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.
What Is Sleep Anxiety Disorder: The Symptoms
We all have bad nights of sleep from time to time.
Struggling to get to sleep one night due to feelings of stress doesnt necessarily mean youre having a sleep anxiety attack.
Before you start looking at how to get to sleep when you have anxiety or talking to your doctor about treatments, its worth checking for the following symptoms:
How To Sleep When You’re Stressed And Anxious
Most of us have been there before.
A stressful day at work, an argument with a partner, or an event during the day can leave your head spinning. Learning how to sleep when stressed and anxious is important for a variety of reasons.
It doesnt take long before sleep quality drops and you start to develop a sleep problem. This stops you from getting a good night’s rest because youre too stressed to sleep.
With anxiety driving your mind into overdrive, it can be hard to stop ruminating and relax at the end of the day. Your mind loops around the same track, keeps going over the same conversation, or worries the same unanswerable questions. Often, sleep becomes unattainable.
So what comes first, lack of sleep or anxiety?
Its not so clear cut, one might bring about the other.
Lets break down both to gain some more insight into how these two issues are related.
Why Anxiety Can Feel Worse At Night
“Sleep promotes rest and relaxation, and gives us a chance to recuperate and let go of the stresses of the day,” says Dr Natasha Bijlani, a consultant psychiatrist who provides treatment for anxiety at Priory Hospital Roehampton. “However, this isn’t the case for the many individuals who struggle with anxiety and panic attacks at night.”
There is no single reason why people experience anxiety or panic attacks at night, she explains, but several factors may be involved.
“We do know that the brain doesn’t ‘switch off’ during sleep, so it’s possible for any pent-up worries or anxieties to manifest in our unconscious brains, leading to nocturnal panic attacks,” Bijlani says.
Simply being aware that others are sleeping soundly can lead to a sense of isolation and worsen anxiety, too. Small problems, such as forgetting to post a letter, can suddenly seem much worse than they actually are.
“Those who struggle with daytime anxiety and panic attacks are more likely to experience such symptoms at night because there are fewer distractions to prevent them from worrying excessively and further, their heightened anxiety is likely to affect their quality of sleep,” Bijlani explains.
When people are anxious during the day, they can avoid thinking about the thoughts that cause them distress by doing activities, says Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK. At night that is harder, and everything is quiet, she says.
Some also worry their night-time anxiety may impact others in a negative way.
How To Sleep With Anxiety: Beating Sleep Anxiety
So, how do you teach your body how to sleep better with anxiety?
Its easier than youd think.
Researchers believe that feelings of anxiety get worse at night because there arent as many distractions available. In other words, through the day, youve got countless things to do and focus on that keep your mind occupied.
When the time comes to relax at the end of your day, the frontal cortex starts taking over. It brings your mind back to the worries that youve been ignoring up until now.
Anxious thoughts suddenly spiral, and once you open that box, its tough to close it again. Fortunately, we have some tips on how to stop sleep anxiety.
Also Check: How To Instantly Calm Anxiety
Establish A Bedtime Routine
Establishing a bedtime routine lets you focus on taking proactive steps for yourself instead of ruminating in your anxiety. Your bedtime routine may include activities such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, changing into pajamas, reading from an inspirational book, prayer, or listening to music.
Your bedtime routine should be established to help set you up for better rest. Dont include any activities that may be too overstimulating, such as scrolling through social media or watching TV.
Instead, make your routine calming and quiet, leading up to you falling asleep. This will signal to your brain that it is time to rest and will allow you to go to sleep without an upset and anxious mind.
Easing Anxiety Improves Sleep
The good news about anxiety and insomnia being so closely related is that, if you help one problem, you also help the other.
For example, Neubauer said, if you have an anxiety disorder, then getting treatment with cognitive therapy, meditation, or medication can have the indirect effect of improving sleep.
Short of getting treatment for an anxiety disorder, said Neubauer, there are ways people can, on their own, sleep better. For instance:
Practice relaxation techniques. Many approaches, such as nighttime meditation or yoga, can combat anxiety. Neubauer recommends you start by learning new relaxation techniques earlier in the day so youre not putting too much pressure on yourself before bedtime. Then, once youre comfortable with it, you can do it later in the day.
