8 Effective solutions to help banish evening anxiety

Unlock the secrets to combating evening anxiety and improving sleep with expert advice from Dr Lindsay Browning. Discover the vital role of sleep in managing worry and anxiety, and get valuable tips for establishing a bedtime routine that promotes restful sleep and reduces stress.

What role does sleep play in helping us control worry and minor anxieties?

Dr Browning shares some key tips you need to know about sleep and anxiety, how they impact each other, and some effective solutions (ones you probably don’t know) for how to combat evening anxiety once and for all.

Sleep plays a crucial role in helping us control worry and minor anxieties. While we sleep, our brains consolidate memories, process emotions, regulate hormone production, and engage in essential restorative processes.

When we don’t get enough sleep, our brains don’t have the time and opportunity to do this processing, and we are more likely to feel worried and anxious.

Our brains go through a host of different processes that help regulate our physical and mental health. For example, they regulate hormone production. If we don’t get enough sleep, the imbalance this causes can impact our mood and physical health.

About Dr Lindsay Browning

Sleep Expert Dr Lindsay Browning

Dr Lindsay Browning is a leading sleep expert, psychologist, neuroscientist, and author. She wrote the self-help sleep book “Navigating Sleeplessness,” first published in 2021 by Trigger Publishing, which is a great first step for anyone wanting to learn more about treating poor sleep.

In addition to offering better sleep and wellbeing workshops and seminars within organizations as part of their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, Dr Browning has delivered many keynote talks at conferences. She often works in the public sector, including the NHS and police, advising on issues such as better sleep during shift work.

Sleep cycles

Sleep is made up of three main parts: REM sleep (where we often dream), light sleep, and deep sleep. These stages occur in cycles throughout the night, always starting with light sleep, then deep sleep, back to light sleep, and then REM sleep, before the cycle repeats.

Each sleep cycle is approximately 90–110 minutes long. While “deep sleep” might sound like it’s the most important part of sleep, we actually need all the different parts of our sleep to be healthy, as they each provide different functions.

Think of it like eating a balanced diet. You need protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables, and you wouldn’t be healthy if you only ate protein or only carbohydrates. Similarly, we need all the different stages of sleep to help us worry less.

At the beginning of the night, we tend to have proportionately more deep sleep, and as the night progresses, we tend to get more and more REM sleep. If you only get a small amount of sleep (say, 3 hours) because you are woken much too early, you are likely to miss out on the right proportions of the different kinds of sleep. This is because you probably won’t have had enough dreaming sleep, which happens increasingly towards the end of the night.

Dreaming/REM sleep is vital for helping us process our emotions and make sense of what’s going on in our lives. If you are feeling anxious or having a particularly difficult time in your life, you might find that your REM sleep is not functioning well enough to help you process the painful emotions you are experiencing.

Your dreams may be too big, vivid, and disturbing, and you might wake up from them more frequently without completing them properly. Something you can do during the day to help your dream sleep is to make time to process anything that is worrying you or that you feel is affecting your emotional wellbeing.

When we don’t get enough sleep, our brains don’t have the time and opportunity to do this processing, and we are more likely to be depressed and anxious. This is in addition to the fact that if we don’t get enough sleep, we may feel too physically tired to get things done during the day and start to feel sad and anxious about that too. When someone has insomnia, they are more likely to subsequently develop depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

8 Effective solutions to banish evening anxiety

To make the most of sleep’s role in managing worry and anxiety, it’s essential to practise good sleep hygiene.

Start a journal

Allocate some time during the day to write in a journal or create a gratitude journal. This practice helps to unload your thoughts, preventing your brain from being overloaded with thinking and processing while you’re trying to fall asleep or even during your dreaming sleep. It’s best to write by hand rather than on a laptop or phone, as the bright light from screens can trick the brain into thinking it’s daylight, hindering the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Address your stresses throughout the day

Given our busy daily lives, many of us don’t address our sources of stress until we lay down in bed. This can lead to a flood of stress and anxieties, making it difficult to fall asleep. By setting aside time earlier in the day to jot down what’s worrying you, you give your brain the opportunity to process those thoughts well before bedtime, ultimately improving your sleep quality.

Have a regular bedtime and wake time

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, including bedtime and wake time, all week long can significantly improve your sleep quality. A regular sleep routine helps your body establish a strong circadian rhythm, allowing you to sleep at the right time at night. Irregular sleep patterns, like going to bed and waking up at different times on weekdays versus weekends, can disrupt your sleep and make it harder to get back on track.

Increase your exercise levels

Exercise not only promotes overall health but also plays a direct role in improving your deep sleep at night. Increasing your physical activity levels can lead to deeper sleep, leaving you feeling refreshed upon waking and enhancing sleep continuity. It’s important to exercise during the daytime and avoid vigorous physical activity too close to bedtime, as evening workouts can sometimes interfere with sleep due to the release of endorphins and adrenaline.

Stop your caffeine intake at 2pm

Caffeine has a half-life of about 6 hours, meaning that half of the caffeine from your last cup of coffee remains in your system six hours later. It’s not just coffee and tea; caffeine is also found in chocolate, cola, and energy drinks. If you struggle with sleep, it’s advisable to limit your caffeine consumption and avoid caffeinated beverages after 2 PM to minimize its impact on your ability to fall asleep.

Night-time digital detox

Many people find themselves kept awake by their phones, with studies showing that 1 in 5 are affected. Switching off electronic devices, especially smartphones, an hour before bedtime can significantly improve sleep quality. Smartphones emit bright light, which tricks the brain into thinking it’s daytime and makes it difficult to transition into sleep mode. Instead of scrolling through your phone, try reading a book or meditating before bedtime to relax your mind.

Have a warm bath before bed

Taking a relaxing, warm bath before bedtime can help you unwind after a busy day and promote better sleep. The warmth of the bath raises your body temperature artificially, and when you step out, your body temperature naturally starts to drop. This decrease in temperature mimics the body’s natural process of cooling down as you fall asleep, making you feel sleepier and more relaxed.

Don’t lie in bed for long periods if you can’t sleep

If you’re having trouble falling asleep, lying still in bed and trying to force sleep can actually make matters worse. The longer you lie in bed, the more anxious you’re likely to become about not sleeping. Instead of tossing and turning, get out of bed and engage in a calming activity for a short while. Whether it’s reading a book or listening to soothing music, avoiding the temptation to reach for your phone can help you relax and ease back into sleep when you’re ready to try again.

It’s far more beneficial to get out of bed and engage in a different activity for a short while rather than lying in bed and struggling to sleep for hours. Instead, consider getting up and reading a chapter of a book before returning to bed and attempting to sleep again. It’s important to resist the temptation to reach for your phone, as the bright light emitted from screens can disrupt your sleep cycle.

Bring Dr Lindsay’s expertise and guidance to your institution. Inquire for more information today!

Are you seeking a solution to boost productivity among your team (students and staff)? It’s worth noting that 51% of individuals often feel tired, which may affect their task completion, meeting deadlines, and could increase the likelihood of experiencing anxiety, depression, and extreme fatigue.

If you’re interested in arranging an event or accessing an opportunity to consult with Dr Browning, feel free to reach out today to learn more about her unique expertise and how it can benefit your team.

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