Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues, and it can impact our lives in different ways. For instance, when you’re anxious, falling asleep can turn into a challenge.
Nighttime anxiety can lead to various sleep disorders, and the worst thing about sleep and anxiety is that the lack of sleep can worsen the symptoms of anxiety and vice versa. As a result, it can be very difficult to escape the vicious circle of daytime worries and restless nights.
It’s important to have enough sleep if you want to be productive and focused during the day. Besides, the lack of sleep can severely affect both your emotional and physical health.
Research data shows that sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart attack, and stroke. However, it’s impossible to have a healthy sleep if you’re feeling overwhelmed with your worries because of anxiety and cannot relax at night.
The good news is that therapy can help treat anxiety, and you can also improve your sleep through self-care.
In this article, we will consider nighttime anxiety in more detail and share some tips that will help you calm your anxiety at night.
What Anxiety Is and What It Feels Like
Simply put, anxiety makes you feel worried and afraid. For instance, it can make you feel afraid of possible outcomes of a certain situation. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing anxiety occasionally when you’re in stressful situations. However, many people experience excessive anxiety without any obvious reasons for it.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, and all of them can have a significant negative impact on one’s quality of life. Symptoms of anxiety can negatively affect both emotional and physical health.
For instance, physical symptoms of anxiety may include:
- Muscle tension
- Racing heartbeat
- Gastrointestinal problems.
According to statistics, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adult Americans every year, and this disorder is often accompanied by other mental health problems. For instance, about 50% of people with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety disorders.
Anxiety can make a person feel extremely nervous and irritated. Given that it may also manifest itself through physical symptoms, anxiety can seriously impact both one’s professional and personal life. One of the common symptoms of anxiety is insomnia, so anxiety and quality of sleep are closely related.
The Relationship Between Sleep and Anxiety
Insomnia and other sleep disorders are often linked to the symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety can make you ruminate about your troubles and worries at night so that you won’t be able to relax and fall asleep.
Research data indicates that mental hyperarousal is one of the key factors that contribute to the development of insomnia. Anxiety increases sleep reactivity, making it more difficult to fall asleep, especially after dealing with stressful events.
Moreover, problems with falling asleep can reinforce nighttime anxiety. If you have such problems, you might have noticed that, the harder you try to fall asleep, the more difficult it is. Such difficulties create negative associations with going to bed and contribute to the development of anticipatory anxiety, which revolves around the feeling of uncertainty.
Some people may even wake up because of anxiety at night and therefore suffer from sleep fragmentation, which impacts both the quality of sleep and its length. According to research, anxiety disorders can disrupt sleep cycles. For instance, it can affect rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
The REM phase of sleep is associated with dreaming so anxiety can make a person more likely to see nightmares, which in turn may create additional negative associations with sleep and reinforce fear.
In addition, the lack of sleep doesn’t let the brain recover from daily stress, therefore making a person more likely to develop anxiety.How to Sleep With Anxiety
1. Develop a healthy sleep routine
A car that moves fast cannot just stop immediately, it needs some time to slow down. Your mind is no different: when your thoughts are racing, you won’t be able to just lay down and fall asleep.
Prepare yourself for sleep. There’s no universal recipe for a perfect sleep routine that would fit everyone. Some people may choose to meditate, while others may take a warm bath or read a book.
Routines are generally important for your circadian rhythm. Things that you do send signals to your brain about the time of the day and evoke certain associations. For example, you can benefit from eating at the same time every day. This way, when you make breakfast, your brain will receive a signal that it’s time to wake up.
2. Try to go to bed at the same time
If you go to sleep at a different time, you can disrupt your circadian rhythm, and your brain might get confused when it’s time to fall asleep. Make your daily schedule more consistent and try to go to bed at the same time, every day. Similarly, try to wake up at the same time, as well.
Make sure that you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day and don’t try to “catch up” on your sleep during the weekend. If you haven’t got enough sleep throughout the week, sleeping for ten hours on Sunday won’t make you feel better — it might only negatively affect your circadian rhythm.
3. Eat these snacks before going to bed
Eat tart cherries or drink tart cherry juice. According to research, tart cherries can boost the production of melatonin. This hormone plays a crucial role in sleep so tart cherries can help you sleep longer and fall asleep easier.
You can also drink chamomile tea or eat a few Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts are a natural source of selenium, which can normalize your thyroid activity and therefore improve your sleep.
4. Take some time to deal with stress and worries
If you keep wondering, “Why do I get anxiety at night?” the chances are that you’re overwhelmed with daily stress and worries. Quite often, people experience anxiety at night because they cannot stop thinking about the things they should do and problems they cannot solve at the moment.
In this case, a great solution is to try journaling or other grounding techniques for anxiety. For example, you can write down all of your worries on a sheet of paper and put them aside. While listing your problems, acknowledge their importance and think of when you’re going to deal with them.
This way, you will let your brain know that nothing is wrong, you’ve examined all the problems, and there’s nothing to worry about.
5. Try therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven to be effective in treating anxiety disorders. This is a type of talk therapy that can help you figure out what thoughts trigger anxiety and avoid negative thinking patterns that affect your sleep.
If you’ve never visited a therapist before, you can learn more about the treatment process so that you will know what to expect from your first session.
While in-person therapy may not be a convenient option for people with tight work schedules, online therapy platforms like Calmerry enable you to talk to a licensed therapist from virtually everywhere and respond to your therapist’s messages whenever you have a spare minute. Besides, online therapy might be a more comfortable option for people with social anxiety.
Nighttime anxiety is a common problem that can negatively affect both your emotional and physical health. We hope that our tips will help you figure out how to calm anxiety at night and improve the quality of your sleep.
Develop a healthy sleep routine, try to go to bed at the same time, and consider going to therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven to be effective in treating different types of anxiety disorders, so getting professional help is a great solution.