The sun is down, the stars are out, and you are ready for a good night’s rest. However, You are not met with sweet dreams when your head hits the pillow. Instead, you find your mind racing, your heart pounding, and suddenly you realize that you’re feeling anxious even though you’ve been fine all day. You begin to feel helpless as your anxieties set in and you realize that sleep is nowhere in sight.
Although the sudden onset of anxiety at night is jarring, it is not uncommon in people with or without anxiety disorders. While it is common for many people to experience heightened anxiety and intrusive thoughts at nighttime and while trying to go to sleep, that does not mean that it is easy to manage. Not only is nighttime anxiety emotionally and physically exhausting, but it can lead to major sleep disruptions which are potentially damaging to your daily life, and feed back into the development of further anxiety.
There are many reasons that you may be experiencing anxiety, but that does not mean that you have to live with it. Understanding your anxiety and getting treatment for your anxiety is possible and can get you back to sleeping soundly and having sweet dreams.
Anxiety and The Night
Anxiety is a perfectly normal emotion that we all experience at some point in our lives. Stressors can trigger it; the emotion manifests in feelings of nervousness, panic, fear, and dread. When you experience anxiety, your heart might beat faster, your breathing rate increases, you may begin to sweat, or you may feel negative emotions. While this is a good sign that your body is attempting to react appropriately to stress, when you are laying in bed trying to rest, feelings of anxiety can be overwhelming and difficult to manage. Additionally, nighttime anxiety is often cyclical. Anxiety both causes trouble sleeping and is exacerbated by it.
While anxiety is a common emotion, there are a few solid theories as to why some people feel their anxiety intensify and heightened at night. Most people are busy with daily life’s distractions during the day and do not have time to consider their larger anxieties. When lying in bed at night, people are undistracted, vulnerable, and free to think about all of their anxieties they may have repressed during the day.
It is also believed that the body just does not have the energy to cope with stress at the end of the day. During the daytime your mind is able to handle what stresses are lingering, but at night, when you are tired, your body simply does not have the energy to function that way. This then leads to an increase in anxiety in the night.
Symptoms of Nighttime Anxiety
The symptoms of anxiety are similar to that of anxiety felt at any time. However, many people report that their anxiety symptoms are more intense at night. These symptoms affect both the mind and body. The most common symptoms of nighttime anxiety are:
- Upset Stomach
- Racing thoughts
- Muscle tightness
- Intrusive negative thoughts
- Intense worry
- Imaging “worse case” scenarios
- Panic attacks
Experiencing these symptoms as you are trying to go to sleep can make it impossible to fall asleep and only make the symptoms more intense. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with nighttime anxiety.
Ways to Handle Nighttime Anxiety
Handling nighttime anxiety can be difficult. Whether or not you choose to cope with your anxiety at home or seek our treatment programs for anxiety, it is always a good idea to seek help if a mental health problem is disturbing your daily life.
Many people try to address their anxiety at home before seeking professional help.
We recommend the following techniques as ways to try to tackle your anxiety before laying down to sleep:
Start a “Wind-Down” Routine: Starting a routine to help your brain wind down before bed can help your body understand that it is time to sleep. By following this routine, you can slowly unwind, consider anything stressing you out on your own terms, and by the time you are ready for bed, you will be ready for sleep.
Journal Before You Try to Sleep: While journaling may sound like a mental health cliché, journaling before bed is a good way to release the anxieties that have been stirring around in your head all day. Getting your anxiety out on paper won’t make it go away, but it helps to tell your brain that there is no reason to release all that panic while trying to sleep.
Practice Deep Breathing and Centering Exercises: When panicking or experiencing intense anxiety, finding your way out of it can be difficult. That said, research has shown that mindful deep breathing and centering techniques are a good way for people to handle their anxiety when they are alone. This can consist of counting breaths, taking long intentional breaths, or even going through a series of grounding exercises. Whatever you choose, these exercises help open up your airways, provide oxygen to your brain, and distract your mind from your panic, all of which can bring your anxiety down.
Get Up: We understand that you are tired when you lay down and likely do not feel like getting back up because of your anxiety. There are ways to help deal with this. Getting out of bed, walking around the house a little, and getting a cup of water can interrupt your anxiety and help move your mind onto a different task until you are ready to return to bed and try again.
Seeking Professional Help
We understand that “at home” techniques are sometimes not enough. Some anxiety is too hard to handle, and when that is the case, we recommend seeking professional help.
Here at SUN Behavioral Delaware, we understand that anxiety can feel crushing, trapping, and like it is too big to handle. We are happy to inform you that for our SUN Behavioral Delaware team, no anxiety is too big or too small for us to help. With our specialized anxiety treatment, you can work through your anxieties with our expert staff and gold-standard treatment programming. You deserve a good night’s sleep and to live without unreasonable anxiety. We want to help you achieve that. To learn more about how we can help, call us today at: 302-604-5600
FAQ’s About Why is Anxiety Worse at Night
Why does my anxiety flare up at night?
At night your mind is undistracted, tired, and vulnerable. This can allow previously repressed thoughts and anxieties to creep in.
How can I calm my anxiety at night?
We recommend starting a routine to help yourself wind down, journaling before bed, getting out of bed when anxiety begins, and practicing breathing exercises. If none of these work, we recommend receiving professional help.