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Does anxiety flood your brain the moment the lights go out at night? Do you find yourself agonizing over “what ifs” or replaying events from the day in your mind over and over again while your mind reels with intrusive thoughts?
Sleep anxiety can be absolutely exhausting. And if you’re struggling to deal with it alone, you might feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. Unfortunately, when anxiety hits you full force at night, there aren’t any competing distractions like there are during the day, and your worries and anxiety grow louder and become more pronounced, preventing you from getting a good night’s rest.
So, what can you do to cope? Is there any way to get rid of sleep anxiety? To help you find a solution to your sleep anxiety problems, let’s look at this issue more closely.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, about 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. There’s very little scientific research on sleep anxiety, but scientists do know that the adrenaline rush caused by racing or intrusive thoughts at night can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Although anxiety is a normal human emotion, when it lingers and affects your regular nightly routine, it can very quickly diminish your quality of life. Sleep deprivation can be a trigger for anxiety, but the opposite is also true — anxiety can reduce sleep quality. Since the two are so intertwined, it’s important to treat your daytime and nighttime anxiety and address any sleep issues you’re having.
Not sure if you’re dealing with sleep anxiety or something else? Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but the following symptoms are general symptoms of anxiety, which you might experience at night, during the day, or both.
Many people don’t realize they’re experiencing symptoms of sleep anxiety. Instead, they may just think they’re having trouble falling asleep or shutting off their brain for the day. Regardless, sleep anxiety can cause some or all of the symptoms listed above.
If you’re unfamiliar with panic attacks, they are short and intense bursts of fear, usually accompanied by physical symptoms such as:
Sometimes, panic attacks can even take place while you’re sleeping, which can make it extremely difficult to calm down and go back to sleep afterward.
When your worries are keeping you from sleeping and it feels impossible to get any rest, there are several expert-approved ways to get some shuteye.
How you transition from day to night will make a difference in how you sleep. Taking the time to wind down and prepare for bedtime, both physically and psychologically, can help limit stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep.
First, if you’re not already, make sure you’re going to bed around the same time every night, even on weekends. A regular bedtime will help teach your body to get sleepy around the same time every night.
Next, prioritize behavior that helps you transition to sleep and limit those that don’t. For example, maybe you like to take a warm bath before you go to bed. Or perhaps you prefer to snuggle on the couch with your dog and read a good book. Whatever you do, try to make it a regular habit and limit stressful activities that could heighten anxiety and keep you awake, like watching the news or scrolling through social media.
Be careful to limit your screen time before bed, avoid exercising right before you hit the hay, and cut back on caffeine consumption early in the afternoon.
Engaging in relaxing activities before bed can help you put your anxiety to rest and settle into a more restful sleep. The type of activities that work best for you will vary, depending on your individual preferences.
However, some good examples include:
Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea to do stressful things before bed, especially if you struggle with sleep anxiety. That means things like working, paying bills, or having tense conversations with friends or a spouse should be avoided 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, if possible.
If you can’t get to sleep, one of the worst things you can do is lie in your bed awake for hours. This will only make your anxiety worse. Instead, if you can’t sleep after 20 or 30 minutes of trying, restart your bedtime routine and give your body another chance to unwind and get tired.
For instance, you might make yourself a cup of hot tea or spend 10 minutes meditating. Whatever you do, just make sure not to turn on all the bright lights, head to the TV, or scroll endlessly on your phone. These types of activities will make it more difficult for your body to wind down for bed.
If you wake up with anxiety in the middle of the night and you can’t get back to sleep, consider keeping a journal on the nightstand next to your bed or somewhere else where it’s easily accessible to you at night. When you can’t sleep, write down all your worrying thoughts.
Mental health experts say this strategy helps by giving you a way to get those thoughts out of your head so you can detach and let them go. In situations like these, it’s tempting to rely on medication, alcohol, or food to shut down your brain for the night, but those approaches won’t help you in the long term, and they can have many negative side effects.
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural rhythm of daily sleep and wakefulness. It also affects your regular cycles of hunger, digestion, and other body processes. If you’ve been struggling to get a good night’s rest for a while, you may need to take action to reset your circadian rhythm.
Some strategies for changing your circadian rhythm are less than effective and can leave you with undesirable side effects. For example, using alcohol or prescription sleep aids may work temporarily, but they’re not effective long-term solutions and can disrupt the quality of your sleep or waking hours.
To effectively reset your circadian rhythm, follow these steps:
Sleep anxiety is difficult to deal with. If you’re still tossing and turning after implementing the above changes, it’s time to consider Sleep Reset. Sleep Reset is the only science-backed program that combines the most effective methods from top-tier sleep clinics with expert sleep coaching — and it’s convenient, affordable, and customized to your sleep needs and lifestyle. You’ll get a personalized plan designed for your specific sleep patterns and lifestyle, a dedicated sleep coach, and much more.
Ready to banish sleep anxiety for good? Take our expert-designed sleep assessment to identify the causes of your sleep anxiety and find an effective long-term solution. Finally say goodbye to sleepless nights and get deeper sleep!