Anxiety is a tricky thing. It can come on out of nowhere, and it can also get worse when you least expect it. If you're wondering whether you're the only one battling anxiety at night time before falling asleep, know that it's not just you! Humans are more likely to be anxious when it's dark out, and what's more, nighttime often means that we're home alone with no distractions from work or other responsibilities. This can lead us to think about all the things we have on our minds. Additionally, some individuals also suffer from nocturnal panic attacks that wake you up while asleep. So if your anxiety heightens at night, and you're in a loop of constant sleep deprivation, here are some ways you can help yourself get through this time period.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, worry, or fear about something. It's usually brought on by stress, overthinking, and it's why so many people have trouble sleeping at night because they are repeatedly worried about something, and can't get it out of their minds.
What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that involve excessive worry or fear, which is why so many individuals with anxiety have trouble sleeping. There are five main types of anxiety disorders*: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder).
|Anxiety Disorder||What does it mean?|
|General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)||Chronic Anxiety. Excessive worry and tension without any reason.|
|Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)||Recurring unwanted thoughts (obsessions), and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions).|
|Panic Disorder||Repeated episodes of fear with physical sensations of fast heart beat, shortness of breath, or dizziness.|
|Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)||Caused by a traumatic event. Resulting in nightmares, and unwanted memories of the trauma, and avoidance of similar situations.|
|Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)||Anxiety and excessive self consciousness caused by social interactions.|
What is a nocturnal panic attack?
A nocturnal panic attack is when anxiety strikes in the middle of the night, and wakes you up from your sleep. They sometimes come with symptoms like heart palpitations or trouble breathing which can make them even scarier than waking up to our regular worries in the morning.
Why is my anxiety worse at night?
When panic attacks happen at night they tend to be more intense because there are no distractions from work or family that might otherwise occupy our thoughts during daylight hours. There's nothing wrong with feeling anxious before going to sleep, but if these feelings get increasingly intense over time it might be time to seek a mental health professional.
What are some tips I can use to fall asleep when I have nighttime anxiety?
What are some
tips I can use to
fall asleep when I
Here are a few things you can try to lower your anxiety and sleep well:
Here are a few things you can try to lower your anxiety and sleep well:
Sometimes, these anxiety or panic attacks are caused by hyperventilation (rapid or deep breathing caused by anxiety or panic) where too much oxygen in our bodies can make us feel nauseous or dizzy. When this happens, try deep breathing exercises like putting a hand on your chest and your stomach and trying to slow each occurrence of your inhale and exhale.
You can also try the box breathing method. In this method, breathe in for four seconds and fully fill your lungs with air, then hold your breath for four seconds, and finally, exhale for four seconds, and then wait a second before you repeat the process. Feel free to do this a few times until you feel better.
Try setting yourself up for an easy night of sleep by avoiding caffeine and drinking chamomile tea instead. Chamomile tea is packed with magnesium and calcium and contains antioxidants that can induce sleepiness and reduce anxiety and nocturnal panic attacks. Be mindful however that chamomile tea is a diuretic, which means it can cause your system to shed water, therefore cause frequent urination. So, it’s best to drink it a few hours before bed so that your sleep is not interrupted by the urge to urinate.
Dim the lights
Keeping your room dimly lit can help ease any fears that are keeping you up at night. Feeling scared in the dark is only natural, but keeping some lamps on overnight or using a nightlight could make things easier for you.
Adhere to a sleep schedule
If you're having trouble sleeping, it can also be helpful to go to bed at about the same time each night so that your body can get used to giving your full attention to relaxing before falling asleep. Even having a consistent wake time will help regulate your sleep.
Body scan relaxation technique
A body scan is when you focus your attention on each part of your body one by one, place your attention on it, and allow it to relax, starting at the top and then working your way down. Doing this a few times with some mindful breathing will cause your body to completely relax, and surrender to the bed, increasing the speed with which you fall asleep.
When it comes to sleeping at night, one of our biggest problems is that we can't stop thinking about all the things on our minds. If this describes you, try writing down what's running through your head every day so you have no more room to think about it during bedtime. You could also write down your thoughts in a journal or on a piece of paper if that helps take away some space in your mind at night time. If you are not a writer, but a reader instead, feel free to grab a book to distract your mind. Do not use your phone as it emits blue light that will falsely make your body think that it's time to get up.
Listen to calming music or sounds
If you're someone who loves music, feel free to put on some calming music. You can also try using an app like Headspace or Calm that play nature sounds and white noise for you to fall asleep faster. They also have sleep time meditations that may help.
Supplement with Melatonin or Ashwagandha
You may have heard of melatonin being used as a natural sleep aid. Melatonin is a hormone usually released in the brain at night time to make us sleepy. Supplementing melatonin can be useful for those who have trouble regulating their own melatonin production. You can usually find melatonin over the counter, however, please ask your doctor if it is right for you depending on your medical conditions.
Additionally, ashwagandha has been making its way into the mainstream. Ashwagandha is an herb that has been around for centuries and is also used as a sleep aid. Be careful as it does have some stimulant properties to it as well, so talk with your doctor before supplementing ashwagandha. To learn more about ashwagandha, and its benefits, check out this comprehensive article on Ashwagandha, and its benefits.
To learn more about ashwagandha, and its benefits, check out this comprehensive article on
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The endorphins you release from exercising can help ease feelings of anxiety and keep you more relaxed the next day, which makes it easier to fall asleep, especially if you exercise earlier in the day. The thought of going for a run or working out at night or in the evening might not be too appealing to those who are having trouble sleeping but maybe take a walk instead. Exercising during this time will make sure that your body is tired enough to want to rest. Also, make sure to try relaxation exercises like practicing yoga, meditation, or mindfulness techniques that will help you ease your mind and relax before bedtime.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The best way to manage this type of anxiety is through therapy and specifically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It allows you to address why you're feeling anxious so you can learn what triggers your fears and how to overcome them. Additionally, CBT teaches you how to control your negative thought patterns so you can stay calm and not worry about why your anxiety is getting worse, so you can finally get out of that loop.
Anxiety can be triggered by a variety of things, including stress, worry, and fear. Nighttime is when our body's natural defenses are at their lowest point. For some people, nighttime is an especially difficult time because it is when they most likely have to confront their fears. There are many ways to help manage your symptoms such as taking deep breaths, having a pre-bedtime routine, journaling, listening to music, or even supplementing with melatonin or ashwagandha. If you're looking for more long-term solutions, try talking with a mental health professional about what might be causing your anxiety and so you can finally get better sleep at night.