7 Steps to Stop Anxiety before Sleep (2022)

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7 Steps to Stop Anxiety before Sleep (1)

Fact Checked

by Victoria LeBlanc, MS, LCPC and Micah Abraham, BSc

7 Steps to Stop Anxiety before Sleep (2)

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

7 Steps to Stop Anxiety before Sleep (3)

If you are anxious all the time or suffer from an anxiety condition, chances are you don't find it very easy to fall asleep. Relaxing your mind at the end of a full day is challenging at the best of times, but when you also have anxiety to contend with, you may find yourself physically and mentally challenged when trying to convince your body to sleep.

Being anxious during the day is tiring, which makes it all the more important to make sure you don't have to deal with it at night when your body is trying to recover. This article will cover the causes and effects of pre-sleep anxiety, as well as tips for effectively shutting down your anxiety at the end of the day.

Falling Asleep and Anxiety

The time before you go to sleep is a difficult one for anxiety sufferers. This is because 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.

(Video) Procrastination – 7 Steps to Cure

Causes of Anxiety Before Sleep

Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Those that have anxiety when falling asleep may have that problem for their own unique reason. Some of the causes include:

  • Focus on the Day — For some people, anxiety while falling asleep is caused by over-focusing on the stress caused by anxiety due to events occurring throughout the day. There also may be an anxious focus on what is to come the next day.
  • Feeling Scared or Afraid — Some people feel scared or afraid for no apparent reason, although it may be linked to the dark. Those that have a fear of death or mortality may also have moments where they just feel scared, afraid, or sad in some ways. The act of falling asleep can sometimes feel scary for those with anxiety.
  • Falling — Known as Hypnic Jerks, these muscle sensations that occur in the arms, legs, or whole body can create the sensation of falling or "not breathing". Often occurring during the first stage of sleep it can cause someone with anxiety to awaken in a panic. That anxiety can sometimes stick around.
  • Rapid Thought Patterns — Those with anxiety tend to have thoughts that keep them awake and are difficult to calm. The longer those thoughts go on, the more anxious they may become.
  • Poor Sleep Cycle — If you have had anxiety or trouble falling asleep for a long time then a pattern of poor sleep may have developed. Anxiety can cause you to not sleep well. Lack of sleep makes your more susceptible to stress. Stress causes anxiety and then anxiety leads to a lack of sleep and possibly insomnia. This cycle may leave you feeling as if you may never sleep, making sleep that much more difficult to attain.

These are only an introduction to the different issues that may cause anxiety when falling asleep. There are a variety of other reasons why a person with anxiety may struggle to fall asleep including something as simple as what you ate or drank before going to bed.

Effects and Symptoms of Nighttime Anxiousness

Anxiousness, when you are trying to get to sleep, causes both mental and physical struggles. See if these descriptions of the types of problems encountered by anxiety sufferers trying to get to sleep match up to your own experiences.

  • Restlessness - You may find yourself tossing and turning as you try and get to sleep because your body refuses to relax, and must continue trying to find a comfortable position. You may find yourself too hot or too cold, the blankets or pillows are uncomfortable, blood circulation isn’t feeling right, and so on. The discomfort keeping you awake will give you more of a chance to think about the negative, anxious thoughts that can keep you up at night.
  • Panic Attacks - A panic attack before sleep may be characterized by sweating, a rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, and chest pain. These symptoms can be alarming because they mimic some of the symptoms of a heart attack, and may trigger the panicked belief that you are about to die (imagining that you are in physical danger or about to die is common during panic attacks). Panic attacks can also awaken you from sleep and then, due to a heightened state of arousal and anxious thoughts, make it difficult to fall back asleep, causing insomnia.
  • Nightmares and Night Terrors - Nightmares and night terrors are two separate experiences however are so common that one out of every two adults experiences them on occasion. Night terrors happen in the first few hours after falling asleep and are not typically associated with dreams but rather with feelings, leaving the person unsure of why they woke up in terror. Nightmares are most often linked to REM sleep and dreams. As night goes on your REM sleep get longer meaning that nightmares typically occur in the early morning hours when REM sleep is at its longest.
  • Falling/Twitching - You may also find that you experience anxiety as a result of weird sensations you get while trying to fall asleep. Those with stress, for example, are more prone to this feeling as though their body is jolting them awake right before they're about to fall asleep. Scientists are not clear what causes this but know for a fact it's harmless. Known as hypnic jerks these involuntary muscle sensations occur during the first stage of sleep, when you are in the lightest stage of sleep. You are suddenly jerked awake which can cause anxiety, making it harder to fall asleep in the future.
  • Limited REM - All these effects add up to a very limited REM cycle. Most people get 80% non-REM and 20% REM sleep in a night. REM sleep only occurs after some non-REM sleep has taken place. Therefore, if it takes you a long time to get to sleep or you wake up soon after you do, you don't have as much time in the night to achieve that REM stage. Regular REM sleep is required to maintain a healthy mind and body.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms when trying to sleep, you should take the steps outlined below to help you escape the torture of being too anxious to get a good night's sleep.

How to Minimize Anxiety and Maximize Sleep

To get to sleep more easily, you can try changing some of your pre-sleep habits to decrease your mental and physical stress levels. Habit-changing takes time and persistence, but if you stick to these changes, you will find yourself adapting and feeling less anxious overall in no time.

