Get Your Worries On Paper
Calming an already-stirred up mind can be challenging, so also implement some calming practices before you even get into bed.
Dr. Whitney Roban, a clinical psychologist and family sleep specialists number one piece of advice for people suffering from night-time anxiety is to keep a journal where you can write down all those clingy thoughts.
When you get these thoughts out of your head and onto paper, there is a good chance they will not infiltrate your mind when its actually time to go to sleep, Dr. Roban says. Many people also like to make lists in their journal of the things they need to do the next day.
Stress Relief Techniques To The Rescue
Activities that switch on the bodys natural relaxation response feel great, Buenaver says. And they have been proven by research to improve sleep. They help by reducing the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and by slowing your heart rate and breathing. Your body and mind calm down.
Yoga, tai chi and meditation are helpful stress relief techniques. So are these two simple exercises that Buenaver recommends to patients who are struggling with sleepless nights.
- In a quiet place, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. It may help to close your eyes.
- Breathe slowly in and out for about five minutes. As you inhale, breathe down into your belly. Focus on your breath.
- If youd like, repeat to yourself, Breathing in I am calm, breathing out I am coping.
Progressive muscle relaxation:
- In a quiet place, sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Take a few gentle breaths, in and out.
- Begin tensing groups of muscles one at a time as you breathe. Hold the tension as you inhale, then release it as you exhale. Take a few breaths as you notice how relaxed each muscle group feels.
- Start with the muscles in your head, neck and face. Move down to your shoulders, hands and arms, back, stomach, buttocks, thighs, calves and feet.
- Repeat for any areas that are still tense.
As you go through this exercise, feel the presence and absence of tension so you can spot lingering tension and do something about it, Buenaver says.
Spend Time With Your Pet
Having a pet may help reduce stress and improve your mood.
When you cuddle or touch your pet, your body releases oxytocin a hormone thats linked to positive mood .
Plus, studies show that pet owners especially those who have dogs tend to have greater life satisfaction, better self-esteem, reduced levels of loneliness and anxiety, and more positive moods .
Having a pet may also help relieve stress by giving you purpose, keeping you active, and providing companionship.
Although stress is an unavoidable part of life, being chronically stressed takes a toll on your physical and mental health.
Fortunately, several evidence-based strategies can help you reduce stress and improve your overall psychological well-being.
Exercise, mindfulness, spending time with a pet, minimizing screen time, and getting outside more often are all effective methods.
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Try Richie Bostock’s Ladder Breathing Technique To Help Calm Sleep Anxiety
In this breath, you progressively increase the length of your inhales and exhales, concentrating on what it feels like to change the rhythm of your breathing as your nervous system is slowly calmed. This slow breathing promotes parasympathetic activity, while the change in counts keeps the mind occupied.
- To be performed while lying in bed.
- Inhale slowly and gently through your nose for a count of 4 seconds.
- Exhale slowly and gently through your nose for a count of 4 seconds.
- Next, inhale for a count of 5 seconds, then exhale for a count of 5 seconds.
- Keep increasing the length of your inhales and exhales until you get to 10 seconds in and 10 seconds out.
- Once you reach 10 seconds, you can either continue to breath at this pace, keep increasing the length of your inhales and exhales, or even go up and down the ladder. You can do whatever feels most pleasurable to you! If you choose to come back down, I wouldnt go back any lower than 6 seconds per inhale and exhale.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Anxiety
When you cant sleep due to anxiety, you may experience behavioral changes, including:
- Feelings of being overwhelmed.
Some people also have nocturnal panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden, intense burst of extreme fear. Nocturnal panic attacks only happen at night, and often wake you from sleep.
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What Happens When Anxiety Interrupts Sleep
When anxiety causes inadequate sleep, it can go beyond the tiredness of a regular all-nighter. Poinsett says that anxiety can be a trigger for sleep deprivation, creating a vicious cycle that can further affect your sleep pattern.
While the impact of sleep anxiety is largely individual, some common effects of sleep anxiety include:
- Negatively impacts your mood
- Increases chance of depression
- Reduces cognitive reaction times
A small study even found that those who have insomnia are four times more likely to develop depression.
In addition to mental health issues, those with sleep disorders can be at risk for other health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.
If You Cant Fall Asleep Get Out Of Bed
This may sound counterintuitive, but if you find yourself lying awake at night, get out of bed. Sleep experts say that the longer you stay in bed tossing and turning, the more you train your body that your bed is a place to lie awake. And sleeplessness is not something you want to reinforce.
If you cant fall asleep for 15 to 20 minutes after hitting the hay, get out of bed and do another activity preferably something boring or relaxing. Remember to avoid screens. You might complete a Sudoku or a crossword puzzle, listen to music, or read a low-intensity book. Dont do anything very active, like exercise. And avoid any food or drink that isnt water.
