Why Anxiety Increases At Night
Theres no one easy explanation as to why anxiety increases at night for some people. Instead, it can be the result of a variety of factors.
One explanation is that when the lights go out and all is quiet, there is less distraction and more opportunity for worry and rumination about your career, finances, or relationships. Difficulty falling asleep may also unleash its own set of worries about how well you’ll be able to function the following day.
Other reasons why anxiety increases at night may include:
- Drinking too much caffeine during the day or close to bedtime, which can make some people jittery and more anxious
- Experiencing a recent trauma or having pre-existing post-traumatic stress disorder
- Health anxiety, or noticing aches and pains more while trying to fall asleep
- Having certain medical conditions one study linked nighttime anxiety to menopause, for example
- Worry or fear over the next day
What To Do If Your Depression And Anxiety Are Worse At Night
Mental illness is an incredibly elusive, flexible and unpredictable monster. Every time you think youd pinned it down, somehow it manages to slip away and the wrestle starts all over again. When you feel youve balanced the scale, it pushes its heavy finger down on one side and suddenly, everything is sideways. The popular expression of cut one head off and two more appear is close to the truth with mental illness. I think a more relatable expression is cut off one head and you cant even count the number of heads that take its place. This isnt meant to be discouraging, but a reminder that mental illness is never a one-round fight. Its something that requires patience, grit and stamina to fight every day.
These cycles of success and setbacks is something everyone goes through in their life, even without mental illnesses. But these monsters can make the successes feel less valuable and the setbacks feel like complete failures. This is part of its arsenal of lies, and we cannot give into it. But with these cycles, we always have to be prepared for the next part, whether thats looking forward to the sun rising or preparing for the sun to set. For me, this isnt just a metaphor it is quite literally what I have to do.
Write Down Your Worries On Paper
According to Juanita Wells, director of clinical development at New Method Wellness, putting your thoughts down on paper can help us remain accountable to ourselves, our feelings, our purpose, and plan.
Instead of letting thoughts and to-dos swirl around in your brain, write them down so that your brain has a game plan for the following day. Wells says that writing down your anxious feelings, especially through stream-of-consciousness journaling , can help ease anxiety before bed.
In addition to calming pre-bedtime anxiety, research shows that journaling can also help you fall asleep more quickly. To get started journaling, just snuggle up with your notebook and some cozy pillows and let your thoughts take it away.
You May Like: The Meaning Of Phobia
The 7 Worst Things To Do At Night If You Have Anxiety
Having trouble falling asleep is a problem that plagues too many of us. And if you suffer with anxiety â or think you might â nighttime can be tricky, because you can start to worry about getting enough sleep before you even get into bed. âSome of my patients complain that their mind races at night â especially when their anxiety is worse â which prevents them from falling asleep,â Jennifer Caudle, DO, Family Physician and Associate Professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, tells Bustle. âOthers wake up prematurely or have interrupted sleep when anxiety worsens.â And with our plugged in 24/7 lifestyle, where we seem to live surrounded by phones, laptops, and tablets, you really have to make a conscious effort to give yourself the best chance at a good night sleep.
And if anxiety is part of the problem, it’s important to remember how anxiety works. “Anxiety, in general,is the reaction to situations perceived as dangerous or stressful,”Shoshana Ungerleider, an Internal Medicine Physician based in California, tells Bustle. “Some anxiety is a normal response and can actually be beneficial. However, an anxiety disorder is a condition typically characterized by excessive fear and/or anxiety that can have negative behavioral and emotional consequences that negatively affects someoneâs daily life.”
So What Can You Do About It
- Make sure you are staying hydrated and getting enough nutrition.This may seem either silly or obvious but a day with a baby can get away from you real quick. Before you know it, all you have had is maybe one glass of water and a granola bar. Getting enough food and water throughout the day has a positive impact on your mental health and can make it easier for you to keep your fight or flight response at bay.
- Practice the breathing technique called The Relaxation Response.When you are feeling anxious, you stop breathing properly which actually increases the physical symptoms of anxiety.Practicing this breathing technique at least once a day can positively impact how you feel all day, which will make it easier for your body and mind to slow down so you can fall asleep.
- Understand what anxiety really is.Anxiety is all about the future and usually asks the question, what if. What if ___________ happens to my baby or me? These thoughts are scary but remember, you arent in the future, you are in the here and now. Jumping on the anxiety train of thought deceives you into thinking that if you can plan for what if, then you can control it. But 99% of the time, that what if scenario never happens. It surely doesnt prepare you for anything. It only makes you miserable in the present moment.
These suggestions are just your starting point. One may seem more reasonable for you to start than the other. And after you start it, you may find you dont like it.
