I wake up nine hours earlier.
I’ve spoken to loads of people – primarily women – who say that they too worry about their quality and length of sleep in the run up to going to bed and as a result, either can’t drift off quickly or wake up in the middle of the night.
‘I’ve not had a complete night’s sleep for years,’ Ellen, a magazine editor, tells me.
‘Either I’ll sleep for hours and be unable to wake myself up or I’ll lie there unable to drift off at all. These days I just accept I’m going to be late for work because I’m too exhausted to get out of bed.’
She tells me that this weekend, she’s slept for over 12 hours in one go without meaning to. During the week, when she has slept, she’s been plagued by night terrors and vivid nightmares which have left her feeling exhausted.
‘Anxiety can stop you falling to sleep and/or stop you staying asleep,’ Dr. Sheri Jacobson, Clinical Director of Harley Therapy tells Metro.co.uk.
‘It can also mean that if you do manage to sleep, your dreams themselves are anxious, which can mean you wake up not feeling rested. And then it becomes a vicious circle, as our anxiety becomes worse as we create new anxieties about not falling asleep or not getting enough sleep.’
Now, there are things you can do to help the body settle quicker. You can keep technology out of the bedroom, download f.lux which turns the blue light in your laptop to amber – thus promoting the production of melatonin in your system.
You can eat melatonin-promoting foods like kombucha and oily fish.
But many of us know this and have tried it.
It’s obvious that the sleep anxiety disruption is a symptom of the disease rather than the cause.
Poor sleep often results from stress and that can effect our mental and physical health in all sorts of ways. It’s believed to affect our gut health, our weight, our self-perception. One only needs to watch films like Fight Club to know that you can quickly lose grip of reality when you’re missing out on sleep.
So what the hell are you supposed to do about it?
‘There are many options here,’ says Dr Sheri.
‘Recent research around sleep hours that does seem to show that not everyone needs a perfect eight hours, although sticking to the same bedtime and rise time has all been found to be useful. And, of course, practise good sleep hygiene – a good mattress, a cool dark room, no electronics before bed, etc.
‘Anxiety is by it’s nature illogic, so sometimes big measures are needed. If your anxiety is around sleeping in and being late for work or your train, buy a few extra cheap alarm clocks and set three or four, including one across the room you have to get up to turn off. Even if you always get up at the first alarm, such over the top ‘foolproof methods’ all that will quell anxiety. If it works, why not?’
She also recommends doing things to calm the mind before bed like journalling your anxious thoughts on paper so they feel easier to overcome.
‘Try to avoid anything too stimulating, and that is not just your computer screen’s blue light, it’s any heated conversations that can wait until tomorrow.’
Meanwhile, Petra Hawker, Sleep Psychotherapist at The London Sleep Centre tells Metro.co.uk that if you wake in the night, the last thing you should do is look at the clock.
‘It will increase anxiety, and is a habit which can be broken. Turn the face of the clock away from you and leave your mobile in another room. This will gradually train your brain to adopt a new pattern. It is also important to switch off all screens an hour before bed, to allow your brain and body to wind down. Reading, deep breathing and meditation also help towards a good night’s sleep.’
Those techniques will also reduce anxiety about getting to sleep, Petra says.
But what do you do if you need to sleep early and your partner has a much later bedtime?
‘Sleeping with a partner who is out of sync with your sleeping pattern is about coming to a compromise together…or sleeping in separate beds.’
Here’s to sleeping the night through!