Not being able to ‘snap your eyes shut’, waking up every 30 minutes and turning from side to side in bed are some of the signs that you are not getting adequate sleep. If you face these situations while sleeping and, in addition, feel rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, muscle spasms, difficulty breathing and intrusive thoughts, such as insecurity about the future and anticipation of negative events, activate the alarm signal.
Were you worried? The diagnosis could be nocturnal anxiety, as explained by the psychologist Monica Machado, founder of the Clínica Ame.C, in São Paulo. The disorder is triggered by high levels of stress generated during the day by professional and personal problems. At night, with the closure of activities, the mind receives less distracting stimuli and, consequently, there is room for worries.
A postgraduate in psychoanalysis and mental health at the Albert Einstein Hospital Teaching and Research Institute, the specialist says that the night time should be the time to relax and let the mind be less active. However, anxiety tends to be intense at night, especially in those who live with a thousand heads. “During the day worries are more avoidable because we actively use the brain”, guarantees the expert.
“In the morning and afternoon shifts, when we are busiest, thought is structured in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the region where the areas of judgment, planning and reason are located. When the organ relaxes, it turns to the emotions. As a result, anxious thoughts that were dormant during the day come to the surface,” psychologist Monica points out.
anxiety and sleep
According to the professional, anxiety is a normal and natural process that the body must protect itself from the dangerous situations it could go through. To stay alert, physiological changes arise in the body, for example sleep problems. “Lack of sleep appears precisely because of the state of alertness. If there’s really any risk, it won’t be the ideal time to fall asleep,” he argues.
Recovering from a sleepless night takes time, let alone suffering from sleep deprivation for several days due to anxious thoughts. There will be an accumulation of tiredness, not to mention that the activities begin to be carried out by hand, “which is not ideal”, guarantees the doctoral student in psychoanalysis: “This individual’s reasoning is compromised, as is the decision-making process” , points out.
Although it varies from person to person, the recommended sleep time is 8 hours, however some need a shorter break. So 6 hours might be ideal. In clarifying the time needed to rest, the psychologist made an addendum: “You should pay attention to the time to sleep. If possible, always choose the same time to help the body create a nap preparation routine. “The rest will be used better and the body will feel more invigorated,” she points out.
In an interview with the Claudia Meireles column, the mental health expert made a list of seven tactics for avoiding or coping with nighttime anxiety. Developed by Monica, the tips will help you calm your mind and, happily, get a good night’s sleep. To watch!
1. Don’t take your problems to bed
If you go to bed “running over your worries,” it will be nearly impossible to fall asleep, even if you’re exhausted, reflects the practitioner. “You end up forcing yourself to sleep, tossing and turning, watching the clock go by, and the only result is more anxiety. Before falling asleep, bet on books, calm music or light movies to distract your mind and drive away negative thoughts ”, he argues.
“If sleep doesn’t come, try to relax, don’t sleep. When you are calm, you will fall asleep more easily”, underlines the psychologist. She recommends practicing breathing exercises. “Breathe deeply. Direct your attention to the movement of the air that goes in and out. Slowly release it through your mouth and, with each breath, imagine a landscape or a mental image that conveys calm and serenity,” she guides.
3. Maintain your sleep routine
Sleeping at a different time each day tends to be a “strong trigger” for anxiety and insomnia, Monica explains: “Go to bed at the same time each day, no more than 30 minutes apart. Habit regulates the biological clock and the circadian rhythm, which are essential for the body to regulate sleep”.
4. Review training programs
Are you anxious and running away when it comes to working out? Here is the expert’s warning: “Practicing physical activity helps fight anxiety, as exercise releases hormones such as dopamine and endorphin, which generate a feeling of well-being”. But pay attention to the timing of your shirt, warns the founder of the Clínica Ame.C.
“Exercising late in the day can make the nervous system very active at night, making it impossible to sleep. For many people, working out at night generates so much relaxation that it even helps them sleep better. In others, engaging in activity during this time causes agitation. If you belong to the latter group, you prefer to move in the morning,” Monica Machado instructs.
5. Log out of screens and news
Before going to sleep, avoid using cell phones, tablets, laptops, and television. According to the psychologist, bright lights impair the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Social networks or news portals tend to trigger negative mental stimuli. As a result, there is an increase in anxiety which hinders the brain from shutting down.
6. Forget the numbers when you go to bed
Monica taught another valuable lesson to nocturnal anxiety: “If money is a major concern, never go to bed and pick up your cell phone to check your bank or credit card statements.” The professional adds: “You will not solve anything right now and will only fuel anxiety. If you need to organize your finances, let them do the math and budget review during the day.”
7. Make your bedroom a welcoming environment
The nicer the room and the bed, the easier it will be to rest. Factors such as a comfortable pillow, an ideal temperature, an environment free from light and noise can determine the quality of sleep. “Otherwise, you may wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to fall asleep again. It is worth remembering that sleeping well directly affects physical, mental and emotional stability, because during sleep the organism performs the main restorative functions of the body and mind,” she explains.
Anyone who has tried various tactics for a good sleep and has not been able to recover, it is worth calling a specialist. “If the condition is chronic, don’t hesitate to seek help as soon as possible,” suggests the psychologist.
“The first clue is that this person is undergoing a medical evaluation, to rule out any organic cause. Excluding this possibility, the individual must undergo psychological evaluations and therapies in order to treat the reasons for nocturnal disturbances”, concludes Monica.
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