How to Sleep Despite Feelings of Worry and Anxiety

As the world shelters in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, feelings of anxiety and worry can impact sleep. Sleep can be disrupted when stressful events like illness and job losses happen. Additionally, we can’t count on the same schedule of getting up and going to work or taking the kids to school.

Further complicating matters is the fact that we aren’t getting the same external stimulation we did as we’re not going outside or seeing people as much, so experts believe the brain is reaching back into its archives of memories and producing some oddly vivid dreams being referred to as COVID dreams. People are remembering their dreams more.

“We know that dreams are where we tend to process some of our intense emotions, often negative ones,” Dr. Mia Wise said. “We’re living through a time of angst and uncertainty and that can contribute to our dreams.”

We can’t promise to take your anxiety away or make your dreams more pleasant, but there are some proven ways to improve sleep quality.

Getting to Sleep

Dr. Wise shares some science-backed sleep hygiene guidelines for falling asleep and getting back to sleep after a 2 a.m. bout of insomnia.

Relaxation Routine

Take some time to wind down at the end of the day. This means avoiding stressors and goal-oriented tasks. It may not be the time to watch the news, start an intense conversation with your spouse, or kick off a new hobby. Instead do quiet activities like reading or meditating.

“I like to tidy up my kitchen and wipe down my counters, and put my kitchen to bed,” Wise said of her own nightly routine.

Throughout the Day

Falling asleep can depend on what you did during the waking hours. A workout or a nice 20 to 30-minute walk each day can help with sleep quality and quantity. Stop drinking caffeine at lunch time and avoid alcohol before bed if you have trouble sleeping.

Slow a Racing Mind

“It’s really hard to tell the mind just to stop,” Wise said.

Some tricks can help such as meditation, journaling about worries or writing down things you need to remember for later. She also recommends giving the mind a boring tasks, like counting backwards or reciting song lyrics in your head.

“Gently bring your mind back to the boring task,” Wise said.

Before you see a specialist about insomnia, Wise suggests following these easy tips.

“Be patient with yourself,” she added. “It doesn’t happen in one night. It’s a process.”

If you still see no progress, talk to your primary care provider who can help or refer you to a specialist.

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Candace Nelson

In the mountains or water debate, Candace Nelson, MS, CN chooses water every time. She is a licensed nutritionist and loves taking any fitness class that makes her forget she's working out. Read more at

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