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Nov. 22, 2021

5 Actions to Help Insomnia

5 Actions to Help Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that effects millions of people around the world. Learn how to get better sleep.


Get 5 ways to help insomnia symptoms and improve your anxiety symptoms. Just imagine how much more productive you will be, and how you can bring down your level of anxiety by getting into a habit of falling asleep on a consistent basis.

Before I begin, I just want to mention that this show is not a replacement for mental health counseling or medical care, and I’m not your personal therapist.

This Episode is About Insomnia and Sleep Problems

  • How much sleep should you get each night?
  • Teach your brain how to associate bed with sleep
  • Hear Frank’s personal struggles with Insomnia
  • This Show’s Sponsor BetterHelp special deal on Counseling
  • Understand how long caffeine stays in the body
  • Get Frank’s New E-Book on Dealing With Anxiety. On Sale!
Transcript

How to Help Insomnia Symptoms

Ahh- trouble sleeping, it can leave you feeling like a flat- deflated balloon when you get out of bed each day. And other people notice it too right? Have you ever had someone say to you….. hey you look tired or my favorite….you look worn down. People can be so judgmental- can’t they?   Man…If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me I looked tired - I’d probably have enough to take my kid to Disney and stay at a resort.

Trust me, before I learned the tips I’m about to share with you – I struggled for many years with trying to get good quality – meaningful sleep. In fact, there have been days when I got out of bed where I was practically delirious because my mind and body were so deflated. Who needs that kind of nonsense? You want to wake up each day and be mentally present so that you can really be be the best version of yourself.

You might be wondering, how much sleep do you need. Well  I’ve been reading a book called “Why we Sleep” by World Renown Sleep specialist- Matthew Walker, I’ll leave a link in the show notes. According to his research, humans ideally need at least 7 hours of sleep on a consistent basis for optimal performance…That’s not to say 8 hours isn’t great – because it is -but 7 seems to be the minimal threshold to perform at our best. Over at the CDC, they also say on their website that people between the ages of 18-64 need at least 7 hours each night.

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Tips for Getting Better Sleep

That sounds about right to me because I don’t know about you – but when I haven’t slept enough and I’m tired – my anxiety goes through the roof and I just fee tired and cranky. Have you ever felt like that where you are so tired – that it’s like you’re phoning it in?

In doing this episode, I did a lot of research because I was curious about how many people out there have sleep problems. I know in my own private psychotherapy practice, a good majority of patients who come to me for anxiety – identify trouble sleeping as one of their chief complaints.

Common Insomnia Complaints

They struggle with one of two problems…see if you can relate to these.

  1. They can’t fall asleep because their minds are racing when they put their head on the pillow or number 2
  2. They can fall asleep – but can’t stay sleeping for very long.

According to the Center for Disease Control – nearly 70 million people in the United States suffer from chronic sleep problems. I’m willing to bet that the number is much higher than that. Think about that for a moment – 70 million people is an awful lot of folks who are feeling irritable and worn down because their not sleeping.

I don’t have any hard facts with me on this – but I’ll bet those numbers have been increasing over the past decade due to our easy access to social media. Everyone’s guilty of it too…you know what I’m talking about – sitting in bed and scrolling thru that Facebook, Instagram or Ticktock feed to see what’s new.

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 You probably already know this but, poor sleep can lead to an increase in mental health problems like anxiety and depression.  There’s also evidence that it can increase the chances of becoming obese.

That makes sense right. I mean if you have a person who is walking around tired all day – the last thing they are going to want to do is exercise. There’s no energy for it. You can feel like your in a haze!

I know in my own personal experiences – I can see a direct correlation between my physical performance and the amount of sleep I’m getting. For example, in my CrossFit class, we regularly record our individual scores for each workout. I notice on nights when I don’t get enough sleep, my score in class drops dramatically. So if it normally takes me 9 min to run a mile on a good nights sleep, it takes me ten mins or longer to run that same mile on a night when I’ve slept less than 6 hours. So yea, sleep can have a dramatic effect on your physical and psychological abilities.

I recently took a training workshop called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia or CBTI and was pleasantly surprised to see how much evidence-based approaches are out there for helping people to get deeper sleep. That’s right, there are natural steps you can take that will help you improve your chances for getting restorative sleep.

