How To Calm Your Anxiety
When your mind is racing and you cant seem to shut it off, your brain may be in overdrive. Worries can affect your sleep, making them seem even more ominous when they arise in the middle of the night.
Before going to bed, racing, intrusive thoughts are common for many people, whether or not they have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety at night can be caused by a variety of things, but there are ways to keep those thoughts at bay.
Several treatments can help alleviate your anxiety and improve your sleep quality. Mental health resources are available to you at any time if youre concerned that your nighttime anxiety and lack of sleep are affecting your daily life.
What To Do When You Cant Sleep: 9 Tips
Prioritizing a good nights sleep isnt just important for your general health, it can also help with feelings of anxiety, as your body is less likely to feel overwhelmed or on edge when youve slept well.
However, falling asleep can be difficult, so its important to build a strategy for a better nights sleep. Below are some tips to try in order to improve your chances of falling asleep naturally.
How To Manage Anxiety At Bedtime
1. Shift the focus from the separation to their next connection with you.
Given that bedtime is a time of separation, tilt the focus to the next point of connection. Rather than focusing on the night, as in, Night my darling, have a good sleep, , shift their focus to when they will next see you. This can be done by finding rituals to tie bedtime to morning.
Invite them to choose a book at bedtime that you will read together in the morning.
Let them know that as they fall asleep, you will be writing down something they did today that you especially loved and that you will read this together in the morning.
Give them something of yours, and have them give something to you, then return them to each other in the morning. Smell is a really strong emotional trigger. If the smell is associated with safety, it will have an enormous capacity to trigger calm. Perhaps let them use your pillowcase for a while, or let them take your shirt to bed with them.
2. Rework the association bedtime is rest.
I know it feels scary for you in your own bed. I also know that you are completely safe there. I know that eventually you will be able to spend the whole night in your own bed, and that your room can feel cosy and safe and beautiful for you, but I know that isnt how it feels at the moment. Lets work towards that in little steps. Well do it together.
3. With you, then away, then back again.
4. And if bad dreams are causing trouble
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And Even If Your Anxiety At Night Is So Bad
I guarantee you that you will feel better absolutely 100% in the morning. During the night, if you get your rest, your rhythms will reset and you wake up in the morning when the sun is shining and youre ready to focus your thoughts outwards again and your anxiety wont seem as bad as what it does right now.
How Is Sleep Anxiety Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider performs a physical exam, reviews your medical history and evaluates your symptoms. They may ask you questions like:
- Do you eat or drink anything before bed?
- Does your anxiety always occur before bed?
- How long does it take you to fall asleep?
- How often do you wake up during the night?
- What activities do you do before bed?
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Getting A Peaceful Nights Sleep
We all feel anxious at one time or another in our lives. Two thirds of Americans report having issues with anxiety and stress causing them to lose sleep. Anxiety disorders are associated with reduced sleep quality in a chicken and egg scenario where each tends to make the other worse. Knowing how to stop the vicious cycle is important so you can get on with enjoying your life.
But what is anxiety? Essentially, it is the bodys natural response to stress. You may feel fearful or apprehensive about making a decision or about the curve balls life might throw your way. You may feel unable to cope and that anxiety has started to interfere with your daily routine or affect your relationships with friends and family. If you are finding yourself agreeing to a lot of these, then speak with your doctor about your concerns.
Anxiety manifests itself differently for each person, but common symptoms include an increased heart rate and trouble sleeping. Having a dry mouth is also a physical symptom of anxiety and can further disrupt your sleep.
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.
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Accept Dont Fight For Just 10 Minutes
If youre finding that managing morning anxiety is a too difficult with the strategies mentioned, try planned worrying. Give yourself a time limit of 10 minutes to experience worry feelings. When the timer goes off, move on to your self-care strategies. Though you cant expect to simply shut off your anxiety like a timer, this approach allows you to acknowledge your worry, and gives you a concrete time to move on to self-care.
The symptoms of morning anxiety can feel incredibly uncomfortable and overwhelming, but they are highly treatable. When you combine professional treatment along with the self-care strategies listed above, you will experience relief from anxiety, and wake up hopeful and calm.
Face your fears. Live with uncertainty. Take control of your life.
Dr. Theresa Welles
How To Prevent Evening Anxiety
There are some very simple ways to reduce evening anxiety, at least comparatively. Overall, the only way to guarantee that you do not get anxiety in the evenings is to manage your anxiety altogether. But in the absence of that option, there are strategies that can help you break the cycle of anxiety at night. These include:
These are all tools designed to break the evening anxiety cycle. They are not going to cure your anxiety altogether, because they are not anxiety coping skills. Instead, it will work towards helping you properly assess evening anxiety and possibly reducing it.
You will still need to partner any of these strategies with a long-term anxiety treatment. It ensures you experience less anxiety overall, not just at night.
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What Are The Types Of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a core element of a number of specific disorders, although not all are categorized strictly as anxiety disorders.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder : People with GAD have significant, looming worries about many different things that can cause an overarching sense of anxiety.
- Panic Disorder: Extremely intense episodes of fear, known as panic attacks, that usually last for a few minutes at a time are the defining feature of Panic Disorder.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: This disorder involves an extreme fear of social settings and potential embarrassment in front of other people.
- Specific Phobias: Specific phobias are intense fears caused by particular triggers. Some of the most common specific phobias include agoraphobia and separation anxiety.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder : In OCD, a person obsesses about an issue in a negative way such that it provokes anxiety, and this causes a compulsion, which is their attempt to control or eliminate that anxiety. Compulsions are repeated ritually and can directly impact everyday activities.
