Sleep anxiety is a disorder that can either compound or cause problems that are associated with sleep deprivation. There is compelling evidence to suggest that both sleep anxiety and other typical sleep disorders (like sleep deprivation) can come first in the chain of events.
Relaxation techniques for sleep anxiety include purchasing and taking treatment that has been prescribed by primary care physicians, mental health professionals, and any other sleep disorder clinics.
At the core of your treatment campaign or regimen is the desire or need to identify and modify behavior that is the primary contributor to your sleep-related problems.
Sleep Anxiety Therapy
This is not so much a technique as it is an extended process that helps you identify, understand, accept and change behavioral patterns that are either associated with or contribute to sleep anxiety and its related disorders.
One-On-One Counselling for Sleep Anxiety
The first option available to somebody who is grappling with sleep anxiety will include talking to somebody in person. We accept that this will not be everybody’s preference – and we will get onto that a bit later – but for the moment, there are some people out there who just need to talk about their problems. Sometimes that is genuinely all that it takes.
Some people prefer to talk in groups – and we will also get onto that a little later – but some people like to have a more private conversation because sometimes the things that bother us are just that private and sharing them with a group of people can do more harm than good. It can be a counter-productive exercise.
This first option is for those who prefer to talk to their counselors or health professionals one-on-one. The experts will tell you that this is also the most common method adopted by people experiencing sleep anxiety.
More often than not, it includes an in-person visit to the therapist. Make no mistake, this will probably cost you a pretty penny because therapists generally charge by the hour. It takes considerably more than an hour to address some of the aspects that might be contributing to your sleep anxiety.
Specialists who can do this kind of work with you tend to be available across the Internet and the prices will range, depending on the region in which you are living and working.
Group Counselling for Sleep Anxiety
The principle is quite similar to option one in that it involves talking about your problems, with a view to finding meaningful verbal solutions. Some people feel vulnerable when negotiating one-on-one scenarios. Sometimes it just feels safe to offload when you among a group.
Firstly, it becomes a little easier to “hide” under those circumstances but more significantly, it is often a reminder that you are not alone in your struggles.
It is important because it goes a long way towards acceptance. You are most unlikely to address your sleep anxiety problems when you fail to acknowledge and accept that you have a mental hurdle to overcome.
No additional remedy that you attempt will adequately compensate for the absence of therapy.
Texting to Beat Sleep Anxiety
The harsh reality that some of the more seasoned campaigners around us will have to accept, at some point, is that technology has become a prominent feature in our lives. It also provides meaningful solutions to problems that we were not really able to combat in the past.
Among those problems – and we should not scoff at this – is the fear of communicating with people directly. Sure, the general advice would be that you need to get over yourself and learn how to be social. However, some people are just socially awkward, especially when they are grappling with personal matters of a psychological nature.
The beauty of texting a counselor is that it provides you with two options in particular. Firstly, you can text on issues in general or secondly you can text on matters as they come up. The latter normally occurs at night when you are most likely to be confronted by sleep anxiety issues.
If you are looking for general help, there are actually apps available which can assist with general coping skills and mindfulness. So, in that context, texting makes help more accessible, more efficient, more affordable and most importantly it becomes portable.
Coping skills have mostly to do with getting by every day when stressful scenarios present themselves. They help eliminate the anxiety that often comes with the territory under those circumstances.
When you are needing to deal with issues as they come up, there are apps available which provide access to a trained professional who is available 24/7. All of that therapy can be done and completed through texting.
The option is both effective and convenient.
Beat Sleep Anxiety with Phone and Video Chat
This is another technique that might make the older generation cringe somewhat. However, it is also very convenient and a bit more accessible than traditional techniques.
Under these circumstances, you will be dealing with a trained therapist or counselor but you will effectively be doing all of that over the Internet.
Again, personal contact might be an issue and this helps compensate for the distance that exists between you and your counselor or therapist.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Sleep Anxiety
More commonly known as CBT, this technique helps you analyze your behavioral patterns and establish if, how and why they are contributing to your sleep anxiety.
It is a tried and tested technique. The experts will tell you that you start seeing the benefits of this technique over a period of 12 to 16 weeks. It requires patience and commitment.
The level of success and the speed at which that success is achieved will hinge largely on the individual involved in the program.
The skills that you are introduced to during CBT will live with you for the rest of your life. It is a lasting program, which is why it is so well recommended – not just for those who are grappling with mental problems but also for those who are experiencing sleep anxiety.
The CBT involves a considerable amount of reading, record keeping, and homework. So, it extends well beyond just absorbing information. You have to take what you learn and spend time – either at home or in any other private environment – putting that knowledge into practice.
Regular practice is always great but perfect practice makes perfect. It is quite important to be disciplined under these circumstances. You will not make any meaningful progress if you are not disciplined.
If you do remain disciplined, you will learn how to solve your own problems. That way you do not always need a therapist to help you through, especially during those long nights when they are not readily available to assist you.
Exposure Therapy for Sleep Anxiety
Exposure therapy is essentially an extension of CBT. The primary objective of this technique is to reduce fear and anxiety responses.
