Anxiety and Sleep: “I’m so anxious, why can’t I sleep?”

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Purple bed covering with unfolded pink throw blanket, book opened facing downward near a night stand with books, flowers, and picture frame | Coping with Anxiety and Sleep | Online Anxiety Treatment in Hillsboro, OR | Clackamas OR

by Megan Coggins, LPC

Have you ever woken up with a racing heart or racing thoughts at some dark hour in the night? Your bed no longer provides the comfort it once did to lull you back to sleep and no amount of sheep counting can get you back to dreamland. 

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

If you are experiencing a disruption to your sleep and more anxiety than normal right now, you are not alone. Many people are struggling with the unknowns of this novel coronavirus, the isolation, financial difficulties, or stress from too much time at home with children and spouses. While we cannot control many of the aspects of what we are facing in this current situation, there are a few steps you can take to help ease anxiety and sleep a little better at night.

The isolation many are feeling due to social distancing is creating a void of physical closeness from lack of hugs, as well as lack of intimacy created through in-person communication.

One way to help combat this is to connect with people through video chat. This can help you feel connected to loved ones as you communicate about how you are feeling. One thing that may be beneficial for these conversations is to try to bring in some positive topics, such as “What is one thing you are grateful for today” or “What was your latest crazy canned vegetable concoction you created”. 

“Humor is a powerful tool for the human spirit.”

By keeping a light-hearted aspect to these conversations you can enable laughter. Humor is a powerful tool for the human spirit. If you don’t have anyone at home with you that can provide a hug, try wrapping yourself in a blanket or squeezing a pillow to your chest while video-chatting a loved one or watching a movie. This can help simulate the deep reassuring pressure we get from a hug.


Photo by Stormy All on Unsplash

What else can you do with the racing thoughts? Try journaling about your concerns, whether throughout the day or in the middle of the night. Sometimes getting them out of your head can be enough to ease anxiety.

Another helpful strategy is to think of “what israther than the “what ifs”.  By focusing on what is, we often realize that maybe our situation isn’t as bad as we thought.

“This, too, will pass, but for now at least you are resting your physical body by lying down at night.”

For that rapid heart rate, try deep breathing. I know it sounds cliché, but taking in deep breaths and slowly exhaling provides much-needed oxygen for that brain to think as clearly as it can. Try to get in some physical movement throughout your day. A walk or some yoga can help release the pent-up anxiety you are experiencing.

One last helpful piece of advice I once heard regarding sleep is this: as you lay in bed unable to sleep, becoming more anxious and frustrated by your lack of sleeping, remember that you are at least resting your bones. The best gift you can give yourself during those sleepless nights is to not put added pressure on yourself. This, too, will pass, but for now, at least you are resting your physical body by lying down at night.


megan coggins licensed professional counselor
Megan Coggins, LPC

If you or someone you know is experiencing increased anxiety right now, please reach out for support. Counseling can be a wonderful tool in processing our thoughts and concerns and learning new ways of managing emotions. You are not alone! To find out more about anxiety management tools email me at megan@lifedcs.com or call 971-808-2686 Ext. 700.

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