Catastrophising In The Wee Hours
As a cognitive therapist, I sometimes joke the only good thing about 3am waking is that it gives us all a vivid example of catastrophising.
Around this time in the sleep cycle, we’re at our lowest ebb physically and cognitively. From nature’s viewpoint, this is meant to be a time of physical and emotional recovery, so it’s understandable that our internal resources are low.
But we also lack other resources in the middle of the night social connections, cultural assets, all the coping skills of an adult are unavailable at this time. With none of our human skills and capital, we are left alone in the dark with our thoughts. So the mind is partly right when it concludes the problems it’s generated are unsolvable at 3am, most problems literally would be.
Once the sun’s up, we’re listening to the radio, chewing our Vegemite toast and pushing the cat off the bench, our 3am problems are put in perspective. We can’t believe the solution of just ringing this person, postponing that thing, or checking such-and-such was overlooked in the wee hours.
The truth is, our mind isn’t really looking for a solution at 3am. We might think we are problem solving by mentally working over issues at this hour, but this isn’t really problem solving it’s problem solving’s evil twin worry.
Worry is identifying a problem, ruminating about the worst possible outcome and neglecting the resources we would bring to bear should the non-preferred outcome actually occur.
Is It Normal To Wake Up In The Night
Although very common, it is not normal to be unable to sleep through the night on a regular basis. Although many people wake up 2-3 times over the course of the night as they cycle through different phases of sleep, and may need to get more comfortable or go to the bathroom, staying up for hours and getting way too little quality sleep is not normal and very unhealthy.
Usually, interrupted sleep is a signal from your body that something is wrong and requires you to make changes to your lifestyle and/or seek medical attention. Usually, by making some changes, people are able to improve their sleep significantly, resulting in more energy and feeling better overall during the day.
Reflect On The Positive Aspects Of Your Day
Especially if youre a worrier, training your brain to think about positive events instead of dwelling on negative ones can help you feel less anxious. The action distracts your brain from spiraling down a dark hole, and can make you feel more optimistic. If negative thoughts creep in while youre trying this, dont panic: Let them pass through and return to sunnier thinking.
The idea is to get out of your mind and into your present moment experience with soothing activities and to keep bringing your mind back to the activities when it wanders to worry thoughts or thoughts about the future, Driscoll said, adding that journaling about your worries before bed isnt a great idea. A lot of people mistakenly believe that it helps and it usually has the effect of reinforcing and strengthening worries.
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Give Yourself More Time In The Morning
If youve ever woken up late and had to quickly pull yourself together and rush out the door, you know all too well that being in a hurry can exacerbate morning anxiety. To prevent this, Robin recommends setting your alarm earlier than you need togive or take 30 minutes earlierto give yourself plenty of time to flow through your morning ritual and avoid triggering those panic feelings.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Anxiety
When you cant sleep due to anxiety, you may experience behavioral changes, including:
- Feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Tense muscles.
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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Amber 28 Content Marketing Executive
“Anxiety has always been a part of my life, but it wasnt until I moved to Sheffield when I was 24 that my GP helped me take steps to manage my mental health. I was eventually diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder.
My anxiety shows itself physically and mentally. I often suffer from an increased heart rate, tremors and rapid breathing, which used to escalate into anxiety attacks. I also struggle with sleepless nights and dark days, where I struggle to leave my bed.
When my anxiety was at its worst, my brain was full of what ifs before I could even leave the front door for work, and I’d sometimes have panic attacks. Insomnia would drive endless self-questioning about things I had said or done and what effect they were going to have. I’d lie in a pit of spiralling darkness until it was 8am and I needed to leave for work, absorbed in anxiety and unable to leave my bed. Anxious mornings ruined my workday, if I did manage to leave for work. I’d work myself into a state on my commute and spend most of the day trying to calm myself down so that I could crunch through my to-do list. My anxiety would be even worse in the mornings if I overexerted myself the night before, from having too many social plans, a busy day at work or too much to drink.
You Have Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome, or RLS, may make your lower extremities feel like they are throbbing, itching, aching, pulling, or crawling, among other sensations, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke . If you have RLS, youll also feel an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. These symptoms are most common during the evening and night and become more intense during periods of inactivity, like…you guessed it, sleep.
Experts arent totally sure what causes RLS, but it seems as though theres a hereditary factor in the mix, according to the NINDS. Researchers are also investigating how issues with dopamine, a neurotransmitter your muscles need to work correctly, may cause RLS. Sometimes there are other underlying issues bringing about RLS as well, such as iron deficiency.
After diagnosing you with RLS via questions and lab exams, your doctor may prescribe medications to increase your dopamine levels or other drugs, such as muscle relaxants. They may also be able to counsel you on home remedies to soothe your muscles, like warm baths.
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What To Take For Anxiety
Try as you might to stay in bed forever, morning always comes eventually. And if you experience morning anxiety, experiencing it can seem inevitable as the sun rising.
What you can do in addition to preventative measures and lifestyle changes, though, is change the way your brain chemistry is when you do wake up.
The solution may be medication. Antidepressant medications help you regulate brain chemical imbalances.
For instance, if your serotonin levels are off, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, might be the solution.
Other medications, like selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors , work similarly to SSRIs, but instead focus on the regulation of norepinephrine .
These are often effective for patients when typical SSRIs fail.
Tips For Reducing Morning Anxiety
If a racing heart or upset stomach greets you first thing in the morning, you can do a few things to help ease your everyday anxiety. For instance, you can engage in exercise, which increases endorphins, improves mental focus, and elevates mood. You can also practice meditation or mindfulness, which can improve ability to calm the mind and stop the cycle of anxious thoughts.
