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Sleep Anxiety and the Holidays: Your Guide to a Good Night's Rest

Sleep Anxiety and the Holidays: Your Guide to a Good Night's Rest

Sandland
Sandland Editorial Team
· 6 min read
sun shining through the shades, example of sleep anxiety

Whether you're a fan of the holidays or not, there's one thing we know for sure: A lot of people experience trouble sleeping around this time of year. It makes sense, if you think about it. For many, the holiday season proves to be the busiest, most expensive, and most stressful. For others, it might stir up feelings of loneliness, sadness, and even guilt. All of these factors increase the risk of something we call sleep anxiety. But don't worry, we've put together a foolproof guide for helping you overcome your sleep hurdles and sleep soundly throughout the night. Read on below to get started!

What Is Sleep Anxiety?

Anxiety and insomnia are closely related. Poor sleep can cause anxiety just as existing anxiety can trigger sleep disturbances. The phenomenon is also known as somniphobia. It refers to an extreme fear of falling asleep, so much so that those suffering from the condition spend significant chunks of the day worrying what to do once bedtime rolls around.

Often, those fears extend into what may happen once they drift off, whether it be sleepwalking, nightmares, or something else all together. Night terrors are also up there on the list.

While we don't know what causes somniphobia, it is believed to be linked to other anxiety disorders. In some cases, it may tie back to a traumatic event or bad experience associated with sleeping or going to bed. Individuals with sleep apnea—a condition in which you stop breathing during sleep—may also experience additional anxiety surrounding sleep.

While the causes of sleep anxiety can be concerning, the effects can be even worse. Anxiety surrounding sleep almost always leads to sleep deprivation, a condition that has been linked to diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and heart attack.

What Are The Symptoms?

cartoon of someone dealing with sleep anxiety at night

Sleep disorders like sleep anxiety can affect different people in different ways. Though, there are a few commonalities across the board. Here are some of the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Feeling of restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of panic

Who Gets It?

Sleep anxiety can affect children, teens and adults. That said, individuals already struggling with sleep disorders or those suffering with their mental health are more likely to experience anxiety over sleep. Below, we'll take a look at some of the most high-risk conditions out there.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

    This is a type of disorder where a person excessively worries about everyday life for no apparent reason. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder or GAD include tense muscles as well as struggles falling and staying asleep.

  • Panic Disorder

    We all experience anxiety or panic in stressful or dangerous situations. However, those suffering from a panic disorder regularly experience sudden attacks, even in the absence of any conflict of threats. Symptoms of night or nocturnal panic attacks include a sense of impending danger or doom, which lead to trouble sleeping.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder

    Social anxiety disorder refers to an overarching fear of social situations. It may be rooted in performance anxiety or the fear of being judged by others. Either way, people with social anxiety disorder often experience sleep problems.

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

    Anxiety and sleep often go hand in hand when it comes to obsessive compulsive disorder. Individuals suffering from this condition regularly experience intrusive thoughts and fears which typically spill over into the evening, leading to significant sleep deprivation.

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

    Another cause of disturbed sleep includes post traumatic stress disorder. This is a mental health problem that's triggered by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. PTSD symptoms include intrusive thoughts or images, nightmares and difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep once they are eventually able to drift off.

  • Specific Phobias

    It's also common for anxiety disorders to be triggered by specific phobias. These are typically extreme fears of objects or situations that pose little danger but still provoke real anxiety, which prevents a person from getting the sleep they need.

How Common Is Sleep Anxiety?

man trying to comfort himself to sleep

Sleep anxiety is more common than you may expect. In the US, roughly 10 percent of Americans suffer from sleep problems such as chronic insomnia. About 50 percent of these cases in the US are linked to anxiety, depression, or psychological stress. Issues related to mental health are major disruptors of sleep. Even worse is when these conditions kick up around the holidays.

How Do The Holidays Contribute to Sleep Anxiety?

Most people see the holidays as a time for fun, excitement and time away from work. But for many, this time of year also brings about additional stress, and concern.

