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6 Ways to Deal with Nighttime Anxiety

happy well rested woman

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Vanquish middle-of-the-night stress.  

Wake up! It’s 2:40 a.m., prime time for feeling panicky and dyspeptic. Let’s ruminate! Let’s go over everything on the to-do list! Let’s feel overwhelmed, maybe with a little side sauce of guilt. What’s that, brain? You want to go deeper, ponder the very point of our lives? Sure… Until 4:55, when we finally doze back off. Ugh. My internist told me that insomnia like this is sometimes caused by our brains being “too full,” which certainly resonated with me. So, what to do with a too-full brain at 3 a.m.?  For this week’s Healthy Habit, let’s look at a few ways to deal with anxiety that strikes in the wee hours.

Repeat a mantra

There is a mantra specifically for invoking sleep. Try repeating Om Agasthi Shahina (Om Ah-gah-stee Shah-ee-nah).

Try affirmations

Instead of freaking out—or trying to force sleep into your life, which will backfire, gently steer your mind back to a calm state with affirmations such as, “I fall asleep easily and naturally.” Or, “I love to sleep and do so easily.”

Feng shui placements

In order to sleep well, feng shui philosophy would be that you need to ensure the chi is flowing. Remove all clutter: paperwork, books, digital devices. Cover computer monitors with a dark cloth. Dana Claudat, of the blog “The Tao of Dana,” notes that any lighting such as chandeliers should not be hanging directly over the bed, and that some people find they sleep better if they remove stored items from under their bed. Yep, that “baggage” on your mind can be literal.

Aromatherapy

Lavender and bitter orange both improved the quality of sleep in studies, according to a 2017 published review in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Science called “Effectiveness of Aromatherapy in Insomnia.” The trick is to have essential oils ready, so that when monkey brain starts pinging around at 3 a.m., you’re not stumbling in the bathroom looking for your bottle of lavender. Keep a bottle of aromatherapy spray near the bed to spritz the pillow or linens. In times of severe restlessness, set up a diffuser before retiring for the night so it’s ready to go, and when the brain starts churning, flip on the fragrant mist. Ahh.

Life management

Don’t give an anxious mind any more fodder. Avoid stressful tasks and topics right before bed, such as paying bills, going over the household budget with your partner, booking a multi-leg flight, dealing with your mother-in-law, etc. Create a buffer zone prior to sleeping that is dedicated to relaxing activities such as a hot bath, reading a good book or meditating.

What’s in the cabinet?  

An imbalance—either too much or too little—of some vitamins, such as D and B, can cause sleep quality to erode. Check with your health care provider to ensure you’re getting the right levels, especially if you have started taking a new medication or supplement.  


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.  


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