Sleep, Anxiety and Insomnia: How to Sleep Better when You're Anxious

It can be hard to fall asleep when you’re anxious, and insomnia can make anxiety worse.
But you can train your brain to worry less and to sleep better when you’re anxious by using the skill of Deliberate Worry.
In this video, I’m going to talk about how worry and anxiety can make it hard to fall asleep, and I’ll teach you how to train your brain to stop worrying at night.
Now Our brains and bodies are naturally good at sleeping, they like to sleep, so if we’re not sleeping then it’s often because we’ve developed some habitual way of keeping our brain turned on, we’ve gotten in the way of our sleep response.

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Having a consistent routine before bed, like wearing a sleep mask or doing other sleep hygiene routines, can help your brain start to turn on the sleep hormones (like melatonin) and that’s because our brain likes to make paired associations. Bedtime Routine- feel sleepy. I go into a lot more detail about this in my video on Triggers. So just like when you watch an ad with a delicious hamburger, your mouth may start to water. What we do right before we sleep can help our brain turn on that sleep response.

One thing that often happens with insomnia is that people have developed the habit of thinking through their day when they lay down. When you do this repeatedly, instead of associating your bed with sleepy time, your brain associates bed with worry time. We’ve practiced it over and over and now the brain thinks- “Laying down? Let’s get to work”. We develop a trained response, we’ve taught our brain through habit that the time to worry is bedtime. But good news, your brain is built to re-wire itself, it’s built to pair and un-pair these associations. So all we have to do is retrain our brain to associate the bed with sleeping.

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Therapy in a Nutshell, and the information provided by Emma McAdam, is solely intended for informational and entertainment purposes and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment regarding medical or mental health conditions. Although Emma McAdam is a licensed marriage and family therapist, the views expressed on this site or any related content should not be taken for medical or psychiatric advice. Always consult your physician before making any decisions related to your physical or mental health.

If you are in crisis please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: or 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or your local emergency services.
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