Bedtime Ritual for Anxiety Sufferers

Posted by: Center for Growth Therapists

Bedtime Ritual for Anxiety Sufferers

Whether you are suffering from chronic anxiety or nervously anticipating an upcoming

event or circumstance, stress can interfere with our sleep cycles, affecting our ability to

catch those crucial Zzzz's. Instead of counting sheep, try these techniques to help create

a bedtime ritual to help relieve anxiety and ease you off to sleep.

Make a List

Anxiety always knows the most inconvenient times to creep up on you, and one of those

circumstances is while lying in bed. You are drifting off to sleep, when suddenly you

remember that you forgot to leave a note to remind yourself to grab the paperwork on

your desk to bring to the office, or to pack the kids extra snacks for their field trip. In order

to decrease these thoughts from entering your sleeping space, try to organize your day

ahead of time. The first thing in your bedtime ritual should be writing down your thoughts

for the following day. Take 5 or 10 minutes to sit down and plan out the next day. Where

will you be going? What do you need to remember to bring with you? As you are writing

down your list, imagine the thoughts flowing out of your brain through the pen, and

releasing onto the paper. Visualizing the words escaping your mind can help you

transition into relaxation.

Accomplish a Task

If you find yourself stressed or anxious about an upcoming event, or overwhelmed about the size

of your “To Do” list, sometimes it's helpful to get to get out of bed (even if it is 2 in the morning)

and simply do the work. When you have been able to make a check off of one task, suddenly that

list seems a lot smaller, while showing you that accomplishing what you need to finish becomes

less daunting. When you put off what needs to get done, anticipatory anxiety increased. By

completing tasks, you may find it easier to fall, and remain, asleep afterward. Sometimes it is best

to just to do the work, or at least complete one task as a part of your nightly routine.

Stretch out Your Muscles

While stretching relaxes your muscles, deep breathing relaxes your mind, so both are

essential and better if done together. Try watching a nighttime yoga video, listen to

relaxing music, or create your own stretching routine. Try not to do any rigorous exercise

too close to bedtime, since we are trying to create the opposite effect of calming, instead

of invigorating, your body. Adding some deep breathing to your routine focuses on freeing

your mind and extending the stretches and positions.

Breathing and Meditation

As you can see from your stretching exercises, deep breathing has a huge impact on

soothing your nerves. This can also be done while you are in bed to help you fall asleep.

A simple breathing exercise is to breathe in through your nose for 5 counts, hold the

breath for 7 counts, and release through your mouth for 8 counts. Make sure when you

breathe out that you are doing so fully to expel any breath leftover in your lungs. Try this

exercise for a few times as your very last step when you are already in bed.

Heat Therapy

Heat has been shown to have positive benefits towards relaxing your muscles. After you

have done your stretches, use a heated gel, heating pad, or hot towel (or compress), or

stones and set them on any sore muscles, specifically your neck and shoulders, which is

where most people hold tension. This would be another excellent time to utilize the

breathing exercise above to help relieve tension.


Aromatherapy comes in many forms and scents, each with its own benefits. To relieve

anxiety and stress try:

Chamomile- (drinking chamomile tea is also recommended)




Rose Geranium





Ylang Ylang

Use any of these scents by dispersing them into the air (with a pillow mist, an atomizer, or

a diffuser), mixing oils or salts in a bath, using a hot compress, or using a body lotion

infused with one of the aforementioned scents. This is another chance to do some deep

breathing to take in the scents and also create a calming effect.

This bedtime ritual is just one example of how to create a calming space to fall asleep.

When you figure out what ritual works best for you, remember that you have to regulate

the time and activities you choose and stick with it on a nightly basis as much as possible.

When you engage in certain activities only before going to sleep, your mind and body will

associate these activities with sleep, and thus will condition yourself to relax and ease into

a stress-free slumber.