Another tip involves limiting stressors, such as waiting to check news or social media, using an alarm clock instead of a smartphone, or taking the time to self-care. Additionally, you can use tactics designed to exert a sense of control, such as daily planning or writing down and fact-checking nagging fears. Finally, resources like meditation apps or podcasts focused on decreasing feelings of isolation can be valuable.
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Symptoms Of And Myths About Anxiety
Many people conflate stress and anxiety, but theyre different. Websters defines anxiety as being uneasy, apprehensive or worried about what may happen, whereas stress is mental or emotional tension or strain characterized by feelings of anxiety, fear, etc. Stress can also be defined as not having the resources to complete a task, while anxiety is usually tied to a perceived threat, real or imagined. Stress may be alleviated by accomplishing the task, but anxiety sticks around, producing a host of physical and psychological symptoms.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
- Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.
- Donât eat or drink any caffeine in the four to five hours before bed.
- Resist the urge to nap.
- Avoid exercise two hours before bed.
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
- Limit your bedroom activities to sleep and sex.
If you canât sleep, get up and do something boring. âKeep a boring book on your bed table,â Obolsky says.
Also, create a restful routine. Prime your body for bed by doing the doing the same things every night. A restful routine that involves a warm bath, listening to music, or deep breathing can be especially helpful if you have insomnia, Edlund says.
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Nataliya 33 Writer And Digital Content Consultant
“Before I was diagnosed with a generalised anxiety and panic disorders a decade ago, I genuinely believed everyone woke up with a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach every day. I’d heard people speak of anxiety, so I thought it was normal, but now I know that being anxious and having an anxiety disorder that requires medical attention aren’t the same thing. Anxiety is a normal feeling in the body, like happiness, sadness, or jealousy. There’s a big distinction between anxiety and anxiety disorders.
“I genuinely believed everyone woke up with a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach every day”
My anxiety was especially bad in the morning because I struggled to deal with the day ahead. Waking up meant I had to organise my day to ensure I didn’t miss anything or say anything that would make me ruminate all night. I went through the tasks in my head over and over. If I was doing something new or unusual that day, I’d wake up too early with anxiety. Everything new spelled fear, especially when it centered around people or expectations I had to fulfil. Talking on the phone felt awful and socialising was a huge task.
Nataliya is the founder of Styletomes.com.
How To Stop Panic Attacks At Night
Getting a good nights sleep is essential for our health and wellbeing. Sleep promotes rest and relaxation, and gives us a chance to recuperate and let go of the stresses of the day. However, this isnt the case for the many individuals who struggle with panic attacks at night.
Here, we provide advice on how to cope with panic attacks at night, and give tips on how to reduce them.
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Reduce Your Daily Stresses
Your next step will be a little more complicated, but no less important. You’ll need to make sure that you’re looking forward to every day, and not experiencing a great deal of stress. Morning anxiety is directly related to the amount you’re looking forward to your day. When your day is stressful, your anxiety increases as a result.
So what can you do? That depends on what’s causing you the stress. For example:
- Making Work Fun If work is what is causing you so much stress, then you need to make sure you’re looking for more ways to enjoy your work. You may work at one of the worst places in the world, but there are almost always ways that you can improve the quality or enjoyment of your work if you do it right. Try to make work more fun, and the stress you experience will decrease.
- Getting Out There Maybe you’re stressed because you don’t feel as though you’re doing enough or having enough fun. That means that your next step is to make the changes you need to address that. Join clubs, spend more time with your friends – what you do depends on what you enjoy, but getting out there and enjoying life is the obvious solution.
- Relationship Troubles Those with relationship issues should be making sure they’re addressing them as well. Sitting around and hoping things will change is not realistic. If you’re so stressed during the day that you’re waking up with anxiety, then you need to make changes right away if you want your morning anxiety to go away.
What Morning Anxiety Looks Like
There’s a difference between waking up and being in a bad mood because you don’t feel like going to work and having actual morning anxiety. Here are the signs of the latter, according to Dr. Saltz:
- A rush in adrenaline, such as a racing heart or increased jitteriness.
- Increased blood pressure.
- A sense of worry for no apparent reason.
- Feeling on edge, but you aren’t sure why.
- Exhaustion even though you’ve just slept.
As for why anxiety can strike in the morning, Dr. Saltz says there are a few factors at play that could cause morning anxiety:
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First Thought Of The Day
Those that deal with intense anxiety often accidentally trigger their own anxiety symptoms. That’s because as soon as they wake up, they notice that they don’t have anxiety and start worrying they’ll experience it before long. This thought has the power to trigger a chain reaction that creates other symptoms of anxiety which then lead to even more anxious thoughts – and before you know it, youre stuck in a vicious cycle.
Substance Or Alcohol Use
People already dealing with anxiety should avoid alcohol and recreational drug use.
Although substance use and alcohol use do not have direct links to anxiety, they can make symptoms of anxiety worse.
As a result, alcohol or other substances can affect how a person sleeps or how they feel when they wake up.
There is evidence that how happy a person is in their relationship can directly affect aspects of their health. These include illness recovery and sleep patterns.
In a small-scale study , researchers asked 29 couples to record their relationship experiences during the day and how they slept at night. The results indicated that when females reported having positive interactions with their partner during the day, both they and their partner slept better than when the interactions were negative.
In a similar way, relationship status may cause a person to wake up feeling anxious.
GAD and other anxiety disorders may develop due to ongoing or acute stressful life events. Some life events that might trigger anxiety on waking include:
- changes in living arrangements, for example, moving to a new area or someone else moving out
- changes in employment, such as switching jobs or losing a job
- experiencing physical, mental, or sexual abuse
- the separation from or death of a loved one
- emotional shock after a traumatic event
However, for some, thinking and worrying about finances can become an overwhelming problem.
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