How to Fall Asleep when Anxious (3 Steps to Great Nights!)

So your head hits the pillow and once AGAIN… you cannot fall asleep. 

You feel anxious, you start to worry and soon you feel so tense that it seems impossible to have a great night’s rest. And this makes you frustrated, because you believe everyone can fall asleep, except you.I always lied awake in bed for an hour or 2 before I could fall asleep, but after using the 3 steps in this article I fall asleep within 10 minutes. And today I am going to give you these steps, so you can do the same. 

Falling asleep a 100X faster without anxiety.

Why do I feel anxious before bed?

Isn’t it weird that when you finally lie in bed to rest, you start to worry and feel your anxiety increase….

Actually, no… and here’s why…

Most “anxious” people are very good at distracting themselves from anxious feelings and stress during the day. 

Whenever they feel an uncomfortable sensation in their body, they grab their phones and try to distract themselves with cute puppy videos or other TikToks, except my TikToks.

So my question to you: do you do this as well?

Do you go to the toilet with your phone in your hand to scroll… because being alone with yourself is too uncomfortable? 

Be honest….

This creates a fundamental problem: not spending time with yourself. And when you don’t spend time with yourself, you build up stress, because you don’t make room for your worries and your feelings.

Checking in more with your phone than with yourself makes it impossible to process your feelings and let any discomfort rise up. 

And when you finally turn off the lights to sleep… all these unprocessed thoughts emotions and unfinished business from the day can finally reach you. 

And this results in worry, overthinking and feelings of discomfort right before bed… because NOW all this unfinished business and built-up stress from the day can finally reach you.

Your mind starts to yell: 

“Hey, I wanted to reach you the entire day, but you didn’t listen. I see you have time now, so these are all the concerns I had today! Enjoy thinking about them.”

And BOOM: your mind starts to run, you worry, you feel anxious and your thoughts spin out of control until you worry about everything. 

Your mind notices you feel stressed and releases cortisol and adrenaline in the hope you take action to fix your problems, but all you want to do is sleep. This could even make you worry about not being able to fall asleep… a common one!

And now your mind thinks: 

“Hey! I just released a flush of cortisol and adrenaline. I did that to help you take action… but all you do is try to sleep!”

You’ll notice it becomes hard to sleep, because of these stress chemicals. And when this happens regularly, you have linked “worry-time” to going to bed.

Interesting how that works… right?

And NOW it’s time to break this cycle with the 3 steps I am going to share right now. 

Step #1: Worry Somewhere Else

The first step to stop being anxious before bed is to slow down during the day.

You don’t want your days to be a Formula 1 race where you keep sprinting chug a coffee and feed yourself a meal in 2 minutes. Maybe society makes you believe you have to, but this creates a lot of tension on your body.

Why is it important to slow down? Because we want to give ourselves the possibility to check in with how we feel, our concerns and other things that happen during the day.

See it like this…

Everytime you don’t allow yourself to do that, you put a heavy brick in your bag… you can either remove the bricks during the day and feel light before going to bed… or you can save everything up and have to deal with everything the moment your head hits the pillow.

There is no escape from your feelings and thoughts, handle them during the day, instead of before going to bed.

So, to successfully fall asleep, we have to train our brain to worry elsewhere and associate our bed with sleeping, instead of worrying. 

You can do this by scheduling 15 minutes during lunch for example, to just worry. Worry about whatever comes in your mind so when you try to fall asleep later the day and a worry comes up… you tell yourself: Oh, I’ll write this worry down and save it for worry time tomorrow.

In my masterclass about anxiety, I explain how important it is to listen to your feelings, which is great first step if you want to overcome sleep anxiety. 

Now you trained your mind to worry elsewhere, there is something else that is important… 

Step #2: Create a nighttime routine

It might seem obvious, but having a nighttime routine is important to fall asleep faster. Want to know why? Let me explain.

Your brain is always making connections. Maybe you drink a cup of coffee in the morning, which your brain links to start your day. Or maybe putting on perfume has a connection to going out.

We also want to make connections regarding falling asleep and bedtime. 

How do we do this? We start to create a nighttime routine that we practice every day to prime our mind for falling asleep.

I hear your thoughts: do I have to practice 5 hours before going to bed, just in case? No… just an hour!

Think of: taking a hot bath, reading non-fiction, meditation, just sitting with yourself, making puzzles or anything that makes you relaxed. 

Repeat this daily and you will help your brain prepare itself for sleep.

Oh… and before I forget it… make your bedroom more comfortable. 

No, you don’t need to buy a new bed… I promise you. But at least make it cooler in your bedroom, about 19 degrees Celsius, also make it a lot darker and go to the store to find a better pillow.

But what if you do all these things for weeks and you still feel anxious? 

Then you need the third and final step.

Step #3: Respond Correctly

Once you started to unlink worry time to bedtime and created a nighttime routine, you’ll notice you can fall asleep much faster… but what if you are still anxious about going to bed?  

It comes down to the following: allowance.

Most people do the following whenever they feel anxious before sleep:

“Oh my god… I am still feeling anxious. The entire world can fall asleep, except me… what is wrong with me. I am feeling so anxious right now that I cannot even fall asleep. Now I miss an entire night of sleep again!”

They try to force their anxiety away. They get frustrated for being anxious again. And worst of all: they are angry at themselves!

Being angry at yourself, trying to force anxiety away and being frustrated don’t help you to fall asleep! Instead, they make it very hard to fall asleep.

What should you do instead? The opposite.

Allow your anxiety to be present whenever you start to feel it. Tell yourself it is OK, that you are fine and that you allow it to be present.

You don’t do this because you like the feeling. You do this because you now show your mind that anxiety isn’t something to be scared of and is perfectly OK to experience.

Doing this will stop fueling your anxiety and help you win the tug of war you are playing with your anxiety… which you can win quickly by taking your hands off the rope… instead of pulling harder. 

And also, there are some things you can tell yourself to ease your anxiety… for example:

“Even when I am just lying in bed… I am also resting.”

Tell yourself that just lying in bed also makes your body rest. Don’t pressure yourself to fall asleep as quickly as possible. 

And don’t believe that the only way to rest is to sleep 9 hours straight. You can eliminate the worry of “not being able to fall asleep”, by telling yourself that even lying down also means you are resting.

Conclusion

After I started to unlink bedtime with worry time, slowed down during the day, created a nighttime routine and practised allowance… I noticed how I was able to fall asleep faster. If you want to learn more, watch my FREE limited time masterclass about overcoming anxiety.

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About Wouter

Wouter is a mindset coach from The Netherlands. For many years he suffered from depression and anxiety. It gave him the motivation to coach people on freeing themselves from anxiety. With more than 6000 blog visitors a month he helps many people on their journey towards less anxiety.

Do you want less anxiety today?

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