After around 20 minutes, return to bed and fall asleep again. You can try doing a progressive muscle relaxation exercise while youre in bed to help your body along.
If you still cant fall asleep after another 15 minutes, get out of bed again and repeat. In this way, youll retrain your body and mind that your bed is a place for sleep.
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Tips For Beating Anxiety To Get A Better Nights Sleep
Many people with anxiety disorders have trouble sleeping. That’s a problem. Too little sleep affects mood, contributing to irritability and sometimes depression. Vital functions occur during different stages of sleep that leave you feeling rested and energized or help you learn and forge memories. Sleep usually improves when an anxiety disorder is treated. Practicing good “sleep hygiene” helps, too. Here are some steps to take:
For additional tips and strategies for living with anxiety, buy Coping with Anxiety and Stress Disorders, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
How To Calm Anxiety At Night: 14 Tips For Sleeping Better With Anxiety
Many people with anxiety have experienced this scenario:
Youre finally done with a long day and have tucked yourself in for the night. Suddenly, your brain starts firing off worries that hadnt even occurred to you during the day. What if I get fired? Am I a good parent? Did I forget to include something in that report thats due tomorrow? These thoughts keep you awake all night long and the following day, youre exhausted.
Can you relate? People with anxiety often report their symptoms get much worse at night. But why is that? And what can you do about it?
Here is your guide on how to calm anxiety at night, including the real reasons for why you get anxiety at night, and tips for how to sleep better with anxiety.
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What Is A Nocturnal Anxiety Attack
A nocturnal anxiety attack is a sudden outbreak, for no apparent reason, of an intense and uncontrollable panic attack in the middle of the night.
Although perfectly conscious of the excess of his fear and the excess of his reactions, the person is incapable of reasoning during the attack, which can last from a few minutes to several hours.
As a rule, the crisis leaves as it came, and remains a benign disease, even if it leaves a striking or even traumatic memory to the person who has been a victim of it and to their relatives.
Most of the time it is an isolated incident , but it can happen that anxiety attacks can be repeated, up to several times a day in the most serious cases.
Its a sign of a more serious anxiety disorder that needs to be detected and treated .
Do A Bedroom Makeover
Another helpful trick is to make your bedroom a place for nothing but sleep. For some people living in small loft apartments, this might be tricky, but by putting up a divider or curtain, you may be able to simulate a similar separate room effect.
Regardless, redecorating your bedroom for a more comfortable and quiet environment can do wonders for your sleep health. Consider decluttering the room and regularly changing the bedding or adding a rug to make the space more appealing and comfortable.
If you come into your bedroom and still cant sleep, dont just lay there and wait for slumber to hit. Instead, get up after 15 minutes and work on some small projects until your body naturally feels sleepy.
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Dont Lie In Bed Awake
Lying awake will only give your brain time to start another firestorm of worries and anxieties.
If you cant fall asleep after 20 minutes or so, try restarting that bedtime routine.
Dont turn on bright lights, of course, but go do a low-stress activity like pet your cat or drink a cup of tea for a few minutes to help give your body another chance at winding down for the night.
If You Think You Feel More Worked Up Than You Should The Day After Drinking Its Worth Bringing Up To A Mental Health Provider
To reiterate, having a bout of hangover anxiety is not a direct sign of anxiety disorder. It is simply the symptom of drinking too much alcohol and causing the mind and body to experience anxiety as a result of alcohol withdrawal, says Hafeez.
But if you feel so anxious or low after drinking that its interfering with your day to day or you cant seem to snap out of it, evaluate your relationship with alcohol and examine how it impacts your mental health. The questions Hafeez suggests you ask: Whats the motive for drinking enough alcohol to cause hangxiety in the first place? Are you over-drinking because of social anxiety, depression, or general anxiety, or to escape?
Everyones tolerance and response to alcohol is different, but most importantly, Dr. Koob says, it shouldnt be interfering with a healthy existence.
If youre struggling with alcohol, consult a professional. The NIAAA site has a treatment navigator where you can find treatment facilities in your zip code.
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Your Body Cant Get Out Of Hyperarousal
There might also be a biological component to this. For example, when youre anxious, your body is in hyperarousal. But as you get ready to go to sleep, your body gets the signal its time to rest. This has to do with the way your bodys natural circadian rhythm affects melatonin production.
But if you have anxiety, your body may fight this urge to rest. Humans developed stress and anxiety to help us fight real threats. Thats why we feel so on-edge when were anxious its the bodys fight/flight/freeze response.
Of course, most of the time when you feel anxious, there probably is no real threat. But your body doesnt know that, and it may be unwilling to let go of this readiness to fight off danger. Anxiety floods your brain with stress hormones like adrenaline, making it even harder to fall asleep.
What Tests Help Confirm A Sleep Anxiety Diagnosis
In some cases, your provider may do a sleep study to find out if you have a sleep disorder. Also called polysomnography, a sleep study is a test where you stay overnight in a sleep lab. Your healthcare provider evaluates how your body works during sleep by checking your:
- Blood oxygen levels.
