Try incorporating some healthy sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques into your daily routine.

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Illustration by Ruth Basagoitia

Q: My anxiety and depression are keeping me from sleeping, but I don’t want to use any medications to help me sleep. What can I do instead?

Studies estimate that 10 to 18 percent of Americans struggle to get enough rest. Sleep deprivation can worsen symptoms of anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. On the flip side, getting more sleep can also improve your mental health.  

If this sounds like you, try incorporating some healthy sleep hygiene into your daily routine. Healthy sleep behaviors can include: 

  • limiting daytime caffeine intake
  • exercising during the day
  • banning electronics like smartphones and iPads from the bedroom, and 
  • keeping the temperature in your room between 60 and 67°F (15.5 and 19.4°F) 

In addition to practicing good sleep hygiene, psychiatrists recommend incorporating relaxation techniques, such as meditation, restorative yoga, and breathing exercises into your nighttime routine. These exercises help elicit the body’s relaxation response, which can calm down an overactive nervous system. 

And finally, it’s also a good idea to talk with a psychotherapist or other mental health professional about your anxiety. Anxiety-related insomnia can bring on newfound worries, such as the fear of not being able to fall asleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy exercises can teach you how to challenge these thoughts, which can make your anxiety more manageable.

Juli Fraga lives in San Francisco with her husband, daughter, and two cats. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Real Simple, the Washington Post, NPR, the Science of Us, the Lily, and Vice. As a psychologist, she loves writing about mental health and wellness. When she’s not working, she enjoys bargain shopping, reading, and listening to live music. You can find her on Twitter.