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.
Causes Of Anxiety Before Sleep
Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Those that have anxiety when falling asleep may have that problem for their own unique reason. Some of the causes include:
These are only an introduction to the different issues that may cause anxiety when falling asleep. There are a variety of other reasons why a person with anxiety may struggle to fall asleep including something as simple as what you ate or drank before going to bed.
Effects and Symptoms of Nighttime Anxiousness
Anxiousness, when you are trying to get to sleep, causes both mental and physical struggles. See if these descriptions of the types of problems encountered by anxiety sufferers trying to get to sleep match up to your own experiences.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms when trying to sleep, you should take the steps outlined below to help you escape the torture of being too anxious to get a good night’s sleep.
Tips For Improving Sleep And Managing Anxiety
Move your body Exercise has been found to both lower anxiety and improve sleep. But try not to exercise right before sleep, as it can keep you awake. Moving your body in the morning or afternoon can help you get your sleeping and waking cycle back on track and also treat insomnia or sleep apnea.3
Tailor your environment Controlling light, sound, and temperature can help you get a good nights rest. The darker, quieter, and cooler you can keep your bedroom, the greater chance you have of calming your mind and falling asleep. Taking a shower or bath shortly before bed can also help lower your body temperature and help you fall asleep more quickly.
Limit caffeine and alcohol Drinking too much caffeine or consuming it too late in the day can increase anxiety and inhibit sleep. Consuming alcohol close to bedtime can also increase your heart rate and keep you up.4 Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but dont drink too much before bedtime, as trips to the bathroom can keep you anxious and alert.
Calm your mind There are many relaxation techniques that can help you calm your mind throughout the day and improve sleep. Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and breathing exercise can help you achieve calm, but it can also be as simple as taking a walk when you have a short break at work. If you practice techniques for calming your mind during the day, then it will be easier to trigger your relaxation response at night.
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How To Treat Sleep Anxiety
Sleep anxiety treatment methods depend on the underlying cause of the disorder. Some of the most common treatments for somniphobia include:
- Exposure therapy. Discussing your fear with a therapist, practicing different relaxation techniques, imagining a good nights sleep, or watching other people resting can act as a cue to feel safe while going to bed. In extreme cases, sleeping in a medical lab might be a solution.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT can help you face your fears and reframe them, so they dont distress you as much. Another approach would be to restrict sleep during certain hours so that you go to bed and wake up at a specific time to develop sleep patterns.
- Medication. Although there are no meds for sleep anxiety, a doctor can prescribe beta-blockers or benzodiazepines for a short period. Beta-blockers help with the physical symptoms by keeping your blood pressure and heart rate steady, while benzodiazepines are sedatives that treat anxiety symptoms.
Ways To Relieve Nighttime Anxiety
So, how do you actually relieve the anxiety at night? I have a handful of tips and pieces of advice here to help you get your sleep and relieve the anxiety at night, and encourage you to investigate for yourself what helps and what doesnt. Everyone has their own unique experience, so remain open to different practices and methods. Feel into your experience and investigate. Remember, if you are having trouble with any of these you can always work with a therapist online or in person to help you reduce night time anxiety.
Ive separated this list out into things you can do at night while youre experiencing anxiety, and overall changes you can make during your day that may help reduce anxiety once you get into bed.
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What Does Nighttime Anxiety Look Like
Anxiety presents the same symptoms during the day and night, but it can feel more intense at nighttime when you are all alone with fearful and worrisome thoughts.
The common physical and mental symptoms of nighttime anxiety include:
- Nagging headaches
- Worrying too much about the future
- Imagining worse outcomes for future events
- Unsettling emotions
What Causes Panic Attacks At Night
Although its not known for certain what causes nocturnal panic attacks, some factors may increase the risk of experiencing them:ii
Life changes e.g. bereavement, losing a job, or moving house
Consuming stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine
Worrying about the state of the world politically, socially, or environmentally
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What Causes Sleep Anxiety
Besides anxiety, there are many other causes of sleep anxiety or somniphobia. The most common ones are:
- Sleep paralysis. Some people experience recurring nightmare-like hallucinations when they wake up during REM sleep. During REM sleep, your muscles cant move, so any hallucinations result in a frightening experience that can cause sleep anxiety if it happens more than once.
- Chronic nightmares. This type of sleeping disorder is linked to highly vivid and frequent nightmares, which often cause further stress to the person during the day. The more realistic they are, the more a person will find themselves dreading the prospect of going to sleep.
- Sleep apnea. This sleep disorder is characterized by loud snoring and breathing that momentarily stops while a person is sleeping. Some people fear that they might entirely stop breathing in their sleep, which can lead to heightened anxiety. Those affected typically feel tired even after a whole nights sleep.
- Traumatic events. Traumatic incidents and events, such as the death of a loved one, car accidents, physical assaults, or any other type of experience, can lead to PTSD. This disorder often entails experiencing recurring nightmares.
- Sleepwalking. People who walk in their sleep may become nervous or fearful about what might happen to them while sleepwalking, which makes them dread the idea of falling asleep.
Download Your Thoughts To Allow You To Fall Asleep
Bedtime can turn into a time when you start to think about all the things you need to do tomorrow, creating a never-ending list of tasks swirling around in your brain. Stop the thought tornado by writing down all the things youre trying to remember. With them safely recorded, your mind can be more at ease and you can deal with them upon waking.