This form of therapy allows the patient grappling with sleep anxiety to have close encounters with scenarios that would ordinarily create fear and anxiety for that person.
That could just be a situation or it could also be an object. Whatever it is that makes you scared.
Think of Bruce Wayne and the manner in which he deals with bats in Batman Begins. If you haven’t watched the movie, you probably should. The goal is to become less sensitive to those situations that spark fear and anxiety in you. It is about facing up to your demons.
If you have phobias or OCD, this is actually probably just the therapy for you. Skip the first five.
Acceptance Therapy for Sleep Anxiety
This is commonly referred to as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). We have dealt with acceptance briefly earlier in this article. Sleep anxiety is normally a direct result of you failing to deal with a situation without passing some form of judgment.
Some might call it failing to live in the moment. You encounter a scenario that will potentially instill fear in you and you then start to overthink the situation. When the more practical option would be to accept the circumstances that you have been presented with.
Squash player Ali Farag swears by this. While sleep anxiety has nothing to do with squash, the lesson is actually the same. Farag is such a dominant squash player partly (maybe even primarily) because he has mastered that art of acceptance.
You too can sleep better, if you learn to accept what you are faced with, whether that be potential nightmares or even fear of death if you go to sleep. People get sleep anxiety for different reasons.
Acceptance also allows the patient to better commit to the behavioral change that might be needed to combat sleep anxiety.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Now EMDR is a fascinating one. On this website, I often talk about the sleep cycle, dreams and the role that Rapid Eye Movement (REM) plays in all of that. REM sleep is associated with vivid dreaming.
Vivid dreams can feel very real and will definitely stimulate the senses. If you are somebody confronted by fear and anxiety, the nature of your eye movements will often compound that. By all accounts that is something which can be trained or manipulated.
Your eye movements can be used to reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts. With this form of therapy, you can turn a threatening scenario into a non-threatening one…or at the very least teach your brain to think as much.
Sleep Anxiety Treatment
1. Residential Treatment
This treatment is a form of rehabilitation conducted in a health facility, where treatment is available at all hours. Typically, the person receiving that treatment would be living at that facility. It is efficient and effective.
The facility is most commonly associated with substance abuse and addiction – rehab centers. However, it also serves an important mental illness function, in addition to other behavioral issues.
You have to be selective with this approach because the facilities that actually deal with sleep anxiety and other related disorders are few and far between. Do not book into a facility that is going to waste your time.
It is in your best interests to look for recommendations and search for peer groups and pages that might produce useful advice on what to do and where to go. Again, you ought to be selective with that process.
You also need to be aware that if you are going to go down this route, it will in all likelihood cost you a pretty penny. That is why this sometimes remains a last resort. Firstly, you have to be sure that this will be worth the expenditure.
Secondly, you will have to be sure that the other treatment options available are useless in advancing your cause. Frankly speaking, that will not always be the case.
Most people who pursue this option will likely stay at the facility for the greater part of two months. Some might feel they need to stay longer. The doctors will ultimately decide on that though.
2. Complementary and Integrative Health
We already know what you might be thinking. Alternative medicine – or anything associated with it – is for the birds, lacking in biological plausibility and totally untestable.
However, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America believes there is no compelling evidence to suggest that Complementary and Integrative Health can and will assist with the treatment of sleep anxiety.
The doctors, most of whom used to be skeptics themselves, are primarily responsible for the growing scientific evidence in this particular sphere. The reality is that doctors and other health professionals are looking for new and better ways to treat sleep anxiety and other disorders. That ultimately includes pursuing fields that were previously deemed to be taboo.
While I note the encouraging developments in this sphere, it will also be prudent to explore all of the techniques I have listed with you, doctor. Just make sure you do not make a fatal judgment, treating yourself with techniques that you do not really understand.
2.1 Stress and Relaxation
The thing about stress and relaxation techniques is that they produce short-term results more often than not. All they really do is reduce the levels of anxiety. That is not really ideal, especially if you are somebody grappling with a long-term problem.
The National Centre of Complementary and Integrative Health insists there are five things in particular that you need a firm handle on before you pursue certain stress and relaxation techniques.
Firstly, the jury is still out – in some quarters – on just how useful relaxation techniques are for those who are suffering from sleep anxiety. Be wary of the claims that are made by some “experts” on this subject. The research is still ongoing and ultimately, the learning never really stops.
Secondly, many of the techniques associated with stress and relaxation will include methods that produce slower breathing and lower blood pressure. It is not a life and death issue, because it ultimately improves your sense of well being and calm. However, it is something you will need to note if you have a condition that might be exacerbated by this.
Relaxation techniques need to be conducted regularly and aren’t always useful if not accompanied by regular exercise, decent nutrition, and even a healthy social support system. It never just boils down to one thing.
Fourth – and this is a totally positive aspect – is that most of these techniques can be self-taught. That is a major benefit because it limits the amount of money that you spend on qualified practitioners.
As previously expressed in this article, medical practitioners in this sphere can cost a pretty penny. It is something that one needs to be mindful of.