Read Also: What Is The Phobia Of Throwing Up
Caffeine And Anxiety Make You Feel Jittery And Nervous
Caffeine is a stimulant and that can be bad news for someone with anxiety. Caffeines jittery effects on your body are similar to those of a frightening event. Thats because caffeine stimulates your fight or flight response, and research has shown that this can make anxiety worse and can even trigger an anxiety attack.
Other research suggests that while caffeine can increase alertness, attention, and cognitive function, overdoing it can increase anxiety, particularly in people with panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. And as with the symptoms of anxiety, one too many cups of joe may leave you feeling nervous and moody, and can keep you up at night.
If You Cant Sleep Get Up
Insomnia is frustrating, but lying in bed and trying to get to sleep is only going to make you feel worse. If you canât get back to sleep within 20 minutes, get up.
âSome people get a sleep phobia where they get fixated on not being able to get to sleep, which can become a big anxiety worry,â Lidbetter says. âIf you canât go to sleep, get up and do something else. Reading can be therapeutic or you could practise mindfulness.
âAnxiety UK has a strong partnership with the Headspace people, which is a great app and something you can just practise which is relatively easy to do. It just sets the scene for a restful nightâs sleep because it calms down your sympathetic nervous system and puts you into relaxation mode.â
You May Like: Fear Conditioning Definition
Why Your Anxiety Always Feels Worse At Night
Its 11PM and you’re settling down to sleep. Everything is well. You turn the salt lamp off and drift. But then, suddenly, it’s 3AM and you’re awake again.
You should probably start getting your tax information together, you think to yourself, or else you’ll be arrested for evasion. That would be shit, wouldn’t it? Getting arrested. But then again you’re nearly 27 maybe it would shake things up a bit. Wow, nearly 27 what have you done with your life? You’ve only been to four countries and you haven’t even had a threesome. Do your friends like you, or are they just pretending? You need to ring the landlord about the mould. Is now the right time to check Co-Star?
Despite all this being at least somewhat recognisable to many, there’s very little research into why anxiety can feel so acute at night time . But we do know that approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem, such as anxiety, every year. And for a lot of us, that anxiety manifests two-fold once the sun goes down and there are no distractions from our spiralling thoughts.
According to Emma Carrington, Advice and Information Manager at Rethink Mental Illness, acute anxiety at night is a problem that many clients approach them with.
In the UK and Ireland, the Samaritans phone lines are open 24/7, at 116 123. In the US, if you’re in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-TALK . You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
How Do You Stop Panic Attacks At Night
Unfortunately, you can’t always stop panic attacks, especially if it’s a nocturnal panic attack that can happen during sleep without warning. However, you can learn to stay relaxed and “talk yourself down” by controlling your breath, practicing positive self-talk, relaxing your muscles, and seeking support from a friend or family member.
Don’t Miss: Fear Of Long Word
Think Of Positive Images
Try thinking of positive things during a panic attack. This could be a list of your favourite songs, foods or animals. For example, start at the beginning of the alphabet, naming a place beginning with each letter, and work your way along from A to Z.
If you can, another idea is to get a notebook and write down a ‘page full of positive things’. Put down all the things you love until the page is full up.
Why Anxiety Can Feel Worse At Night
“Sleep promotes rest and relaxation, and gives us a chance to recuperate and let go of the stresses of the day,” says Dr Natasha Bijlani, a consultant psychiatrist who provides treatment for anxiety at Priory Hospital Roehampton. “However, this isn’t the case for the many individuals who struggle with anxiety and panic attacks at night.”
There is no single reason why people experience anxiety or panic attacks at night, she explains, but several factors may be involved.
“We do know that the brain doesn’t ‘switch off’ during sleep, so it’s possible for any pent-up worries or anxieties to manifest in our unconscious brains, leading to nocturnal panic attacks,” Bijlani says.
Simply being aware that others are sleeping soundly can lead to a sense of isolation and worsen anxiety, too. Small problems, such as forgetting to post a letter, can suddenly seem much worse than they actually are.
“Those who struggle with daytime anxiety and panic attacks are more likely to experience such symptoms at night because there are fewer distractions to prevent them from worrying excessively and further, their heightened anxiety is likely to affect their quality of sleep,” Bijlani explains.
When people are anxious during the day, they can avoid thinking about the thoughts that cause them distress by doing activities, says Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK. At night that is harder, and everything is quiet, she says.
Some also worry their night-time anxiety may impact others in a negative way.
Recommended Reading: What’s The Phobia Of Throwing Up
Consider Bedtime Supplements To Calm Anxiety
Magnesium is a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to relax a busy or tense mind in the evening. Serenease contains 420 mg of magnesium from the 6 most functional types of this miracle mineral.
