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Managing sleep anxiety

20 March, 2020
Sleep anxiety

Sleep anxiety in Australia

Sleep anxiety can do more than ruin your morning or make a third coffee an inevitability – it can have severe consequences on your health and wellbeing.

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, sleeping problems in Australia are common and affect between 33-45% of adults across all age groups. They directly cost the healthcare system upwards of $800 million and indirectly cost $4.3 billion in lost productivity, absenteeism, and expenses surrounding car accidents. At the milder end of the consequence spectrum, 17% of people have missed work due to sleeping issues and 17% have actively fallen asleep on the job. The more serious end of this spectrum is shocking, with 29% of people reporting to have driven while drowsy, 20% having fallen asleep while driving, and 5% being involved in accidents after falling asleep at the wheel.

Most adults need around eight hours of sleep each night and children and teenagers will need even more than this. If you’re not getting close to eight hours each night, here’s what you need to know to ensure you get a good night’s rest.

Exercise can help you sleep

Exercise promotes sleep in two ways – firstly, it’s tiring. The combination of ‘damaged’ muscles and resource consumption means that your body needs to rest to recover, encouraging drowsiness and eventual sleep. Secondly, exercise has been shown to help manage anxiety and depression.

Keep in mind that exercise primes your body for action, and so it can take a while for all the physiological changes to subside. Try to finish your exercise at least an hour before you go to bed.

Obesity is linked to poorer sleep

Those with obesity report sleeping longer hours, but the quality of this rest is less than the non-obese. Whether obesity is the symptom of a different problem, like depression, anxiety or living circumstances, addressing obesity can have a beneficial overall effect.

Making small changes to diet, like swapping processed foods for fruit and veges, and getting in half an hour to an hour of intense exercise per day, can help address obesity and any other factors that might be related.

Caffeine can affect your sleep

When taken in low to moderate doses, caffeine can help us to feel alert and improve our concentration and problem-solving skills. Caffeine also blocks the chemicals in the brain that promote sleep and while this feels great in the morning, it means that it makes it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine’s effects on sleep quality than others. Generally, it’s a good idea to avoid caffeine close to bedtime to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Try not to watch screens in bed

If your room doubles as your recreational space, you might want to think about getting more use out of your living room. Your body and mind adjust to your environment, meaning that your brain might see your bed as the place to watch tv, play games or look at your phone. The closer the association between bed and sleep, the more likely you'll be able to nod off when you hit the covers.

Schedule sleep and relaxation

Having a bedtime ritual can be extremely beneficial. It might involve a comforting drink and a book, or meditation, or a stretch – whatever it is, getting yourself into a routine can help to prepare your body for sleep.

You also might like to try:

  • relaxing music
  • natural sounds like rain
  • practicing mindfulness
  • a daily journal

Where to get help

If your sleeping problems have been negatively impacting your life for some time, it might be time to see your doctor. If there is an underlying cause for your sleeping problems, they can help to diagnose it. They can also suggest strategies, methods, or medication depending on your needs and refer you to a sleep specialist or mental health professional.

If you feel like you need mental health support now, you can contact one of the following services:  


All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.


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