So, before I share these tips, I want you to know that there are many factors which contribute to a person having poor sleep quality. One of the main culprits is something called sleep apnea. If you weren’t aware, sleep apnea is a silent killer and you would be wise to talk with your doctor if you have chronic symptoms like consistent loud snoring or gasping for air as you’re trying to sleep. If you think you might have sleep apnea then please, do yourself a favor and talk with your doctor to get it checked out. You want to live a long, healthy life and Sleep Apnea is nothing to mess around with. With today’s technology, treatment for sleep apnea truly help you live a healthier life.  

Alright, well let’s get into the 5 tips to get Better Sleep. I’ll leave the list on my website: so that you can grab them later. Just scroll through the episode notes on this podcast to find the link.

Reduce Insomnia Symptoms  

Here we go:

  1. Condition your brain to associate the bed with sleep. This might sound simplistic, but a lot of people, including myself – are guilty of doing all kinds of stuff in the bed except for actually going to sleep. In a basic psychology class, you may have learned a concept called classical conditioning. This is when psychologist Ian Pavlov, rang a bell, whenever he fed his dog. After a while of this conditioning, the dog would salivate at the mouth and physiologically be ready to eat by simply just hearing the bell ring…the dog salivated even when the food wasn’t present – just by hearing that bell ring. The idea here as it relates to sleep is to simply condition your mind that your bed is a default place to fall into a deep – restorative sleep.
  2. I know for me that it took several weeks for me to get used to the idea that I couldn’t scroll through my phone or watch TV while chilling out in my bed anymore. Now if you’re listening to this and thinking – hey Frank, I like to read my social media or watch tv at night….please don’t take that away from me. Well, don’t worry - you can still do these things – but I would recommend you just do it in another area of your home. So for example, let’s say you are on the couch watching Netflix and you catch yourself starting to doze off. Just turn off the TV and walk on into your bedroom so that you train your mind that bed is the place for sleeping. If you want to check your social media, by all means please do – just do it on the couch or somewhere other than the bed. Conditioning your mind to react to a stimulus – in this case your bed – can be a powerful tool for helping you elevate your mood and get better sleep.

Related: 3 Ways to Stop Negative Thinking

Get out of the bed and if you are unable to fall asleep. Now this might sound counter-productive because your whole purpose of getting into bed is to get some rest. The problem can be that some people actually become traumatized in the bedroom because they have unconsciously associated the bed with being unable to fall asleep. Let me give you an example.

I used to dread getting into the bed at night because I would become riddled with anxiety about not being able to fall asleep. And this fear would start during the middle of the day because I would keep visualizing the impending doom of tossing and turning in the bed later that night. It was like just thinking about going to sleep would stress me out. As you can imagine, the bed had actually become a negative trigger because I was so fearful of not sleeping. So you see, I had kind of unconsciously conditioned myself that my bed was a place to feel anxious and worried. So I needed to re-wire my brain patterns to make a positive association with the bed. To make the change, I’d start getting out of the bed whenever I couldn’t fall asleep. Yes, you heard that right. I’d get out of the bed when I couldn’t fall asleep.  Everyone’s different- but for me - I’d go into the kitchen and listen to a podcast or just start reading a book. After 15 to 20 min, I found myself starting to get sleepy and when I did, I’d go back into my bed and eventually doze off. When I first started the process of re-conditioning my brain – I had to get out of bed 2 or 3 times a night and distract myself until I was eventually able to retrain my mind. Over a few weeks time span- I learned to re-associate my mind to the point where the bed became synonymous with sleep.

  1. Create a wind down routine an hour before bed. So you might be thinking – what is a wind down time? I want you to think of it as essentially a special time before bedtime where you slow everything down in your life and give yourself permission to unplug from anything that might cause you stress or anxiety. This can include everything from watching negative news stories on TV to reading toxic garbage on social media. You just don’t want to put your mind into a negative pattern where it gets all worked up before bedtime.