Chamomile tea has also been shown to support a feeling of calm and ease before bed . You can find chamomile in the tea section at most grocery stores, or steep the dried flowers yourself.
To help you fall asleep, magnolia bark is a staple in Eastern medicine, and has been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, as well as increase total sleep time .
Sleep Savior contains both magnolia bark and magnesium, plus 3 mg of melatonin to help you drift off for a restful nights sleep.
Understand What Anxiety Really Is
Anxiety is all about the future and usually asks the question, “What if?”
“What if something happens to my baby or me?”
These thoughts are scary, but remember: You aren’t in the future you’re in the here and now. Jumping on the anxiety train of thought deceives you into thinking that if you can plan for “what if,” then you can control it.
But 99 percent of the time, that “what if” scenario never happens. It surely doesn’t prepare you for anything. It only makes you miserable in the present moment.
Don’t Miss: Bipolar And Eating Disorders
How Anxiety Can Affect Sleep
Lack of sleep can lead to increased chances of anxiety, but anxiety can also cause a lack of sleep. Unfortunately, the two can intertwine quite a bit, causing one to exacerbate the other.
Anxiety can have a negative effect on your bodys ability to fall asleep as your brain is in fight or flight mode, thinking of all potential outcomes for whatever is causing the anxiety. Furthermore, anticipatory anxiety and specific anxiety about sleep can lead to sleep disturbance and insomnia, which then creates a feedback loop that can make both conditions worsen. Insomnia can also make you more irritable and more worried, as your brain is not getting all the sleep it needs in order to function at normal levels.
However, its not uncommon to experience anxiety related to sleep. As Winnie Yu, a writer for WebMD noted in her article Scared to Sleep, sleep anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. Many people may stress about not getting enough sleep to function, but the stress alone of trying to sleep can cause people to sit awake for hours. Additionally, other fears such as recurring nightmares, fear of sleep apnea , and more can all lead to disturbed sleep.
How To Stop Neuropathy Pain At Night
There are options we can explore if your neuropathy pain seems to be worsening at night, explains Dr. Claytor. There might be oral or topical medications we can prescribe, or maybe its getting your stress under control and being more mindful.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, physical therapy and meditation may be complementary tools to reduce pain as well.
Dr. Claytor stresses the importance of talking to your doctor sooner rather than later. Often times people will wait so long to see their physician that theres permanent nerve damage that might have been avoided.
I think one of the most important things I can discuss with a patient who comes in with neuropathy pain at night is getting to the root cause of what is actually driving it, says Dr. Claytor. Depending on what the underlying cause is, treating that first and foremost can usually help reduce the pain overall especially at night.
Don’t Miss: Phobia Medical Definition
Postpartum Anxiety Tends To Get Worse At Night
If your baby hasn’t started sleeping through the night, then you may be thinking, “When will my baby go to sleep?” or, “How long will my baby sleep before I’m woken up again?”
This can keep you in a hyperaroused state, making it difficult to quiet your mind so you can fall asleep.
But let’s say that your baby is sleeping from at least midnight until 5 or 6 a.m. Your house is quiet now. The day is no longer available to distract you from what’s making you anxious.
The fact that the house is quiet at night really simplifies why postpartum anxiety is worse at night.
And, in reality, you may struggle to distract yourself from the thoughts that come along with postpartum anxiety during the daylight hours.
That’s because postpartum anxiety is different from anxiety that’s not related to childbirth.
First, postpartum anxiety is one of the most common presentations of postpartum depression. And postpartum depression is an agitated depression that can make falling asleep or staying asleep difficult.
Also, the postpartum panic response can cause moms to wake up unexpectedly in the middle of the night.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders
The exact cause of anxiety is unknown. In fact, researchers believe that there is not one single cause but rather an interplay of factors that include a persons genetics, family history, and exposure to negative life events. Some health problems and drugs can also contribute to symptoms of anxiety.
Don’t Miss: Katsaridaphobia Pronounce
How To Stop Panic Attacks At Night
Getting a good nights sleep is essential for our health and wellbeing. Sleep promotes rest and relaxation, and gives us a chance to recuperate and let go of the stresses of the day. However, this isnt the case for the many individuals who struggle with panic attacks at night.
Here, we provide advice on how to cope with panic attacks at night, and give tips on how to reduce them.
How Anxiety Becomes Programmed
And people often say to me my anxiety is terrible at night, thats why Ive got to put the telly on to go to sleep, because I know my anxiety is going to be worse. I cant have any quiet because if Im quiet, its going to get worse. What theyre actually doing is telling their brain to make them anxious.
Read Also: 3 Phases Of Schizophrenia