Anxiety and sleep: Improving sleep quality

Ανησυχία και ύπνος

Anxiety and sleep: Improving sleep quality

Anxiety and sleep: Improving sleep quality 1792 1024 Paterakis Michalis
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
In this article you will learn to synchronize with your natural sleep cycles and develop a relaxing bedtime routine that will signal to your body that it is time to relax. You’ll also discover how to create an optimal sleep environment and use cognitive-behavioral strategies to calm your mind.


What is anxiety from a psychoanalytic perspective

From a psychoanalytic perspective, anxiety is often examined through unconscious processes and the interaction of various psychological dynamics. According to psychoanalytic theory, worry can be seen as a manifestation of underlying concerns rooted in the unconscious. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, suggested that anxiety can arise from unresolved conflicts and repressed thoughts or feelings.

These concerns may be linked to early childhood experiences or to unconscious fears related to fundamental aspects of human existence, such as mortality or personal inadequacy. Psychoanalytic exploration of anxiety involves penetrating the layers of the psyche to uncover hidden fears and conflicts, with the goal of bringing them to conscious awareness for better understanding and resolution.

By exploring the unconscious roots of worry, individuals undergoing therapy can gain insight into the origin of their worries, facilitating a deeper and more comprehensive approach to dealing with and alleviating worry.

Understanding anxiety

Anxiety is a pervasive and often intrusive emotion arising from a sense of tension and anxiety about future uncertainties. It manifests as a mental state characterized by persistent thoughts and worries, often revolving around possible negative outcomes or unpredictable challenges.

Anxiety can be triggered by a number of factors, such as impending deadlines, personal relationships, or external events beyond one’s control. This emotional reaction tends to be accompanied by physical sensations such as tension and a heightened state of alertness. While some degree of worry is a natural part of the human experience, excessive or chronic worry can lead to anxiety and negatively affect a person’s overall health.

Understanding sleep cycles

While trying to improve your sleep quality, it’s important to recognize that sleep occurs in cycles, including REM and non-REM stages, which greatly affect how restful your sleep is.

Your body goes through different stages of sleep each night, forming a complex sleep architecture that rejuvenates your mind and body. During the night, you go through non-REM sleep, which deepens from light drowsiness to deep sleep. This phase is critical for physical recovery.

However, REM sleep is vital for cognitive health, including memory consolidation and emotional processing. It is the balance between REM and non-REM sleep within these cycles that underpins truly restorative rest.

Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, and since you undergo multiple cycles per night, disruptions to this pattern can leave you feeling refreshed.

Establishing a sleep routine

How can you create a sleep routine that ensures restful sleep?

By creating a routine that signals your body to rest, you are taking an important step toward improving your sleep quality. Think of your bedtime routine as a nightly ritual to wind down and tell your brain it’s time to turn off.

Start by establishing a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same times every day, even on weekends, helps regulate your internal clock. This consistency is the key to falling asleep faster and waking up refreshed. Your schedule should allow for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, making sure you’re serving yourself.

Your bedtime routine might include turning off the lights, reading a book, or practicing relaxation techniques. Whatever you choose, make it a consistent prelude to sleep to boost your sleep hygiene. The goal is to create an environment and set of actions that will signal to your body that it’s time to relax.

Improving sleep environment

In addition to your nightly routine, improving your sleep environment by adjusting the temperature and lighting of the room can greatly improve its quality.

Keeping the bedroom temperature between 16 and 20 degrees creates an ideal environment conducive to sleep. Consider investing in blackout curtains to keep out any annoying light, ensuring your sleep isn’t interrupted by the sun or late-night street lamps.

Incorporating a steady sound environment helps your brain relax, making it easier to fall asleep.

A warm bath or shower before bed can relax your muscles and give your body the signal that it’s time to relax.

And remember, your sleeping habits are vital – a supportive mattress and pillow are essential, ensuring you wake up refreshed and rested.

Cognitive behavioral techniques

Adopting cognitive behavioral techniques can significantly transform the quality of your sleep. These strategies are especially powerful for those struggling with chronic insomnia, as they focus on modifying thoughts and behaviors that prevent sleep.

Start by doing muscle relaxation exercises, such as stretching and relaxing your toes, to ease physical tension. This simple act can prepare your body to fall asleep. Engage in relaxing activities before bed—perhaps a warm bath or shower—which act as a signal to your body that it’s time to relax.