I want to share my own experience with you about this. You know, there was a period in my life when worked at a mental health facility with a large caseload of clients. Many of these people struggled with severe mental illness and very serious substance addiction. The job was so intense that it required I put in 100% mental effort into each person I was working with because they relied on me for emotional support.

Over time, I got into a really terrible habit of working long hours at the office, and then brining my work home with me each night. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself – but I’d come home exhausted from pouring all my brain power into my job all day – and then get home and continue to do work related stuff on my computer. I’d end the evening by watching the local news, which was full of negative stories that made me feel like the world was about to fall apart. So I was letting myself get stressed out by working into the evening and capping it off with negative news. The problem was I wasn’t creating any kind of buffer zone where I unplugged my mind from stress.  To make an analogy- visualize running on a treadmill at a high intensity for a half hour. and then immediately jumping into bed afterwards and trying to go to sleep.

As you can imagine, your brain isn’t going to be in the right mindset for going into restorative sleep. In other words, your mind needs time to switch gears from being active to that of just chilling out and relaxing.

This concept of getting good quality, restorative sleep is so important to improving your mood level that I added it as one of the chapters in my new e-book. It’s called 5 ways to deal with anxiety. I include a lot of solid research and useful tips to help you manage anxiety using natural approaches. You can get it on sale for just $10.00 by going to the front of my website anxietytherapistpodcast.com. It’s an absolute must have for your wellness tool kit.

Okay tip # 4 for getting better sleep is

Limit your consumption of caffeine well before it’s time for sleep.  Now look, I love a good cup of coffee just as much as anyone else - but I’m one of those people who are super sensitive to caffeine. Truth be told, I have a cup of coffee everyone morning when I get out of bed. It’s like I need it every morning just for my brain to function. But because I’m so sensitive to caffeine, I try not to drink coffee after 12 o'clock noon because it stays in the body for up to 7 hours after consumption. Think about that for a moment, if you finish off your coffee at 3 in the afternoon, it’s sill active in your body until 11 at night. That’s a long time isn’t it?  I mean think about it – caffeine is a stimulant that effects our alertness and inhibits the brains ability to feel sleep – it sort of sends out a signal that says – hey stay awake and alert. And by the way there are lots of other ways caffeine can sneak into your body without you realizing it. For example, tea, soft drinks, and even chocolate are all carinated. So the bottom line is try not to consume caffeine at least 7 hours before bedtime.

I know for me, too much caffeine can negatively effect my anxiety. If the cup is too strong, my heart starts pounding and my mind is all over the place. So, for me personally, I am hyper aware of how much I’m consuming during the day.

Alright, number 5- the final tip:

Is to engage in moderate exercise to naturally build up your sleep drive. You’ve probably heard of the body’s circadian Rhythm which basically regulates your natural sleep awake cycle.  Sleep Drive is a measure of a person’s biological need for sleep.

When we first wake up in the morning, our Sleep Drive is very low. It gradually increases as the day progresses and then quickly diminishes as soon as we fall asleep. Basically the longer you’re awake, the stronger your need for sleep.

Without getting to nerdy here, the brain builds up a chemical called adenosine during our waking hours. This neurochemical tells the rest of the body that it’s time for sleep.  The more adenosine that’s produced, the more likely we are to feel sleepy.

So, simply by being awake, you are building up more adenosine.  But this is where exercise can help you to build up more adenosine as the day goes on. By moderately exercising and using your muscles, you actually create more of this natural chemical that will help you feel sleepy at night.

Think of it like this: Imagine you're holding a balloon in your hand. The more air you put into the balloon, the sleepier you feel. Being physically active in the day can help you to fall asleep later at night. For me personally, I try not to exercise too close to bedtime because like I said earlier, I like to have at least an hour before bedtime where I can relax and unwind.  Some people like to work out an hour before bed and others like to do it during the daytime. I’m sure you will find your own natural rhythm.

Alright, well that’s all I have for today. I hope these five tips help you to improve your own sleep because they truly have helped me to improve mine.

 

I want to say thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this podcast. It’s been a humbling experience to look at the downloads and see just how many people listen to this show. If you don’t mind, please leave me a review on Apple Podcast. I’m not a tech guru, but I’m told the more reviews the show has – the higher it shows up in the search results for other people to find.