Imagine you settle into bed after a long day, and suddenly, your brain begins going over every aspect of your life. You ruminate about your work, future, and past interactions with loved ones and even fear your ability to sleep. Before you know it, you’re up all night trying to manage nighttime anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. If you battle anxiety at night, whether about day-to-day life or the prospect of falling asleep, this article will teach you how to turn off the inner noise and receive deep zzz’s.
What Is Nighttime Anxiety?
Nighttime anxiety involves fear or worry that occurs at night, often about going to sleep. For example, you may worry you won’t be able to fall asleep or stay asleep and fear your lack of sleep will ruin your day. Additionally, your anxiety may also involve events that occurred throughout the day, past or even future events. Yet to make matters worse, anxiety and sleep have a complicated relationship: anxiety is one of the effects of sleep deprivation, and anxiety impairs your sleep causing further sleep problems. The only way to manage both is to treat your health holistically: Addressing the root cause of your stress while improving your sleep hygiene.
What Are Common Causes of Nighttime Anxiety?
Several causes pinpoint to nighttime anxiety, both mental and physical.
- Stress and traumatic life events
- Genetics plays a role
- Sleep disorders like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or obstructive sleep apnea
- Hypothyroidism, chronic pain, heart disease, or diabetes
- Lifestyle factors like poor sleep habits, drugs, alcohol, and medications
- Anxiety disorders like panic disorder, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or depression
What Are The Symptoms of Nighttime Anxiety?
While everyone is different, if you can’t sleep because of anxiety, you’ll likely experience several emotional and physical symptoms:
- Intense overwhelm
- Difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep
- Nervousness, worry, or sense of impending danger
- Trouble concentrating
- Digestive problems
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pain
- Tense muscles
- Sweating, chills, and/or hot flashes
- Feeling detached from your environment
Additionally, some experience nocturnal panic attacks. Similar to their daytime foes, they involve a sudden and intense period of extreme fear and anxiety. While they only occur at night, there are ways to cope with nocturnal panic attacks and prevent them from disrupting your sleep.
8 Tips to Help You Manage Nighttime Anxiety
1. Ground yourself
Dissociation is a common symptom of anxiety. When it occurs, you feel detached from yourself and your surroundings. Yet one way to connect you to the present moment is by using grounding tools that establish cognitive and sensory awareness. Here are a few examples to inspire and encourage you to set up a few nearby in case your anxiety strikes before bed:
- Vibrating sensory pillows that provide tactile calmness
- Magnetic fidget stones
- Aromatherapy oils
- Weighted blankets and stuffed animals
- Squishy stress balls
2. Avoid stressful activities before bed
If you haven’t completed a pressing work project or squeezed in a workout before bed, you may be tempted to do so. But engaging in stressful activities like work, fitness, reading the news, or scrolling social media can intensify your anxiety. Instead, your brain needs a soothing and calm transition before sleep. The goal is to reduce your stressful thoughts to clear the mind and prepare it for a peaceful sleep rather than piling on the stress.
3. Prioritize winding down
As mentioned in the previous tip, creating a calm transition before bed is necessary. This may look like dimming the lights, lighting candles, taking a warm bath, and completing a bedtime meditation. Your intention is to invoke that spa feeling to lessen your anxiety and activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Indeed, anxiety can’t survive when you’re relaxed. And when you prioritize this winding down routine every night, your brain will become conditioned that it’s time for bed instead of time to stress.
4. Release your thoughts
Anxiety needs an outlet, or it will fester in your mind. One way to release it is by dumping your thoughts into a journal, preparing your to-do list for the week, organizing your goals, or writing a compassionate letter to yourself. Doing any of these will lessen the anxious thoughts before bed and allow you to create a game plan to gain back control. Additionally, research shows journaling can help you fall asleep faster: win-win.
5. Use your hands
This is a fun tip to manage nighttime anxiety right before bed or an activity to prioritize throughout the day. To start, envision your stress and anxiety about sleep and life in your hands. Then choose an artistic medium that requires your hands to make magic to release it. For example, grab your favorite adult coloring book, connect to your inner child, and make a sidewalk masterpiece with chalk, or mold a creation with clay. You could also paint a place that brings peace and use your favorite colors. Allow your creativity to be your canvas.
6. Visualize deep peace
This wonderful visualization technique for anxiety will calm your mind but requires the power of your imagination. Before bed, envision your perfect place. What does it look like? Where are you? Are you floating in clear blue water? Or are you lying on a bed of grass while looking at the clouds in a secluded forest? Connect to this special place and use all of your senses to travel there through your mind. Doing so will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and keep your anxiety at bay.
7. Adopt healthy sleep habits
Of course, this article wouldn’t be about improving your anxiety at night if it didn’t address sleep hygiene. Indeed, if you have a consistent sleep-wake routine, your mind will be less likely to ignite the thought traps that keep you up. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Limit caffeine
- Move your body throughout the day
- Wake up with the sun and avoid your screen
- Make your bedroom a sanctuary
- Avoid heavy meals before bedtime
- Limit sound and light
- Only take cat naps for 20 minutes
8. Practice challenging the anxiety
Always work on dissociating between your ego/anxiety and what is important. In other words, your ego wants to keep you intent on worrying about the past or future. But the present moment is your way out. So, focus on investigating your thoughts instead of believing them and accepting that you’re experiencing anxiety when it occurs. Labeling your emotions as they arise lessens their power and helps you connect to the core of what matters: The here and now. You’re only human, and it’s better to give yourself compassion and forgiveness rather than guilt or grief.
9. Hand on heart, hand on belly
If you’re in the midst of an anxious thought trap, instead of piling on the criticism, turn to compassion. One way to do this is by putting your right hand on your heart and your left on your belly. Inhale slowly, and as you exhale, notice the rise and fall through your hand on your belly. This exercise immediately grounds you, activates your parasympathetic nervous system, and invites a warm safe feeling. You’ll quickly realize how connected you are mind-body and how your anxiety dissipates with each breath.
If you feel it’s becoming too overwhelming to manage nighttime anxiety, it’s important to see a mental health professional for help. Indeed, whether you have an anxiety disorder or insomnia, they will create a treatment plan to ensure you’re receiving the sleep you need. Additionally, following this list of coping methods will help you reduce your anxious thoughts and allow for peaceful sleep.
This post contains affiliate links.
If you found this collection of tips to mange nighttime anxiety helpful, please share this post on Pinterest!
And if you’re looking for more tips and ideas to help you live your best life please follow our Mental Health board where we share all kinds of helpful ideas we find each day!