Why Do You Get Anxiety At Night
Its bedtime, and not a creature is stirringexcept for your racing mind, that is. Why is it that even after a relatively anxiety-free day, our minds sometimes go into overdrive when our heads hit the pillow?
Why does it happen at night?
Anxiety is a normal human emotion characterized by feelings of nervousness and worry. You may find yourself experiencing anxiety during stressful situations, such as a first date or job interview.
Sometimes, though, anxiety may linger around for longer than usual. When this happens, it can interfere with your daily and nightly life.
One of the most common times when people experience anxiety is at night. Many clinical trials have found that sleep deprivation can be a trigger for anxiety. Historically, research also suggests anxiety disorders are associated with reduced sleep quality.
When you lie down at night to unwind, your brain turns to all of the worries it didnt have time for during the day. Frequently, this anxiety revolves around worries you cant solve in the moment.
Chronic daytime stress puts your body into overdrive and taxes your hormones and adrenal system, which are directly linked to sleep so sleep troubles may be a red flag telling you to address stress during your waking hours.
Nighttime anxiety can trigger a vicious cycle: A bad nights sleep leads to exhaustion the next day and disrupts your bodys natural rhythms.
Settle into your routines
- Taking a bath.
- Doing yoga stretches.
- Try these pre-sleep snacks
Prepare For The Next Day
Many people find it anxiety-provoking to think about all that they need to do the next day. Being prepared is one of the best things to do to avoid this type of anxiety. Get as much ready as you can, like having your clothes picked out, lunches and bags packed, and your alarm clock set. Putting a small amount of effort into preparation can help keep evening anxiety under control.
Can Nighttime Panic Attacks Be Prevented
According to Dr. Bea, one of the characteristics of true panic is that it occurs spontaneously like a bolt of lightning across a blue sky. While we cant prevent sleep panic attacks, he says that we can develop more effective mechanisms for coping with the stressors in our lives.
You might increase exercise or start a mindfulness practice. Overall, it doesnt hurt to actively develop coping strategies. However, understand that doing these things may or may not influence the experience of a nighttime panic attack.
Whats another thing you can do to lessen the intensity of a sleep panic attack? Normalize the experience.
Dr. Bea explains.
These experiences feel threatening and dangerous. You fear the worst when your hearts racing, youre short of breath, youre trembling and you have a sense of impending doom or feel like youre losing control, he says.
As frightening as the experience is, its safe. Of course, when we have a catastrophic thought or appraisal of the event, it tends to drive more panic it gets our body aroused. Learn to normalize that experience, to notice the sensations but dont try to fix them.
Dr. Bea compares it to being in quicksand.
After a sleep panic attack, youre not going to recover quickly and go right back to sleep. Dr. Bea recommends getting up and going into another room to do a relaxing activity . No catching up on work or paying bills. Do something that will help you calm down until youre able to go back to sleep.
Read Also: How Do Anxiety Attacks Start
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.
Use A Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets are a type of heavy blanket that typically weighs between 5 and 30 pounds. Theyre known for producing calming effects by mimicking the feeling of a hug using deep pressure stimulation. Because weighted blankets can help increase serotonin and melatonin while decreasing cortisol, they have been shown to promote feelings of calmness and peacefulness.
Recommended Reading: How To Stop Anxiety Sweating On Face
Set Aside Time For Winding Down
If youve been struggling with sleep anxiety, Dr. Fran Walfish, family and relationship psychotherapist, suggests creating a routine that winds you down and gets you in the mood for sleep. This can include things like dimming the lights, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath.
Walfish also suggests opting for activities like light reading in place of a TV or computer, as using a screen can tend to rev up anxiety and excitatory thresholds versus relax and calm you down.
The best nighttime routine allows your mind and body time to slow down before you turn off the lights. Allot at least 30 minutes to take a bath, read a book, listen to a podcast, or play quiet music. These transition rituals can condition your brain to associate certain actions with preparing for sleep.
What Are The Differences
Here are some of the features that distinguish them.
An anxiety attack, or anxiety:
- can have a specific trigger, such as an exam, workplace issues, a health issue, or a relationship problem
- is not a diagnosable condition
- is less severe than a panic attack
- usually develops gradually when a person feels anxious
- involves physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or knot in the stomach
A panic attack:
- often occurs suddenly and unexpectedly and last between a few minutes and an hour, although the negative impact may continue
The term anxiety attack is not listed in the American Psychological Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition .
Some causes of anxiety disorders are:
Also Check: What Can Help You With Anxiety
What To Do If You Are Scared Of Sleeping Alone
Many people relieve this sleep anxiety by simply granting themselves permission to sleep away from their bed. You can sleep in another room of your home, or add a couch, futon or air mattress to your bedroom. You can also use deep breathing techniques and meditation to turn off anxiety and ease into sleep.
The Answer: Morning Anxiety
Wide awake, but feeling wired, anxious, AND tired,Negative thoughts,What will the day bring?
Sadly, morning anxiety seems to be a common experience, given personal stories from family and friends, descriptions from clients, and the plethora of articles with titles like, Early Morning Anxiety, and Morning Panic. There are many possible contributing factors. Listed below are some explanations and ideas that will help:
Also Check: How Long Before Effexor Works For Anxiety
Stalked By Chronic Nightmares
Chronic nightmares are another troublesome sleep disorder that can cause fear, says Shelby Harris, PsyD, CBSM, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Montefiore Medical Centerâs Sleep-Wake Disorders Center in New York City. Children are especially vulnerable, but adults – especially those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder — experience nightmares, too.
Joni Aldrich, 57, of Winston-Salem, N.C., began to dread sleep after she lost her husband to brain cancer four years ago. After he had a seizure, she had to make the difficult decision to suspend treatment, an experience that traumatized her.