Consistency is key. Make sure you stick to a regular schedule for going to bed and getting out of bed. This habit helps regulate your internal clock and improves your sleep over time. It’s also vital to manage your expectations about sleep duration. Don’t get caught up in the belief that you need to get eight hours of sleep every night. Such expectations can create anxiety and hinder your ability to sleep.

Mindfulness and relaxation

Moving on from cognitive behavioral strategies, you’ll find that incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques can further improve your sleep quality by calming the mind and preparing your body for rest.

Establish a rest period every night. During this time, engage in relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxation exercises. Start with your toes, stretching and relaxing them, and work your way up to your neck and shoulders. This practice not only soothes tight muscles but also signals to your body that it’s time to relax.

By focusing on the present moment through mindfulness, you can clear your mind of the worries of the day. Whether you’re taking a warm bath, reading a book, or engaging in gentle stretching, mindfulness encourages a state of calm that is conducive to the quality of your sleep. Finally, remember to create an environment that supports relaxation.

The role of nutrition

While you’re working on your sleep routine, don’t overlook the impact your diet can have on your sleep quality, as what you eat and when you eat it can greatly affect how well you get a good night’s rest.

For better sleep, it is important to consider the time and content of your last meal. Be sure to stop eating 2 to 3 hours before bed to give your body enough time to digest, reducing the chances of discomfort and acid reflux, which can interrupt a good night’s sleep.

Limit fatty and heavy foods in the evening, as they can make digestion more difficult, possibly leading to poor sleep. Also, remember that caffeine can rob you of sleep—avoid consuming it up to six hours before bed so it doesn’t keep you awake.

Adopting these habits isn’t just about promoting better sleep, it’s about serving your body’s needs and maintaining a balanced diet that supports your overall well-being.

Physical activity to improve sleep quality

You’ll find that incorporating regular exercise into your routine can greatly improve the quality of your sleep. Engaging in at least 10 minutes of aerobic activity every day isn’t just about staying fit—it’s also about taking care of your sleep health. Regular physical activity affects your body in ways that contribute to better sleep. It helps regulate hormones and reduce stress which often gets in the way.

Whether you opt for a brisk morning jog or an evening yoga session, these exercises aren’t just good for your physical health—they’re an investment in the quality of your sleep.

Aiming for vigorous or moderate exercise at least five times a week can be transformative. The issue is not only the quantity of sleep but also the quality. When you make physical activity a consistent part of your life, you set the stage for better sleep patterns.

Seek professional support to improve sleep quality

If your sleep difficulties persist, seeking professional support from a qualified psychotherapist can offer personalized solutions to improve your sleep. Dealing with chronic sleep problems can be a complicated journey, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Psychologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders that may undermine sleep quality.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is one such treatment that can help you. This approach helps you to confront and modify the thoughts and behaviors that prevent you from sleeping well.

If necessary, your healthcare provider may also discuss medication options with you. However, medication is usually considered after other treatments have been considered. Remember, prioritizing your sleep isn’t a luxury—it’s a fundamental aspect of your health and your ability to effectively care for others.

Don’t hesitate to seek professional support if your efforts to improve sleep aren’t yielding the desired results.

Contact the psychologist psychotherapist

The psychotherapist acts as an ally, offering a confidential space where one can openly explore one’s fears, concerns and insecurities. In this journey, a psychotherapist provides invaluable tools and knowledge, promoting self-awareness and personal growth. Seeking the support of a psychotherapist is an empowering act of self-care, a commitment to a deeper understanding of ourselves, and a courageous step toward building resilience in the face of life’s challenges.

If you find yourself in the throes of persistent worry, anxiety, or emotional turmoil and insomnia, consider reaching out to a psychotherapist – a dedicated partner on the path to emotional well-being and a more fulfilling life. Your mental health matters, and the journey to healing begins with a single decision. Take that step today.

*Republication of the article is prohibited without the written permission of the author.

The process of psychotherapy requires commitment, dedication and is addressed only to those who seriously see that they need to change their lives. If you are thinking of starting this journey, call me at 211 71 51 801 to make an appointment and see together how I can help you.

Mixalis Paterakis

Psychologist Psychotherapist

Karneadou 37, Kolonaki

I accept By appointment

Tel: 211 7151 801



    Πατεράκης Μιχάλης
    Ψυχολόγος Αθήνα


      Psychologist Athens