How to Calm Your Mind for Sleep

How to Calm Your Mind for Sleep

Tips for falling asleep with stress and anxiety

One-quarter of Australians will suffer from an anxiety condition in their lifetime. The remaining three-quarters may not experience anxiety regularly, but they will likely have the occasional sleepless night owing to stress.

Stress and anxiety are bad bedfellows when you are looking for a good night’s sleep. They disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, preventing you from falling asleep or sleeping through the night.

During times of stress and anxiety, falling asleep can be difficult. But there is hope: by learning how to calm your mind, you can fall asleep fast even when anxiety has other ideas.

How stress and anxiety affect sleep

Stress, the body’s natural protection system, raises your heart rate, speeds up breathing, and has many other physical or mental manifestations. Headaches, depression, clenched teeth, excessive sweating, stomach pain; these can all be symptoms of stress.

Anxiety – stress in the absence of a stressor – can produce the same effects.

Insomnia and disturbed sleep are common among people experiencing prolonged stress. Unfortunately, so is fatigue.

The combination of feeling exhausted and being unable to sleep can create a vicious cycle. If you suffer from chronic stress or anxiety, seeing a doctor or mental health professional can help.

8 tips for falling asleep with stress and anxiety

Stress is unavoidable. But it doesn’t have to stop you from getting enough good-quality sleep. These tips can help you fall asleep by neutralising the physical effects of stress and calming your mind.

Some people find a single method effective, while others use a combination of stress-relieving routines to fall asleep (and stay asleep).

1. Meditate

Meditation is an ancient practice with benefits in our stressful modern world. There are many types of meditation, all aimed at calming your mind by focusing its attention on something soothing.

It could be rhythmic breathing, a chant, or your body movements.

Regularly practising meditation has been shown to help with sleep problems, stress and anxiety. If you have never tried meditating before, there are many courses, apps and classes to help you get started. 

2. Learn deep breathing techniques

Anxiety quickens your breathing, which can make it harder to fall asleep. Deep breathing is both a meditation method and a relaxation technique.

Try to focus on taking slow, even breaths. Counting the seconds in and out can help.

As you breathe in and out slowly, your heart rate slows, counteracting the effects of stress to help you fall asleep.

3. Limit caffeine late in the day

Australians love our coffee. And there are many benefits to drinking moderate amounts of caffeine, including a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, higher energy levels and improved alertness.

But consuming too much caffeine is also shown to have a negative effect on sleep quality. A 2016 study from the University of South Australia found that “shorter sleep is associated with greater caffeine consumption, and that consumption is greater in adults with reduced sleep quality.”

Limiting caffeine at least 3 to 7 hours before you go to bed gives the stimulant time to leave your system.

And remember, you can find caffeine in a few unexpected places:

  • Coffee
  • Black tea and green tea
  • Dark chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • Soft drinks
  • Weight loss products
  • Cold and flu medication

We are sorry to inform you that a favourite stress reliever, chocolate, might work against you when you struggle to fall asleep due to stress or anxiety.

4. Create a soothing bedtime routine

The idea of “winding down” can seem elusive in our busy lives. But a bedtime routine can calm your mind even on the most stressful days, helping you fall asleep faster.

Try incorporating some of these ideas into a bedtime routine:

  • Take a warm shower
  • Avoid blue light from screens
  • Write in a journal
  • Read a good book
  • Practise aromatherapy for sleep
  • Meditating

After a stressful day, self-care strategies can help you dissolve the tension in your mind and fall asleep faster.

5. Make your bedroom a sanctuary of calm

A cluttered bedroom reflects a cluttered mind. So invest time to turn your bedroom into a minimalist haven. A place to relax, sort out the stressors weighing on your mind and fall into healthy habits.

There are loads of ideas in our previously published guide to creating a relaxing sanctuary in your bedroom.

6. Leave devices in a different room

At least 16% of Australian adults admit working in bed or too close to bedtime. Additionally, 26% experience fatigue during the day from checking devices too late at night.

‘Doom scrolling’ through news headlines or seeing unrealistically glamorous lives portrayed on social media can increase anxiety and stress. Sending work emails late at night is detrimental to energy levels the following day. Blue light stimulates the brain, keeping us awake.

One solution? Banish devices from your bedroom.

Keeping devices outside the bedroom eliminates the temptation to reach for your phone when you wake up in the middle of the night. Instead, if anxiety is keeping awake, try to calm your mind with meditation.

7. Consider your sleeping conditions

Stress speeds up your heart and raises your body temperature. If your bedroom is already too warm (around 18°C is ideal), then stress and anxiety have an easier time disrupting your circadian rhythm.

Light, sound and temperature are three of the most significant environmental factors for good sleep.

When you’re having trouble falling asleep with anxiety or stress, maintaining dark, quiet, comfortable sleeping conditions can help, in combination with calming techniques.

8. Practice good sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is an all-encompassing idea, like physical hygiene for your sleep routine.

Good sleep hygiene helps to combat stress and anxiety by signalling to the mind that it’s time to calm down and get some rest. Some of the contributing factors to good (or poor) sleep hygiene are:

  • Scheduling at least 30 minutes for a bedtime routine
  • Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule
  • Investing in a high-quality mattress and bed sheets
  • Prioritising sleep over work, socialising or exercise
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol in the evenings
  • Washing sheets regularly

Everything from banishing devices to buying bamboo bed sheets contributes to good sleep hygiene.

Calm mind, calm body

Prolonged exposure to stress causes havoc when you want a good night’s sleep. Use these tips to focus on calming your mind before bed.

With practice, patience and persistence, you will hopefully find ways to manage anxiety and sleep through the night.

Back to blog