More social engagements, financial burdens, expectations and stress during the holidays can trigger or intensify existing sleep anxiety. Feeling obligated to attend or participate in more social engagements at work or with family can also take a toll on your mental health.

This kind of anticipation can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. The good news, however, is that there are steps you can take to improve sleep.

What Can You Do To Fall Asleep Faster During The Holidays?

Suffering from a sleep disorder is no fun but know this: You don't have to sacrifice a good night's sleep once the holidays roll around. Reducing anxiety during the snowy season is possible, but it does mean changing certain behaviors and adopting new healthy habits.

Stick To Your Sleep Schedule

Sleep anxiety thrives on chaos. The best way to avoid its shadow is to maintain a non-negotiable nightly routine. Remember, we're creatures of habit. Our bodies and brains love routine. When you wake up at the same time every day, your body will take note.

Eventually, you'll start feeling sleepy around the same time everyday. Certain points in your routine will also signal to the body that it's time to wind down.

Some things you might want to incorporate into your routine include warm baths, clean sheets, and decreased use of electronics. You should also try to avoid caffeine and heavy meals before bed.

Limit Nap Time

Naps are great. From promoting relaxation and increasing alertness to improving mood, the benefits of napping extend far beyond your daily caffeine fix. But it is possible to enjoy too much of a good thing. Napping for too long actually makes you sleepier in the long run.

Try limiting these sessions to either 20 or 90 minutes. That you can either avoid entering deep sleep, or you'll sleep long enough to get through an entire sleep cycle, from light sleep to REM so that you'll wake up fresh and not feeling sluggish.

Get Regular Exercise

Exercise isn't only great for reducing stress hormones but studies show that regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster. Just make sure that your workout is at least an hour before bedtime. And remember, even a brisk walk counts as enough exercise to improve your sleep quality.

Limit Caffeine

One of the best things you can do for your sleep health is to limit your caffeine intake. Namely, don't consume caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. From coffee, energy drinks or soda, many studies show the negative impact caffeine has on sleep.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol changes the levels of serotonin kicking around the brain, making anxiety worse. That additional stress is enough to disturb your sleep. Consuming alcohol close to bedtime also increases your heart rate, which can keep you up.

Experts recommend limiting alcohol consumption to one glass or two before bed for a better shot of getting a good night's rest.

Do Breathing Exercises

There are tons of relaxation techniques you can use to help reduce anxiety around the holidays. Breathing exercises in particular are known to help reduce anxiety, manage stress, improve concentration and —you guessed it—promote better sleep.

It works like this: Deep breathing activates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is essentially the "boss" of the parasympathetic nervous system, a network of nerves that promote the "rest and digest" conditions.

Rapid breathing is a common effect of anxiety before bedtime, so perform these exercises a few minutes before you sleep and monitor how you feel.

Talk It Out

One of the best ways to tackle mental health disorders including anxiety is by talking it out. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is designed to help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. The practice can also be used to treat the following issues:

  • Coping with grief or loss
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders

Listen to Calming Music Before Bed

Research shows that listening to soothing music before bed can help promote better sleep, from improving sleep quality, to fighting off insomnia, and more.

Avoid Electronic Devices

The blue light emitted from your smartphone, TV or any of your electronic devices can lead to a lot of sleep disturbances. That's because artificial light suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness to promote healthy sleep.

This kind of light also tricks your brain into thinking that it's still daytime, and keeps the brain active instead of helping wind things down for the night. Experts suggest avoiding all electronic devices for up to one hour before sleep.

Wrapping Up

While there's no avoiding the holidays, there are ways to avoid the kind of sleep disturbance they can introduce. If you find yourself lying awake at night, refer to our list of tips and tricks above. They're sure to help you fall asleep fast and rest up for the big day.

You can also look to Sandland Sleep for some help. Formulated with herbs and melatonin, our supplements are designed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep in no time. That's not all—all our supplements are formulated to reset your sleep schedule so that you won't become dependent on any one product. No morning-after grogginess, just good clean sleep.

Sandland
Written by Sandland Editorial Team

Our internal editorial team has put together research on key topics including product formulation, efficacy studies, and sleep advice.

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