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By Katie Bailey, MA, LPC

Our bodies need sleep. However, when we are dealing with anxiety or trauma (think abuse, grief, something very overwhelming) our bodies have a hard time falling and staying asleep.

Unfortunately, when we don’t sleep well it affects us in many ways. We are more irritable, moody, at higher risk for diabetes and other physical problems. Sleep deprivation also mean we are less attentive, which can cause us problems driving or at work. The emotional toll of not sleeping can impact our relationships, causing more tension with those we love.

Maybe you think you are too busy to go to bed earlier. Perhaps you have little kids that won’t sleep in their own beds. Maybe the stressors of the day replay in your head over and over. It could be you’ve suffered some kind of loss or trauma and the quiet of the night is just too much for you. Unfortunately, missing out on quality sleep only makes dealing with the difficult things in life harder.

Eventually you will find yourself in a cycle that’s hard to break. Once you’ve not been sleeping, you may feel like you’ll never get back on track. This is normal. Many people struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep every night.

It’s true sleep deprivation effects all areas of our lives. However, if we can change some of our habits, and help coach our bodies to rest, we can break the cycle. When we make our sleep a priority we can feel rested again and better prepared to face life’s challenges and find more peace and healing. Follow these tips regularly and you will increase your sleep quality tonight, and even more so over time.

1. Turn off screens an hour before bedtime. This one is huge. Most of us live with our phone in our hand at all times. Create some space from all screens an hour before you want to go to sleep, and this will help signal your brain the time to shut down is coming. If you have to be on a screen late, try some blue light blocking glasses.

2. Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol might help you fall asleep initially, but research shows it disrupts sleep. Pass on the drinking and you’re setting yourself up for better zzz’s.

3. Avoid caffeine. After lunch time, it’s best to switch to decaf. I’d recommend no caffeine at all (that’s what I do) but I know some of you need your morning cuppa. That’s fine, but cut it out later in the day to set the stage for bedtime.

4. Regular exercise. Yep, moving your body during the day has so many benefits – not the least of which is better sleep. Just don’t work out too close to bedtime and rev yourself up. You don’t have to train for the Olympics, just taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood regularly will help you sleep better.

5. Try a magnesium supplement. Of course, check with your doctor before starting any supplements. But if he or she gives you the green light give it a shot – research shows magnesium can significantly help with sleep.

6. Keep the same bed time and wake up time every day. Your body works best with a routine. This will help your brain clue in when it’s sleepy time.

7. Try meditation exercise geared for sleep. I highly recommend the Headspace app (my clients get a discount code!) and use it myself to help fall asleep at night. The more you practice the mindfulness exercises, the easier it will be to fall asleep.

Lack of sleep affects our lives in so many ways, and maybe you feel like you’ll never sleep well. I promise if you try these tips you will sleep better tonight and it will just keep getting better the more you work these into a new routine. Overwhelming experiences and the anxiety that comes with them can hijack our sleeping, but you don’t have to live exhausted. Once you’re getting proper sleep, you are better prepared to face those challenges and achieve real healing. If you need help getting better sleep, overcoming trauma or pursing anxiety therapy, please call me today, I’d love to help you.