“A lack of sleep has triggered my night-time panic attacks again so I’m fearing I’ve regressed massively,” the Happy Place creator said.
Fearne Cotton has always made a point of speaking frankly about her own struggles with mental wellness. Now, in a series of Instagram posts, the presenter has opened up about the realities of living with night-time anxiety.
According to Anxiety UK, around 80% of people say their worries become out of control at night, and Cotton – who has focused her attention on becoming a wellness ambassador for fans via the brilliant Happy Place initiative – has found herself plagued by late-night panic attacks of late.
“It is almost impossible to get sleep in our house at the moment so everything feels slightly edgy and out of focus,” Cotton explained, alongside a black-and-white photograph of her husband, Jesse Wood.
“The lack of sleep has triggered my night time panic attacks again so I’m fearing I’ve regressed massively which is disheartening.”
A lack of sleep, as all too many of us will be aware, can make us feel less able to rationalise worries or irrational thoughts. As such, it can trigger negative thoughts, anxiety and depression – which, in turn, can make it more difficult for us to sleep.
As Mind UK puts it on their website: “Poor sleep leads to worrying. Worrying leads to poor sleep. Worrying about sleep is like your mind trying to fight itself. That’s a horrible place to be.”
In order to protect her mental health during this time, Cotton has been focusing on small and attainable goals, the first of which has been to create a sleep sanctuary for herself, and keep to regular bedtimes whenever she can – a decision which her family has supported wholeheartedly.
“[My husband] has been so bloody lovely by letting me sleep in my stepson’s room when he’s not in, so I can catch up,” she said. “I feel very lucky to have such a brilliant human in my life who I know I can lean on.”
Cotton has also – as per Mind UK’s advice – made a point of exercising outdoors each day.
Studies have repeatedly shown that physical activity, even if it’s a gentle walk, makes you more physically tired at the end of each day. And sunlight isn’t only full of vitamin D (a great natural mood enhancer): it frequently helps your circadian rhythms recalibrate and get back into a rhythm, too.
Sharing a post-run selfie, Cotton wrote: “Blue skies, glittery icy floor, red nose kind of run. Had a real mental breakthrough last night with something that’s been plaguing me. Feeling so much lighter! As Brené Brown says, ‘lean in and stay curious’ – it’s the perfect way to deal with life’s ups and downs and to stay open and explorative.”
Perhaps most important of all, though, is the fact that Cotton has made a point of being kind to herself at this time.
Indeed, she even shared a self-love mantra on her Instagram feed, writing: “I love and approve of myself. I rejoice in who I am, and it’s ok to express myself.
“I am enough.”
If you feel a bit sceptical about the benefits of mindfully repeating mantras to yourself, you may benefit from knowing that research backs them up. Indeed, as reported by Medical News Today, such mindful exercises in self-compassion have been proven to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase heart rate variability, which is your body’s physiological ability to deal with stressful situations.
As researchers point out: “Simply asking the question is itself an exercise in self-compassion – the cultivation of good will toward oneself… as such, self-kindness] is more important than becoming a good meditator.”
If you, like Cotton, have found yourself experiencing sleeplessness and night-time anxiety, it’s worth reading Dr Nerina Ramlakhan’s top 10 mechanisms to ensure a good night’s sleep… even when the Sunday night blues hit home.