Why do you get anxiety at night?
It’s bedtime, and not a creature is stirring…except 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 didn’t have time for during the day. Frequently, this anxiety revolves around worries you can’t 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 night’s sleep leads to exhaustion the next day and disrupts your body’s natural rhythms.
There are many symptoms of anxiety. Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Symptoms can happen anytime of the day, morning, or night. Common symptoms of anxiety include:
- feelings of nervousness, restlessness, or worry
- trouble concentrating
- trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- gastrointestinal problems
Sleep issues and anxiety seem to accompany one another. Lack of sleep can be an anxiety trigger, while anxiety can also lead to a lack of sleep.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), over 50 percent of adults say their anxiety levels affect their ability to get to sleep at night.
There’s very little scientific research on nighttime anxiety. Still, there are many reasons why your anxiety may be worse at night.
You may feel that your mind is racing, and you can’t stop your thoughts. You may be focused on the worries of the day or anticipating things on your to-do list for the next day.
Settle into your routines
- When it comes to sleep, routine is your best friend.
- Eating at the same time every day helps regulate your circadian rhythms.
- Eating breakfast signals that it’s time for your body to wake up.
- Regular daytime exercise releases endorphins and decreases levels of cortisol, the hormone behind stress.
- Going to bed at the same time every night teaches your body to get sleepy around the same time.
- But if you want to lessen nighttime anxiety, it’s still important to implement a specific nighttime routine.
Try quiet, tech-free activities that reduce your cortisol levels and help ease you into sleep, such as:
- Taking a bath.
- Reading a book.
- Doing yoga stretches.
- Try these pre-sleep snacks
If you’re worried you’ll be too worried to fall asleep, head off nighttime anxiety with these all-natural tricks:
- Drink tart cherry juice or eat a bowl of tart cherries. Studies show that tart cherry consumption can help you sleep for up to 85 minutes longer because they’re a source of melatonin, a sleep aid that reduces inflammation in the body.
- Make a mug of chamomile tea. This ancient herbal tea has been clinically shown to help reduce anxiety and promote sleep.
- Pop a Brazil nut or two. These big, buttery tree nuts are one of the world’s best sources of selenium, which can help your thyroid run smoothly and thus aid in sleep. Just two Brazil nuts have been shown to be as helpful as a selenium supplement.
- Try not to consume caffeine late in the day, whether in coffee or elsewhere.
Put your phone to bed
Just say no to scrolling before bed — the practice of taking in a barrage of bad news online. And if anxiety keeps you awake or wakes you up, resist the temptation to break this rule and start using your phone. Your phone’s blue light signals your brain to turn back on, ultimately making it even harder to get to sleep.
If you can’t sleep…
If you wake up with anxiety in the middle of the night, these practical tips can help you stop tossing and turning:
- Write it down. Keep a journal next to your bed where you can jot down your worries.
- Listen to soothing music. Studies show that relaxing tunes can calm your autonomic nervous system, which leads to slower breathing, reduced heart rate, and lower blood pressure, all of which help you sleep.
- Get up but stay calm. If you simply can’t snooze, it’s OK to get out of bed — just be smart about what you do next.
- And try to avoid self-medication with food, alcohol, or sleep aids, which can provide short-term help but won’t get to the root of your issues.
Meditate on it
- Gently part your lips.
- Exhale, making a “whoosh” sound as you do.
- Silently inhale as you press your lips together for a count of four.
- For a count of seven, hold your breath.
- Exhale for a count of eight, and make the whooshing sound again.
- Repeat this four times as you first start; work up to eight repetitions.
It’s important to remember that it can take time to find the right treatment approach for your anxiety. Because of this, you and your doctor may choose to use a variety of different treatment options.
Treat underlying conditions
There are some medical conditions that can cause symptoms of anxiety. They include:
If any of these conditions are causing your nighttime anxiety, your doctor will want to treat them first.
The bottom line
Finally, if nothing seems to help your nighttime anxiety, check in with a physician or therapist, who can help get to the bottom of underlying medical conditions or anxiety disorders.
There are many reasons why your anxiety may be worse at night. Daily stressors, poor sleep habits, and other health conditions can lead to increased anxiety and panic attacks at night.
However, there are many treatments available that can help ease your anxiety and improve your quality of sleep. If you’re concerned that your nighttime anxiety and lack of sleep are affecting your life, it’s never too late to take advantage of the mental health resources available to you.
These online resources can help you find a mental health professional near you:
- American Psychiatric Association’s Find a Psychiatrist
- American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s Find a Therapist
As you (try to) fall asleep, remember: Mindfulness is key. Rather than worrying about the future, focus on what’s within your control right now — like getting to sleep.
To schedule an appointment with Primary Care of Roxborough for an evaluation call us at 215-487-1887 or visit https://www.roxboroughmemorial.com/~/our-services/family-medicine/
Cited:https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/tools-and-tricks-to-calm-your-anxiety-and-actually-get-some-sleep, https://restonic.com/blog/cant-sleep-8-proven-mind-tricks-soothe-anxious-mind, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/tips-for-beating-anxiety-to-get-a-better-nights-sleep, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/anxiety-and-sleep, and https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-calm-your-anxiety-at-night/