Your alarm is set, your serums are on, and it's time to sleep. You're a busy person with a busy day ahead. But no matter how hard you try to sleep peacefully — and trust your alarm will do its goddamn job — you're tossing, turning, and checking the time throughout the night. We'd like to call this familiar panic "alarm anxiety" — it's a thing, and it's ruining your life.
Typically, the anxiety you feel throughout the night relates more to the stress of not getting enough sleep before your alarm goes off, and if you're a sufferer, you're not alone — one-third of the Western world shares your pain. Master Sleep Coach Elina Winnel admits it manifests from knowing the impact that our lack of quality sleep will have on us. You can't sleep, which stresses you out so much that you can't sleep — oh, the cycle.
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 Elina, good sleepers are less likely to suffer from alarm anxiety (they probably never get sick, wake up with voluminous, tangle-free hair, and have amazing skin too — annoying) because they aren't worried about being able to drift off to sleep. For sh*tty sleepers, disclaimer: beating alarm anxiety isn't going to happen overnight, but it will get better if you focus on good sleeping habits.
Hide the Time!
A suggestion that's stressful for those who spend hours staring at the clock waiting to fall asleep, but Elina maintains that not seeing your clock from bed is important. "Either turn it away from you, or have your phone on airplane mode and out of easy reach," Elina said. 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 you've got less than an hour before your alarm goes off!
Have you even wondered why your alarm is called an "alarm"? (It's not a trick question.) Master Sleep Coach Elina Winnel 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, which is never ideal.
Feeling stressed and anxious during the day doesn't make for sound sleeping. Elina suggests minimizing 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," Elina said. She 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've gotta chill. Better still, Elina 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.
Change Your Alarm
Think soft, calm, and soothing sounds to gently nudge awake (NOT that obnoxious quacking duck sound!). "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," Elina said.