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder : This condition can arise after a person is exposed to a painful or disturbing situation. People with PTSD may relive the stressful event, feel on-edge, and have potentially debilitating anxiety.
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 Vicious Cycle Of Anxiety During Sleep
Since anxiety and sleep are so closely related, a vicious cycle can emerge. Waking up with stress, worry, and anxiety can make it harder to fall back asleep. And this inability to relax the mind and drift off, in turn, causes even more anxiety as you wonder if you’ll ever get the rest you need.
When you sleep, you go through different sleep stages, including REM sleep. This stage can help process your emotions and adapt to fearful or stressful events.REM sleep can affect how you remember certain details and help you reduce your emotional responses when recalling a stressful event over time.3 This includes how your body responds autonomicallyyour breathing, heart rate, and other essential functions of your autonomic nervous system.2
For example, if your dog just died, you could be overwhelmed with stress and grief in the first few days. You may shed tears and be short of breath. Over time, sleeping can help you process that grief. After a year, your emotions won’t be as intense as you first experienced them and you might cry less when thinking back on it.
Having anxiety, a stress disorder like PTSD, or a sleep disorder can disrupt your sleep. You might be getting less REM sleep, meaning you are spending less time recovering from emotional events.3
The result? A vicious cycle of lost sleep and worsening anxiety and stress.
The CDC recommends adults get at least seven hours of sleep each night.8 Signs you’re not getting enough sleep include:9
What Causes Night Time Panic Attacks
While nocturnal panic attacks can be sudden and frightening, theyre actually a common mental health condition. So what causes them?
So far, research hasnt found a single, clear-cut reason for why people experience panic attacks at night. However, we do know that the brain doesnt switch off during sleep, so its possible for any pent-up worries or anxieties to manifest in our unconscious brains, causing a nocturnal panic attack. Also, struggling with day time panic attacks makes it more likely that you will experience panic attacks at night.
Research suggests there are a number of other factors that could increase the risk of someone suffering from both day and night time panic attacks. These include:
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Caffeine And Anxiety Make You Feel Jittery And Nervous
Caffeine is a stimulant and that can be bad news for someone with anxiety. Caffeines jittery effects on your body are similar to those of a frightening event. Thats because caffeine stimulates your fight or flight response, and research has shown that this can make anxiety worse and can even trigger an anxiety attack.
Other research suggests that while caffeine can increase alertness, attention, and cognitive function, overdoing it can increase anxiety, particularly in people with panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. And as with the symptoms of anxiety, one too many cups of joe may leave you feeling nervous and moody, and can keep you up at night.
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.
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The Problem With Moping
Moping – or some form of moping – is incredibly common. By moping, we do not mean taking a short time to recharge. Everyone needs some alone time once in a while. Spending a few hours to unwind at the end of a rough day is a great way to reduce stress.
No, in this case, “moping” is this idea that doing nothing is a solution to anxiety. It is the act of intentionally avoiding any life changes, feeling bad for yourself, and hoping that anxiety will go away.
Feeling like you need to sit and do nothing and that you will somehow feel better is a function of anxiety. Anxiety completely drains the body. It makes it hard to want to do much of anything. Anxiety makes you feel like you want to be alone, and that that the best strategy to get rid of it is to “veg out” until you feel better.
Unfortunately, this is a common mistake that has the potential to make your anxiety much worse. Ideally, you need to stay active. You need to be surrounded by friends and try your best to get out there. You need to exercise and have new experiences. Avoiding those experiences because you want to cope with your anxiety alone causes several issues that make anxiety worse:
Moping behaviors are not the only mistake people make with anxiety, and it may not even be the worst. But it is a widespread reaction to anxiety and stress and one that needs to be stopped in order to manage your anxiety.
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.
Also Check: What Is Chronic Anxiety Disorder
What To Do If You Cant Sleep
The relationship between sleep and mental health is cyclical. If you have poor sleep, youre 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.
Ways To Manage Your Anxiety In The Night
A relaxing evening and a good nights sleep are within reach if you know how to deal with your nighttime anxiety.
In addition to self-help techniques like better sleep hygiene and bedtime rituals, you might benefit from seeing a therapist.
Anxiety medication can help some people as well. Talk to your doctor to see if medication is the best course of action.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with anxiety. What works for one person may not work at all for another.
Below are ways to manage your anxiety worsening at night. These steps will let you go to sleep without having a worried or stressed mind.
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The Connection Between Anxiety And Sleep
Anxiety can make it difficult for someone to fall and stay asleep. But the reverse is also possibledifficulty falling asleep can lead to anxiety.
This is because getting enough sleep can reduce stress, improve your mood, and restore your ability to think and remember things. Your sleep schedule also factors into your overall health. Sleeping at night and waking in the morning helps maintain your natural biological clock for when your body should be asleep or awakeor, your circadian rhythm.² When your internal clock is off or you can’t get enough sleep, that can lead to a buildup of stress, negative emotions, and anxiety.³
But To Avoid Having Those Nights Altogether Treadway Suggests Developing A Sleep Routine That Can Help With The Transition From Day To Night
This might include taking a 15-minute shower every night, using lavender essential oils, journaling, and meditating. That way were more likely to shift into sleep, and to have better quality sleep.
Ill admit, this is an area I could improve. As a self-employed freelance writer, my bedtime routine often includes working until I feel too tired to type another word and then shutting the lights off and leaving myself alone with my broken thoughts.
But after over two decades of dealing with anxiety, I also know shes right.
The harder I work to take care of myself and stick to routines that help me relax, the easier my anxiety even my nighttime anxiety is to manage.
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