How to prevent election anxiety from ruining your sleep

Woman in bed checking smartphone
Woman in bed checking smartphone

Millions of Britons will head to their polling stations to vote in the general election today (Thursday 4 July), after six weeks of hearing from candidates in campaigns and debates throughout the country.

On top of choosing who to vote for, Brits will have to remember to bring their photo ID in order to vote. Polling stations close at 10pm BST, and the exit poll will be published, signalling who the new government will be.

The results of the general election are highly anticipated, and could mark a significant change in the UK from the last 14 years. So for many people, sleep may be difficult to come by as we eagerly await to find out who has won.

In fact, the past six weeks of intense political coverage and attention-grabbing statements from candidates trying to turn your head may have left you tossing and turning in bed.

Sleep expert Martin Seeley at MattressNextDay explains just how the election period is affecting your sleep, and provides tips on how to prevent anxiety over the election from keeping you up at night.

Starting the day off badly

According to Seeley, your sleep may be affected from the moment you wake up if bad news is on the agenda.

“Watching and reading the news first thing in the morning can set a bad tone for your entire day. Political coverage is often intense, highlighting conflict and uncertainty that can spike your stress levels; this heightened stress can linger on the backburner of your mind all day, making it harder to wind down when it comes to bed time, affecting the quality of your sleep.”

Late night debates

Handsome young man sits on the couch at evening at home, watching a movie on TV
Staying up late to watch political debates over the last six weeks may have messed with your sleep. (Getty Images)

Over the past six weeks, politicians have been debating key issues on the television in the late hours of the night. This may contribute to your mind buzzing with their words as you attempt to drift off to sleep.

“Election season often means staying up later than usual to watch the debates; while 10pm might not quite past your bedtime, you might find yourself awake for longer, analysing the discussions, reading tweets about what was said, or getting worked up about things they said that you don’t agree with. The blue light from the screens can also suppress melatonin productions, which makes it harder to fall asleep once the debates are over.”

Overstimulation and conflict

“Engaging in heated political debates – whether it’s in the comment section on social media, or with your family over dinner – can leave you feeling emotionally charged and overstimulated. This adrenaline rush can make it difficult to wind down and move into a more restful state of mind, delaying you falling asleep.”

Doomscrolling before bed

A man is lying in bed in total darkness looking at his smart phone. Lifestyle concept
Scrolling through social media before bed may be a bad idea. (Getty Images)

Many of us are guilty of scrolling endlessly through social media right before bed. During election season, this may mean you’re being exposed to pages and pages of negative news, Seeley says.

“Not only are you risking melatonin suppression from the light on your phone, but you’re also raising your anxiety and stress levels. This can make it more difficult to fall asleep, but you’re also less likely to experience deep sleep, and might find yourself waking up throughout the night.”

Uncertainty and anxiety

As we sit and wait in anticipation for the results of the general election, many people may feel a “lingering sense of anxiety that stays with you, even if you try your best to stick to your usual sleep routine”.

“This can elevate cortisol levels, which interferes with falling and staying asleep, and can stop you from getting the deep, restorative sleep that your body needs.”

A vicious cycle

Not getting enough sleep can worsen anxiety, and anxiety can make it harder to fall asleep - which may leave you trapped in a cycle of insomnia.

Seeley warns that you may also find yourself relying on caffeine to stay awake during the day, but this makes it more difficult to fall asleep.

Mature woman in depression laying in bed covered with blanket. Melancholy mood, mental health, menopause Life problem. Insomnia and psychological issues.
While anxiety and uncertainty may be terrible bedfellows, there are ways you can switch off and get to sleep. (Getty Images)

Start your day with a calming routine: Avoid checking your phone or reading the news for a few hours after you wake up, to start the day off in a more positive way than getting immediately stressed about the news.

Give yourself a digital curfew: Stop scrolling through social media for at least an hour or two before bed, whether you’re reading about the election or not. Set yourself a strict bedtime and stick to it, not allowing yourself to read “just a few more tweets”.

Try some mindfulness techniques throughout the day: Practice some deep breathing exercises that you can use during the day to help with stress and anxiety levels, not just at night time.

Develop a relaxing pre-sleep routine: Gentle exercise like yoga before bed can also help regulate cortisol levels and help you fall asleep – and stay asleep. Run yourself a bath, light some candles, or try a journaling ‘brain dump’, where you can scribble down all your thoughts to help clear your mind and stop them racing through your head as you’re trying to drift off.

Try the 10-3-2-1-0 method: Stop drinking caffeine 10 hours before you go to bed, as it takes 10 hours for caffeine to leave your bloodstream. Wait 3 hours before going to bed after eating a big meal and drinking alcohol. Finish work and other stimulating tasks 2 hours before sleep, to allow your mind to relax and wind down – which includes looking at anything election-related! Turn off screens 1 hour before bed, to stop the blue light affecting melatonin production.

Read more about the 2024 General Election: