Scientists have found a direct link between anxiety and rhythm of sleep. When a person has anxious thoughts, their heart rate goes up and in turn the mind starts to ‘race’. This causes the brain to become alert and stimulated and start producing beta waves. This happens to someone who worries about something when they’re trying to get to sleep – instead of being calm and subdued; their brains are too aroused to sleep. And to make matters worse, once their brain is stimulated in this way, other worries are activated, making sleep even harder to achieve. As a pattern sets in, sleep becomes a thing of anxiety.
To overcome this various techniques can be used to stop these thoughts and calm the heart rate, cognitive behavioural therapy being one of them. This is a psychological treatment that helps people ‘unlearn’ the thought processes that block a good night’s sleep.
One way to manage and slow your heart rate is to place your hand on your heart and quiet yourself so that you can hear it beating. Then breathe in deeply and slowly for three or four –seconds, then breathe out for three or four seconds. Repeat this until you feel your heart rate slowing down. This will then slow the busy brain activity.
A technique to stop the worrying thoughts that cause your heart to race in the first place is to speak positive thoughts instead. Speaking overrides thinking and will stop the negative thoughts in their tracks. To explain how to do this, start thinking the alphabet in your head. When you reach ‘J’ start counting out loud.
What happened to the alphabet? You stopped thinking it in your head because your speaking overrode your thoughts. Do this when you start worrying about something when you’re trying to sleep. Instead of thinking ’the mortgage is due and I don’t have the money to pay it’, say aloud ‘I don’t know where it will come from but I’ll need to get creative to find the money for the mortgage and I will find it.’