- Snoring or other noises you make during sleep.
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Anxiety And Sleep Research
There is, however, plenty of research on how anxiety can affect sleep and vice versa.
According to the ADAA, research shows that sleep disorders occur in almost all psychiatric disorders.
In a small 2015 study , researchers examined the relationship between cognitive behavioral therapy and sleep quality in people with anxiety. Researchers found that both sleep quality and sleep latency improved in participants who responded to CBT.
The researchers believe that targeting sleep problems during anxiety treatment might be beneficial for those who have trouble sleeping.
Its important to remember that it can take time to find the right treatment approach for your anxiety. Because of this, you and your doctor may choose to use a variety of different treatment options.
What Are The Symptoms Of Nighttime Anxiety
Symptoms of nighttime anxiety take on many forms, as it is experienced differently by everyone. Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, pediatrician and medical consultant for Mom Loves Best, says, Before bedtime is no different than anxiety during the day. The difference is that you may be more aware of anxiety at night as fewer other stimuli are co-occurring.
While sleep anxiety is individual to each person, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Nightmares and night terrors
Another symptom of sleep anxiety is panic attacks. This involves an episode of extreme fear thats characterized by a sense of doom, increased heart rate, sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, and a feeling of detachment that could occur before or during sleep. After experiencing a nighttime panic attack, there can be anxiety about getting another attack, making it harder to fall asleep.
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The Relationship Between Anxiety And Sleep
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is âcharacterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.â
These are hardly ideal ingredients for a good nightâs sleep, by any standards. But thereâs more to the story. Letâs take a look at some key terms that will help delineate the relationship between sleep and anxiety.
Getting caught up in the vicious cycle of anxiety and sleep loss is all too easy, and it can escalate quickly. Before you have to pull yourself out from under hours and hours of sleep debt and possibly even crippling depression, do what you can do nip it in the bud. Take stock and take action, the sooner the better.
Anxiety Disorders And Sleep
For some people, the feelings of stress and worry are persistent and overwhelming due to an anxiety disorder. People with anxiety disorders can also experience sleep disruptions or lack of sleep and might even have insomnia or another sleep disorder at the same time.¹
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults. Several types are associated with sleep disruptions, which can then worsen anxiety-related symptoms:
- Generalized anxiety disorder: This is a persistent and chronic feeling of restlessness, agitation, and difficulty concentrating, the periods of which can last for months or more. Insomnia and other sleep disorders frequently accompany this condition.
- Panic disorder: This causes recurring, unexpected panic attackssudden bouts of fear, increased heart rate, and other physical symptoms.¹ People with this condition can experience panic attacks at night, which can wake them up or affect their ability to fall asleep.¹¹
- Post-traumatic stress disorder : This anxiety disorder can develop after a traumatic event or situation in which there was grave physical harm. Insomnia and nightmares causing interrupted sleep are typical symptoms of PTSD.¹²
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How Anxiety Can Affect Sleep
Lack of sleep can lead to increased chances of anxiety, but anxiety can also cause a lack of sleep. Unfortunately, the two can intertwine quite a bit, causing one to exacerbate the other.
Anxiety can have a negative effect on your bodys ability to fall asleep as your brain is in fight or flight mode, thinking of all potential outcomes for whatever is causing the anxiety. Furthermore, anticipatory anxiety and specific anxiety about sleep can lead to sleep disturbance and insomnia, which then creates a feedback loop that can make both conditions worsen. Insomnia can also make you more irritable and more worried, as your brain is not getting all the sleep it needs in order to function at normal levels.
However, its not uncommon to experience anxiety related to sleep. As Winnie Yu, a writer for WebMD noted in her article Scared to Sleep, sleep anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. Many people may stress about not getting enough sleep to function, but the stress alone of trying to sleep can cause people to sit awake for hours. Additionally, other fears such as recurring nightmares, fear of sleep apnea , and more can all lead to disturbed sleep.
How Can Healthier Sleep Habits Treat Sleep Anxiety
Sleep habits, or sleep hygiene, are your routines around bedtime that can affect your sleep. Your healthcare provider may ask you to keep a sleep diary for several weeks. This is a daily log of your sleep habits. It can help identify things that might make it harder for you to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Some common ways to improve your sleep hygiene include:
- Avoid drinking lots of fluids before bed, especially alcohol.
- Do relaxing activities before bed, such as meditation or listening to soft, peaceful music.
- Dont consume caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
- Dont go to bed unless you feel sleepy.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- If you dont fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed.
- Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, quiet and softly lit.
- Only use your bed for sleep and sex. For example, avoid watching television or doing work in bed.
- Set a goal of getting at least seven hours of sleep every night.
- Stop using electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Try not to eat right before bedtime. If youre hungry, have a light snack and not a big meal.
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