How to Deal with Anxious Nights

Like many, I have nights where I’m laying in bed thinking about whatever my mind can make up at 2 am, and hearing the tiniest little sounds of the wind, my dog walking or some household item that’s on. I toss and turn.

Some days, my anxiety creeps up and makes all that worse.

What do I have to worry about at 2 am? Apparently, lots.

My anxiety tries to convince me that those noises I’m hearing is something or someone coming after me.

It tries to convince me that I will miss out on something when I’m sleeping, or that someone will have bad news for me when I wake up.

It goes over everything that happened that day, and what I must do tomorrow.

Sometimes I do not want to fall asleep because I don’t want to have another bad dream as I did before.

I have 1-3 anxiety attacks in bed each week. Some weeks more. On the nights when I don’t, I’m still not free of anxiety.

There’s no one to talk to because they’re all sleeping. I’m alone in the dark until I fall asleep.

So, what causes anxiety at night?

The most common reason is that there are no distractions.

“All the worries you have accumulated over the course of the day choose now to float through your mind. Being alone in a dark room doing nothing but lying there with your worries allows you no distractions from them, which often allow them to seem to grow bigger and bigger and spiral out of control.”[1]

But it can also be due to post work stress, late night associations, physical responses,[2] as well as sleep disorders and pain disorders (which can bring discomfort).

What to do

  1. [3]Meditate – It’s not for everyone but it works for some people. It worked for me (until I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore). There are tons of guided meditations on YouTube and apps for your phone, such as Calm. Some will teach you how to relax your body as well as your mind.
  2. Write a to do list – It can be helpful to write down what you need/want to do the next day before bed or as you think of it so you don’t have to worry about forgetting or missing anything.
  3. Avoid stimulants/caffeine before going to bed – I’m guilty of this because I have Pepsi every night before bed but apparently, it does help to avoid it.
  4. Avoid screens before bed/in bed – I was almost not going to put this in because almost everyone – especially millennials – texts, uses the computer, or watches TV before bed or as their falling asleep but research says it’s best to avoid doing those things.
  5. Exercise but do so in morning or afternoon – Exercise is great for anxiety because it releases endorphins. Also, it wears your body and mind out so it will make you more tired at night. But you should avoid exercising right before bed as it will make your mind feel energized and hyped up.
  6. [4]Use your bed for sleep (and sex) only – Your mind and body will begin to associate your bed with sleep.
  7. Pick a bedtime and wake up time – As you get into a routine, your mind and body will slowly adjust.
  8. White noise or calming music – I listen to a particular song on repeat for a half hour and it usually calms me down somewhat, if not all. I can’t sleep without it. It’s my version of a baby’s lullaby. But the noise can be anything that blocks out all other noises – a fan, music, audio of the ocean or rain.
  9. Take medication or a natural substance (but it’s best to talk to your doctor first) – Just a few days ago, I started taking Melatonin after hearing about it from my best friend. At this point, I just needed some sleep. I was kind of surprised about how well it worked.
  10. Don’t fight to get to sleep or your anxiety, and enjoy just resting – Fighting it will only make things work. Sometimes you just have to let the mind and body run its course. If you want, grab something (or someone) to hold, cry, scream (quietly), kick – let your frustrations out for yourself. Or just lay there and rest (enjoy it while it lasts). This is your chance after a busy day and before a new day.

[1] Calm Clinic. (n.d.). How to Stop Anxiety When You’re Falling Asleep. Retrieved from http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/types/falling-asleep

[2] Calm Clinic. (n.d.). What To Do When Anxiety Gets Worse In The Evening. Retrieved from http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/types/in-the-evenings

[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Sleep Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/sleep-disorders 

[4] How to Stop Anxiety When You’re Falling Asleep, n.d.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *