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The mental toll of money worries can keep us awake at night. Dr Lindsay Browning explains how to cope.
We’ve all been there: you fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, only to find yourself lying awake staring at your ceiling and anxiously glancing at the clock every 10 minutes. “If I fall asleep now, I’ll get six hours of sleep,” you think. “But if I fall asleep now, I’ll get five and half...”
According to research by Mental Health UK, 1 in 5 people in the UK aren’t getting enough sleep and 25% of adults say their money worries are part of the problem. Long periods of bad sleep can affect your day-to-day, so if you notice it becoming an issue, it’s important to take the extra steps towards improvement.
We spoke to sleep expert Dr Lindsay Browning – a chartered psychologist and founder of Trouble Sleeping – to gather her top tips for a restful night.
“It’s even more important at times like this that you spend some time before bed winding down.”
- Dr Lindsay Browning, sleep expert
What to do during the day
It’s important to be mindful of how your activity during the day can impact your sleep pattern, and being active where possible is a great place to start.
“Any sort of exercise during the day can be helpful for improving your sleep – however, if you vigorously exercise very close to bedtime, you may find that you’re too alert and energised to fall asleep easily,” Dr Browning says. So if it gets to the evening and you feel the urge to exercise, try a gentle yoga workout.
Getting a bit of sunshine is also key.
“We want to increase bright light exposure to help our sleep,” she says. “This is important for our circadian rhythm – the internal process our body uses to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Make time to go outside to get fresh air and natural daylight during the day. This will help you feel alert and awake during the day, which will also help you to feel sleepy at night.”
Dr Browning also suggests taking time during the day to write down your specific worries and stresses. Then, close your notebook, get on with your day and tell yourself that you’ll think about it during your next designated ‘worry time’, but not right now.
“This is an excellent way of freeing up a busy mind when you’re in bed trying to sleep, or even at other times of the day when you find yourself with uncontrollable worrying thoughts,” she says.
What to do at night
“Trouble falling or staying asleep is perfectly normal when you’re feeling stressed and physically anxious due to adrenaline and a hormone called cortisol, which makes it harder to fall asleep,” says Dr Browning. “It’s even more important at times like this that you spend some time before bed winding down.”
Browning recommends reading a good book, having a relaxing bath or doing evening yoga. But anything you find enjoyable and relaxing in the lead-up to bedtime can work.
What you avoid is just as important. Caffeine and bright lights before bed are common red flags when struggling to sleep. When you’re exposed to bright light, it suppresses melatonin production, making sleep much harder.
It's a good idea to start reducing light exposure in the evening to help you get ready for bed by turning night mode on for electronic devices and dimming the lighting in your room.
What to do in bed
Do you find that once you get into bed you’re feeling much too anxious to sleep? Rather than lying in bed for a long time trying to force it, you might want to get up and do something else for a little while before going back to bed.
While you’re lying there, willing sleep to come – changing your focus can help, too.
“Counting sheep is the most commonly known distraction technique,” says Dr Browning. “However, it’s not as effective as others because you can be simultaneously counting sheep and also worrying about which bills you have to pay tomorrow.
“Instead, you could count backwards from 1,000 in sevens, which is trickier for your brain to work out. Another example is to imagine yourself in beautiful scenery whilst lying in bed, such as on a beach with a warm tropical breeze as you smell the salty sea air – this will distract your mind from the other worries.”
When to seek support
If you feel like your sleep problems are causing bigger issues in your daily life, it’s important to get professional advice. As a first port of call, a pharmacist may be able to help. Speak to your GP to check for any underlying health issues or see if you are able to access sleep-specific support from the NHS. This might include CBT-I, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia, which is treatment for serious sleep disorder.
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This content is for information purposes only and shouldn’t be regarded as financial advice. While we’ve taken every effort to make sure this information is as accurate as possible, it has not been independently verified.