Is alarm anxiety ruining your sleep? Here's how to fix it
For poor sleepers, beating alarm anxiety isn't going to happen overnight, but it will get better if you focus on good sleeping habits, like the ones listed ahead.
Your alarm is set, and it's time to sleep. You have a busy day ahead. But no matter how hard you try to sleep peacefully, you're tossing, turning, and checking the time throughout the night. Typically, the anxiety you feel throughout the night relates more to the stress of not getting enough sleep before your alarm goes off, and it manifests from knowing the impact that your lack of quality sleep will have on you, says Dr Prashant Deb, a Mumbai-based sleep consultant. "You can't sleep, which stresses you out so much you can't sleep — it's a cycle," he says.
Be a "good sleeper" and you'll beat alarm anxiety. Never has more unhelpful advice been given to problem sleepers, but the literature is true. According to Dr Deb, good sleepers are less likely to suffer from alarm anxiety because they aren't worried about being able to drift off to sleep. For poor sleepers, beating alarm anxiety isn't going to happen overnight, he says, but "it will get better if you focus on good sleeping habits."
Hide the time
This is a suggestion that's stressful for those who spend hours staring at the clock waiting to fall asleep, but Mumbai-based clinical psychologist, Dr Shilpa Aggarwal, maintains that not looking at your clock from the bed is important. "Either turn it away from you, or have your phone on airplane mode, and out of easy reach. The idea behind having no concept of time, when you're tossing and turning, stops the anxiety that breeds when the clock is telling you your alarm is about to go off," she explains. Have you ever wondered why your alarm is called an "alarm"? It's not a trick question. Dr Deb explains that it forces you into an "alarmed" state when it shocks you awake each morning, releasing a big rush of stress hormones to start your day.
Feeling stressed and anxious doesn't make for sound sleeping. Dr Aggarwal, therefore, suggests minimising stress and anxiety during the day. "The less stress and anxiety we have during the day, the less stress hormones we have in our bodies when we go to sleep at night, which gives us a better quality and quantity of sleep," she says. Dr Aggarwal also makes a case for being mindful of our daily moods. Laughing more and generally enjoying each day helps to produce the happy hormone, serotonin, which turns to melatonin — the hormone that regulates sleep — at night.
If you find you're in the midst of alarm anxiety, you have to make an effort to take things a little easy. Better still, Dr Aggarwal recommends deep relaxation. "Slow your breathing and focus on deep belly breaths to calm your nervous system and get back to sleep. If your mind is racing, smiling helps to shift to happier thoughts," she suggests.
Change your alarm
Think soft, calm and soothing alarm tones to gently nudge awake. "A harsh alarm will send a surge of stress hormones through your body. If you haven't slept well, it just makes the whole situation worse, especially if the alarm goes off during deep sleep," says Dr Deb.