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Build A Sleep Routine To Transition From Day To Night
What that routine looks like really depends on you and your needs. For some people, its meditation. For others, its as simple as taking a bubble bath before bed, lighting a scented candle, petting your cat, or reading a good book.
Whats important is that you take some time to wind down.
This means stepping away from stressful activities like paying bills, listening to the news, talking about politics, scrolling through your phone in the time leading up to you going to bed.
Its especially important to limit your screen exposure because blocking blue light at night can help you sleep.
Avoid Stressful Activities Before Bed
Amber Weiss, licensed psychotherapist and founder of Transformative Mindset, says, Creating some form of a transition from daytime to sleeping is highly recommended. According to Weiss, you cant expect the mind to go to sleep on demand. Instead, you need to allow time for the brain to transition, just like we transition to go outside or when we get home.
The goal is to reduce the nervous thoughts in your head so your mind is clear, calm, and positive before you head off to sleep. This can entail leaving the office, work, news, and social media exchanges for earlier in the day to create buffer time between work and sleep, setting yourself up for better rest.
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Learn To Accept Life The Way It Is
I know what you might think, but, no, Im not talking about acceptance this time. I want to underline the fact that life is not as mysterious as the philosophers make it out to be. Life is pretty simple. We are born and we die.
While that is true, its all about what happens in between. We are constantly learning, and our experiences are influenced by this pendulum of good and bad times. Therefore, we should not just seek the good alone, but learn to live our life as a whole.
But, most importantly, is the perspective we approach life with. During the time I was offering writing services, I came across this amazing person who was excited by every challenge that crossed his path.
So, I guess that the lesson here is that the bad things are only the ones you believe to be bad, and the magic of it is that you can always change your beliefs. Life is amazing if you believe it. You can travel you can express yourself in the strangest ways. And you get to be your true self if only you allow yourself to be.
Set An Intention Early
Many of us go from one activity to the next throughout our day without really considering how we are feeling, let alone how we would like to feel. For example, do you ever come home after a long day of work and think to yourself, I really want to relax and enjoy this evening?
Most likely you are far too busy or preoccupied to stop and ponder how you want your evening to be. However, by setting an intention early, you are more likely to get the results you want.
If you remind yourself each day that you are determined to have a peaceful evening, you are more likely to actually experience it that way.
Remembering to set an intention is easier when you mark a certain point in your day for it. For example, while driving home from work, you may be going over in your mind all the stress that you went through that day.
At a certain point during your drive home, such as when you drive over a certain bridge or pass a particular landmark, you can set the intention to let go of work stress from that point forward and enjoy the rest of your evening. Another option can be to set an alarm that reminds you to set your intention for a nice evening.
Regardless of what type of prompt works for you, get in the habit of setting your personal objective of how you want to feel each evening.
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How To Prevent Night Anxiety
To prevent anxiety at night, the most important thing to avoid is to lie in bed and try to fall asleep.
Get up and do something else
A few more effective ways to prevent night-time anxiety are:
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3. Avoid Caffeine, nicotine, or wine in the evening these only made the problem worse.
I actually tried living with or without them and saw the difference.
These can actually make your attacks worse and caffeine can cause insomnia, so you cant sleep at all.
What Is Anxiety Doing To Your Body
Simply defined, anxiety is the anticipation of a future threat. Itâs different from fear, which is defined as an emotional response to an imminent threat. In other words, fear is a response to a known or understood threat, while anxiety is usually about an unknown or poorly defined threat, something that may or may not happen in the future.
Both fear and anxiety can trigger your bodyâs stress response. Also known as the fight, flight, or freeze response, itâs a physiological reaction to something your body has perceived as a threat.
In response to a threat, your adrenal glands pump extra adrenaline and cortisol â hormones that trigger the release of blood sugar and fat into your blood â giving you a boost of energy. These hormones also increase your heart rate and blood pressure to help more blood reach your muscles, heart, and other organs so that youâll be ready to fight or run away from whatever is threatening you. In your brain, the extra oxygen sharpens your senses and increases alertness.
From an evolutionary perspective, itâs easy to see how the bodyâs stress response would be critical to our survival as a species. Whether it was a saber-toothed tiger or an attack from a rival tribe, our prehistoric ancestors had plenty to fear as they fought to survive another day.
But you don’t have to have a clinically diagnosed anxiety disorder to feel the effects of chronic stress, especially when it disrupts your sleep.
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There Isnt As Much Support Available At Night
Lastly, your anxiety may worsen at night because there isnt as much support. During the day, you can reach out to friends or other people in your support network when you feel anxiety symptoms coming on. However, you might feel more reluctant to reach out in the middle of the night.
Other reasons why your anxiety may be worse at night include:
- Drinking caffeine during the day
- Certain medical conditions, like menopause
- Exercising right before bed
- Being more hyper aware of physical symptoms, which can lead to health anxiety
- Panic disorder, which can cause nocturnal panic attacks
- Worrying over the fact that youre not sleeping
No matter the reason behind your nighttime anxiety, know youre not alone. Up to a third of all people with insomnia also have an anxiety disorder.