Finally, there is always a temptation to use these techniques as a replacement for the more conventional health methods out there. However, the experts advise against that. The keyword to take note of here is complementary.
You should always avoid postponing appointments with a doctor, just because you are pursuing these techniques. There is nothing wrong with the techniques themselves but there is still a lot that is not tested or a lot that is still unknown.
Coordination and safety are both important aspects to take into account.
3. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
TMS is a fascinating option but it does have more to do with depression than it does with sleep disorders. There is also the glaring reality that those people who are suffering from depression will encounter problems with anxiety and fear though.
For that reason, I have thought it prudent to explore the treatment technique too, as it can assist with combating sleep anxiety. People normally turn to this form of treatment when medication is not working effectively.
As the name would suggest, this involves a magnetic field, created to induce a small electric current in a section of the human brain. A magnetic coil is actually used to deliver the pulses through the scalp but beyond that, there is no pain expected while executing the technique. The experts also say that it is not invasive at all. So, no sedative is required either.
There are basically two ways in which you can carry out this technique. Firstly, you can use what they call Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS). Secondly, you can use what they call Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS). Both are known to produce meaningful results.
The former covers a 2-3cm region of the brain and has regularly been used to address matters that have to do with anxiety, depression and other related disorders. That work has been done over a period of about two decades, so it is a tried and tested technique.
The latter, as the name suggests, covers a much larger section of the brain, with a view to achieving similar results. The technique is normally used for outpatient treatment though.
With rTMS, the patient is treated for about 40 minutes per session. The patient will also be fully alert or awake for the duration of that treatment, as there is no sedation or anesthesia required when carrying it out.
If you are an outpatient, which is normally the case in this regard, the experts say it is also safe to drive to and from treatment without there being any fuss. The coil the doctors use is about the size of a man’s hand and is held over the front of the scalp.
The idea is to target a part of the brain which deals specifically with mood regulation and anxiety. There are whispers that plans are afoot to conduct this particular treatment in conjunction with some form of therapy.
With dTMS, we are almost looking at a last chance saloon scenario. It is a measure taken when all other forms of treatment do not appear to be working. The magnetic coil reaches further into the scalp and targets other regions of the brain. It is largely a depression treatment technique though.
The treatment can make you feel like Professor X for a moment, as they make you wear a cushioned helmet while carrying it out. That helmet generates brief magnetic fields, about 4cm in. Your 20-minute sessions will be carried out over a period of about six weeks.
As is the case with rTMS, driving to and from treatment is considered completely safe.
Sleep Anxiety Medication
Most of the medication people use to deal with sleep anxiety is considered safe. Most of it strives to help the patient in question relax.
Some of that medication is illegal in certain regions of the world, especially in more conservative parts of the world. The word we are trying to bandy about here is marijuana.
There are also long and short term options available for those considering medication for anxiety. The big fear that might emerge though, is that patients using medication to relax can become heavily reliant on it to relax and that can take you five huge steps backward if you are not careful.
So, it is very important that a doctor is involved in this process throughout.
Beyond that, other elements which need to be considered include the following:
1. You need to firmly establish if a new drug or treatment is appropriate for your condition. In the context of this article, you would be establishing if a new drug or treatment is appropriate for somebody who is grappling with sleep anxiety.
2. It is also important to understand that drugs and treatment campaigns that usually come with the territory are not foolproof. It is incumbent upon the person receiving treatment for sleep anxiety to establish what the drawbacks of the medication are. That is also to be done in conjunction with the doctors and physicians.
3. More often than not, you will already be involved with a specific regimen. Before considering and purchasing medication, be sure that your other efforts to relax are not useful or are a waste. Medication should really be a last resort.
4. Drugs always cost a considerable amount. It is ultimately a business. This is linked with the previous two posts but be sure that the cost of purchasing the drugs is actually worth the effort. If you aren’t sure you can spend more than you need and not actually getting the relaxation that you need.
5. Make sure the drugs are safe and that they have been approved by the relevant authorities. When a drug is new, you need to be sure that you are one of the people who need to be on this treatment. Is the treatment actually going to help you relax when you have sleep anxiety?
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs ultimately make more serotonin available in your system and that helps improve your mood. That assists with your campaign to address your sleep anxiety.
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
SNRIs actually increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in your system and are useful for the treatment of most if not all anxiety disorders.
Benzodiazepines assist with the short-term management of anxiety disorders. If you consider using these in the long term, the dosage might have to increase and we have already discussed the damage that could have on those who are vulnerable to addiction.
The name Tricyclic antidepressants pretty much clear up what these are for. They are very useful in the treatment of all anxiety disorders but the side effects are many. Your physician should and must be involved with you every step of the way when you are taking this class of drug.
Acquiring more sleep while suffering any type of anxiety is going to be difficult. But researching the many options out there to help you is the first step to your better health and wellbeing.
When you start putting some of these strategies into action you will feel more in control and knowledgable.
Remember as with any other type of health issue, if possible, do not sit on the fence too long before seeking assistance if required.
As always here’s to better sleep!