Every night, she had nightmares of him begging her to help him, but she couldnât. She would awaken shaking. Aldrich finally got help from a counselor and began taking an anti-anxiety medication to help her sleep. âI still take the anti-anxiety medication in a very low dose, because I fear the results otherwise,â says Aldrich, CEO of Cancer Lifeline Publications. âEven one of those nightmares wouldn’t be worth it. And, I still go to bed later than I should just to make sure that I’m really tired.â
Is Anxiety Keeping You Up All Night
Anxiety can be triggered by normal stress-inducing events and have distinct symptoms. It can also manifest as generalized anxiety. Some people are just more prone to anxiety than others, based on hereditary factors and temperament. However, most people are familiar with these general anxiety symptoms. Anxiety can make you feel like youre all alone. However, almost twenty percent of the population suffers from anxiety. This means that there is a lot known about how to effectively treat anxiety.
At night, your brain and subconscious mind continue to process and deal with challenges experienced during the day. If the challenge is severe, it could lead to insomnia or other sleep disturbances. In extreme cases, you could wake up from a panic attack, experience night terrors, or have sleep paralysis. Many people also experience stress dreams. These dreams usually involve everyday actions in which things go terribly wrong. Stress dreams arent as vivid or jarring as night terrors but can still disturb sleep.
Insomnia or sleep disturbances such as nightmares or night terrors are diagnostic markers for normal anxiety, as well as anxiety disorders. During a time of great stress, a persons hormonal system is affected, so it can become common for people who are going through this to wake up at night or feel extreme anxiety. It can even battle to get back to sleep. Whatever is causing anxiety during the day, is likely to show up at night too.
Read Also: Is Sex Good For Anxiety
What To Do If You Can’t Sleep
The relationship between sleep and mental health is cyclical. If you have poor sleep, you’re likely to feel tired the next day, which can make things even more difficult and stressful, which can make anxiety worse and result in another night of disturbed sleep. If you are struggling with anxiety and have trouble falling asleep, though, there are steps you can take.
What Causes Sleep Anxiety
Anxiety is a natural part of being human. Were meant to feel afraid or worried in dangerous situations. Stress and anxiety trigger our bodies to release hormones that help us react quickly to escape harm. But if you have chronic anxiety, you might feel stress or worry all the time. You may feel fearful of everyday situations like driving to work or even falling asleep.
Chronically high levels of these hormones, especially before sleep, can make it hard for your body to relax. You may have difficulty falling asleep. If you do fall asleep, you may wake up during the night with stressful or worrisome thoughts and not be able to fall asleep again.
The combination of a anxiety and insomnia can also be caused by a condition where there isnt enough thyroid hormone in your bloodstream and your metabolism slows down .
Research suggests that anxiety can affect rapid eye movement sleep. This is the phase of sleep when you tend to have vivid dreams. If you have anxiety, the dreams may be disturbing or turn into nightmares that wake you.
Just as anxiety can affect sleep, sleep can affect anxiety. Sleep anxiety is a common characteristic of insomnia, wherein the individual begins to experience anxiety during the day and evening about poor sleep, which may help cause another night of bad sleep.
Also Check: Do Cats Get Separation Anxiety
Common Sleep Disorders Related To Gad
A nightmare is a disturbing dream associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear that awakens you. Nightmares are common in children but can happen at any age, and occasional nightmares usually are nothing to worry about. Mayo Clinic
While the fear of nightmares can cause anxiety and nightmares can be a dreamlike reflection of anxiety, these conditions do not always correlate. One study demonstrates that they are often actually quite independent of each other.
Population surveys indicate that the prevalence of anxiety disorder is about 24% to 36% in subjects with insomnia complaints and about 27% to 42% for those with hypersomnia. Luc Staner, M.D.
Insomnia and GAD quite often coexist in patients. Either condition can be a symptom or cause of the other and it is often quite difficult to know which came first.
Nocturnal panic, waking from sleep in a state of panic, is a common occurrence among patients with panic disorder, with 44-71% reporting at least one such attack. Nocturnal panic is a non-REM event that is distinct from sleep terrors, sleep apnea, nightmares or dream-induced arousals. Department of Psychology, University of California
This condition is shown to be most severe among patients who experience both daytime and nocturnal panic attacks and may share a similar pathophysiology as adult night terrors.
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.
You May Like: How To Date Someone With Anxiety And Depression
How Can Medication Treat Sleep Anxiety
Your healthcare provider may recommend medication to treat anxiety or other mental health disorders. Medication can also help improve the symptoms of sleep-related disorders such as restless legs syndrome or insomnia.
But some medications might actually increase your anxiety or make sleeping harder when you first start taking them. If you experience these side effects, talk to your healthcare provider. Many over-the-counter sleep aids can also be habit-forming. Dont start any medication for anxiety or sleep without your healthcare providers supervision.
Why Anxiety Affects Sleep
Anneli Roberts, 28, has anxiety and has had trouble sleeping since she was 16.
“During particularly difficult periods of anxiety, I am regularly up until 3 or 4 am, which is obviously not very good for work,” she says.
“Mostly, my insomnia is caused by anxiety and I’m unable to sleep due to worrying – or sometimes the physical symptoms of anxiety can keep me up too. But after a night of being awake, I am far more prone to anxiety during the day.”
Professor Kevin Morgan, of the University of Loughboroughs Clinical Sleep Research Unit, explains why anxiety impacts sleep.
“Anxiety in a generalised sense creates what we will refer to as arousal, or excitement or alertness,” he says. “If you go to bed intending to go to sleep, but you are anxious – and it doesn’t really matter what you pin that anxiety to – you’ve already diminished your chances of falling asleep effectively.”
Recommended Reading: Does Valium Help With Anxiety