Does this ever happen to you? You’re all ready to go to sleep, but the moment your head hits the pillow, your mind starts racing—running through the day’s events from that upsetting email you received at 6 p.m. to that seemingly harmless comment your friend made about your work. Anxious thoughts have a way of creeping in at precisely the worst time. Bedtime should be a relaxing opportunity to unwind from the day, but when your mind has other plans, it can feel downright impossible to shut out the loop of anxious thoughts. We talked to health and wellness expert Dr. Frank Lipman about how to silence a nighttime anxiety and finally get to sleep.
Scroll through for his expert tips.
Sometimes your mind races because your body isn’t fully ready to power down for the night. To prepare both your body and your mind to unwind, Dr. Lipman suggests restorative yoga. Choose a pose like Legs up the Wall to reap all of the healing and calming effects of yoga without exerting a lot of energy. Simply lie on your back, legs extended straight up against the wall. Your arms can be extended overhead or placed wherever they feel comfortable. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for a few minutes.
Taken about 30 minutes to an hour before bed, herbs and supplements can have a gentle calming effect on your mind. “Magnesium (300 to 600 mg) is a wonderful calming mineral and can help induce sleep,” Dr. Lipman says. “Also helpful are the amino acids L-theanine (100 to 500 mg), 5-HTP (50 to 100 mg), taurine, and GABA, or herbs like lemon balm, passionflower, chamomile, magnolia, and valerian root taken per package instructions.” Try Be Well by Dr. Frank Lipman’s Sleep Formula ($44) to get seven of these nutrients in one capsule.
It’s difficult to turn off ruminating thoughts when you’re wired on caffeine. If you can’t cut out caffeine entirely, Dr. Lipman recommends switching to yerba mate or matcha green tea, which tend to give a gentler buzz than coffee. “If it’s just a warm drink that you like, then you can switch to herbal tea or hot water with lemon,” Dr. Lipman says. “And remember that caffeine has a half-life of seven hours, so definitely steer clear of caffeine in the afternoon if you want to get a good night’s sleep.”
And cut yourself off from electronics in the evenings, too. “Even in seemingly innocuous doses, light can stop your melatonin levels from rising—which is essential to induce sleep and help you achieve the deep, restorative rest your body needs,” Dr. Lipman says. Heading to bed in an environment that’s conducive to rest can make all the difference.
When you feel those anxious thoughts starting to swell, breathe through it. Dr. Lipman has his patients employ the 4-7-8 breathing trick to calm down the entire nervous system in less than a minute. Here’s what you do:
1. Place the tip of your tongue where the backs of your top teeth meet the roof of your mouth.
2. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing or sighing sound.
3. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for four counts.
4. Hold your breath for seven counts.
5. Exhale through your mouth for eight counts.
6. Repeat the cycle four times.
Use this technique when end-of-the-night anxiety kicks in and whenever something stressful happens. Consider it a natural tranquilizer when internal tensions start to rise.
How do you deal with anxiety? Tell us your best solutions in the comments!