Get into a regular sleep routine. Going to bed and getting up at about the same time each day lets the bodys internal circadian clock work better. Getting up at odd hours can undermine that rhythm.
Schedule some idle time before bed. A common problem is that, when people get into bed, its the first time theyve had to ponder the day, Neubauer said. Try to sit down and think about the day before you get ready for sleep. Jot down any concerns on a piece of paper if you need to remember tasks for the next day. Dont use the time before bed to pay bills or other anxiety-inducing activity.
Recommended Reading: How To Cure Anxiety Naturally
This Is Your Body In Anxious Mode
When you’re stuck in anxious mode, chances are your heart races, your underarms sweat, and your muscles tense up. But these are just the tip of the iceberg when detailing symptoms of anxiety. Other common examples include:
- Breathlessness or rapid breathing
In more serious cases of anxiety, you may even encounter sensations like:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Tingling or numbness in the arms and legs
To understand why you’re feeling these physical effects, we need to dive down to the biological level.
When you’re stressed, the hypothalamus in your brain releases corticotropin-releasing factor . This hormone is the main driver of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. CRF prompts the pituitary gland to release the adrenocorticotropic hormone into the bloodstream. When the adrenocorticotropic hormone reaches the adrenal glands, stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, are released into your system.
But CRF’s realm of control also extends to emotional regulation and cognitive functioning. Specifically, CRF downplays serotonin secretion, a neurotransmitter that controls your moods and is also known as your body’s feel-good chemical. Low serotonin levels, courtesy of an anxious mind, allow negative emotions to breed, like depression, frustration, and fear.
- Dilated pupils
- Increased production of blood glucose and fatty acids for energy metabolism
- Increased cognitive activity
Is It Common In Adults
Both children and adults can experience sleep anxiety. However, with kids, they may be scared of thing such as the dark or imaginary monsters. In this case, experts say parents can help by not building up fears, introducing a night light, avoiding scary tv shows or movies, or providing a comfort object such as a blanket or stuffed toy.
Also Check: Does Anxiety Make You Nauseous
Start A Calming Bedtime Routine
A routine of activities that help you wind down and relax before bed can help you get better sleep.
Turn off the TV and computer and set aside your phone about an hour before bed.
- taking a bath
Journaling just before bed can offer a way to express stressful or negative thoughts. The act of jotting them down can help you feel as if youre physically casting them off.
Once youre in bed, let your mind wander to positive thoughts instead, such as people or places you love, good things about your day, or the things you appreciate in life.
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
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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.
Get Up At The Same Time Daily
Creating a routine can be an effective way to combat sleep anxiety and insomnia. By getting up at the same time every day, your body will naturally start to adjust your internal clock or circadian rhythm.
One sleep study, highlighted in the Guardian as A Cure for Insomnia, found that getting up at the same time every day helped the participants body feel sleepy around the same time every night. Over time, this helped the participants bedtimes become consistent.
However, creating a nighttime routine can also have similar effects. Winnie Yu for WebMD suggests creating a nightly routine can help relax your body as it starts to anticipate and expect sleep as you follow through each step. It can also help relieve anxiety, as you know what to expect each night and each morning.
Read Also: What Medications Work For Anxiety
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.
Whats Insomnia Panic Really Likeand How Normal Is It
Generally what we see is the person attempting to go to sleep, then they begin to ruminate about what they have to do tomorrow, or what they didnt get done today, says Ginger Poag, MSW, LCSW, licensed therapist at Brentwood Wellness Counseling in Nashville, Tennessee.
This can lead to the frantic thoughts, increased heart rate, and difficulty breathing. Its a vicious cyclebecause of the rumination they dont sleep, and the lack of sleep makes everything feel worse, and then the person becomes anxious and fearful that they will not sleep another night, and then the cycle starts all over again.
Sound familiar? That lack of sleep can increase your susceptibility to anxiety, which just makes you that much more likely to struggle with the same symptoms again the next night.
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, about one in three people have at least some form of insomnia, which is defined as a regular difficulty in falling or staying asleep. Panic symptoms, like a racing heart and difficulty breathing, are a separate issuebut its not uncommon for them to show up alongside insomnia. Panic and anxiety can be terrifying, but theyre treatable, and understanding where they come from is a good first step.
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