How to overcome sleeplessness and anxiety?

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Answered by: Tim, An Expert in the Treatments for Sleep Disorders Category
You were living your life facing typical daily stress. Maybe you felt a bit more impatient and your resolve slightly eroded. You've noticed your mind to be more restless filled with some automatic background chatter. All of this was manageable and viewed as being life.

But one night you find yourself awake in bed at an hour that is not anywhere near your normal waking time. You shrug it off, close your eyes, and try to fall back to sleep but something is wrong. Your mind is not restful and consciously you become aware of this cacophony of mental chatter. You’ve had a racing mind before but something feels very different this time: the thoughts, aside from being rapid and constant, feel stained with a quality that makes dark and full of despair.



You toss and turn in hopes that sleeping position may calm your mind, with no luck. Maybe the couch will offer some relief or the back bedroom. The source of this unrest is not something that can be left in the previous room. You’re awake and will be awake for the rest of the night. The next night and those to follow playout the same way.

Here is where many of us find ourselves at some point. We probably had clues that something was wrong prior to our sleep being so greatly disrupted, but we waived them off as simply being the normal course of life. Stressful situations present us with an opportunity of response. In normal little annoyances we can react one way or another. A neighbor's dog that barks too much, a coworker that talks too excessively or too loudly, that guy in the BMW who didn’t think turn signals were for him. Our reactions to moments like this build up. We may feel justified in harboring or expressing anger but we know that's not our only choice. We probably all know people who are very gracious and not personally offended in those same situations.



If that anger and frustration only impacted how we react at that moment then it wouldn’t be much of an issue. But it doesn’t stay there, it triggers a cascade of events in our bodies geared towards fighting or fleeing stressful situations. Activate that system too often and eventually it will go on override. Then the problem becomes bigger than just the isolated offending incident. A calm mind starts to feel more on edge. It’s understandable how this would hinder sleep.

When this problem first surfaces you may give it a few days to see if it works itself out; but for many that just doesn’t happen. Added to the minds that were already humming with restless activity is now the fear that goes along with the lack of sleep: “Why can’t I sleep?”; “How do I calm my mind down when it seems to have a life of its own now?”; “Will I be able to keep my job?”. These only serve to further charge the mind with restless and fearful thoughts.

In order to clear away these obstacles of sleeplessness and anxiety you’ll first need to do what you did not do initially. When you were presented with those little opportunities in those stressful situations you chose the path of anger, frustration, and resentment. You could have been accepting that some things won't suit your liking. Maybe the dog is too loud; maybe your coworker should be more considerate; maybe that driver should use the turn signal; but so what? Move on with your life and don’t let such trivial things beset you so easily. There are things to focus on aside from those that upset you. In time those nuisances that lord over your life will slip unnoticed into the background giving you a larger life.

This is what needs to be done now: accept that things are not going the way you’d prefer. Accept the mental churning of negative thoughts that are full of despair. Short circuit the fight and flight response by starting to care less. When you lay down at night and you find your body tense with nervous energy and your mind flowing with hopeless thoughts dispassionately respond with a “So what. Whatever sleep I get is what I get and I’m done making this a bigger issue than it needs to be.” When your thoughts start to churn let them churn. Let your body tense up, your mind race, and offer no more resistance. What goes for your daily interactions in stressful situations will also be your mode of conduct with your mind and body at night. It took some time to bring you to this state of sleeplessness and anxiety, it might take some time to bring you out. The journey will be worth more than the cost you pay.

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