  • Time Travel - This is a fancy way of saying that at least an hour before you want to get to bed, you should try to turn everything off and do something that engages more of your mind than, for example, gazing at your computer or the television screen. Dimming the lights helps alert your brain to the idea that it should be sleeping soon. Doing something casual that still forces your mind to engage, such as reading, drawing, or playing cards will help occupy your brain with something other than the worries of the day when it is time to lay down your head.
  • Pick a Bedtime - Deciding on a particular hour that you want to be in bed by will relax your body by providing it with a comforting, familiar routine to follow. It will also train your brain to get tired at a certain time of night, which will help you fall asleep sooner after you lay down to do so.
  • Keep a Journal - Writing in a journal is another routine you can follow (and a good one to incorporate into your pre-bedtime time travel, as it doesn't involve any technology). Sometime before bed, jot down some thoughts about your day. If any worries or problems come up, be sure to write them down with possible solutions to accompany them. Once you do this, shut the book and imagine you are symbolically shutting away all the cares and thoughts from the day until you next want to open the journal and look at them.
  • Consciously Relax Your Body - Once you are lying down in bed, try relaxing your body one piece at a time. Start at your toes, relaxing each toe individually. Then move up to your ankles, your calves, your thighs, and so on. Make sure each part is thoroughly relaxed before moving on to the next. You may start to feel tingly and almost numb. This is good: it means your body is getting ready to sleep. Once you are completely relaxed, focus on breathing comfortably and slowly until you fall asleep.
  • Reserve Your Bed For Sleep - Avoid doing non-bed-related things on your bed: for instance, texting, going online or doing homework. The more you reserve your bed for sleep, the more your mind will associate it with sleep, and the easier it will be to fall asleep on.
  • Get Up and Walk Around - If you find that your anxiety is too strong, don't keep trying to sleep. Distract yourself for a while by cleaning the house or reading a book. Falling asleep when your anxiety is that strong is very difficult, so giving yourself a distraction and then trying again later may prove helpful.
  • White Noise - Some type of white noise, calming music, or easy to ignore radio may also be helpful. Often these things can distract your senses, making it harder for you to focus on your anxious thoughts. Try something like talk radio, with a volume so low that you can only hear what they're saying if you try extremely hard. The noise and talking will make it much more difficult to focus on your anxious thoughts.

Avoiding the anxiety that keeps you from getting the sleep you need can be difficult, but following the above all-natural and healthy techniques may be all that you require taking back control over your sleep schedule.

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FAQs

Why do I get so much anxiety before bed? ›

There are many reasons why your anxiety may be worse at night. Daily stressors, poor sleep habits, and other health conditions can lead to increased anxiety and panic attacks at night. However, there are many treatments available that can help ease your anxiety and improve your quality of sleep.

Why does anxiety get worse at night? ›

"Those who struggle with daytime anxiety and panic attacks are more likely to experience anxiety 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.

How Do I Stop overthinking at night? ›

8 Sleep Experts on What to Do When You Can't Turn Off Your Thoughts at Night
  1. Distract yourself with meaningless mental lists. ...
  2. Try to stay awake instead. ...
  3. Or just get out of bed. ...
  4. Write down whatever's freaking you out. ...
  5. Get back in bed and do some deep breathing. ...
  6. Try not to try so hard.
10 May 2017

What time of day is anxiety worse? ›

Similarly, among those with panic attacks, general anxiety and panic symptoms are highest in the afternoon; however, sense of threat is highest in the morning (Kenardy, Fried, Kraemer, & Taylor, 1992).

Does anxiety worsen with age? ›

Does anxiety get worse with age? Anxiety disorders don't necessarily get worse with age, but the number of people suffering from anxiety changes across the lifespan. Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults.

How can I control my anxiety without medication? ›

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication: 7 Holistic Ways to Cope
  1. Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
  2. Avoid Stimulants. ...
  3. Get Enough Sleep. ...
  4. Just Breathe. ...
  5. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  6. Exercise. ...
  7. Do What You Enjoy. ...
  8. Where to Get Help.
6 Dec 2017

What is the main symptoms of anxiety? ›

Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
  • Having an increased heart rate.
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.
  • Feeling weak or tired.
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.

What are symptoms of sleep anxiety? ›

Nighttime (nocturnal) panic attacks can occur with no obvious trigger and awaken you from sleep. As with a daytime panic attack, you may experience sweating, rapid heart rate, trembling, shortness of breath, heavy breathing (hyperventilation), flushing or chills, and a sense of impending doom.

What calms anxiety fast? ›

For immediate relief from anxiety, stand up, pull your shoulders back, plant your feet evenly and widely apart, and open your chest. Then breathe deeply. This posture, combined with deep breathing, helps your body remember that it's not in danger right now, and that it is in control (not helpless).

What vitamins are good for anxiety? ›

B-complex, vitamin E, vitamin C, GABA, and 5-HTP are 5 vitamins commonly used to help with anxiety and stress.

What triggers anxiety? ›

Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you're very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like: physical or emotional abuse.

Can't sleep because of anxiety? ›

But if you have chronic anxiety, you might feel stress or worry all the time. You may feel fearful of everyday situations like driving to work or even falling asleep. Chronically high levels of these hormones, especially before sleep, can make it hard for your body to relax. You may have difficulty falling asleep.

What can I drink in the morning for anxiety? ›

7 Everyday Tonics that Help Your Body Adjust to Stress and Anxiety
  • Ginger.
  • Maca.
  • Matcha.
  • Reishi.
  • Apple cider vinegar.
  • Turmeric.
  • Ashwagandha.

How do you live with severe anxiety? ›

Here are 11 tips for coping with an anxiety disorder:
  1. Keep physically active. ...
  2. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. ...
  3. Quit smoking, and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages. ...
  4. Use stress management and relaxation techniques. ...
  5. Make sleep a priority. ...
  6. Eat healthy foods. ...
  7. Learn about your disorder.
20 Jul 2021

What is high functioning anxiety? ›

“The term high functioning anxiety describes an individual who, despite feeling anxious, seems able to effectively manage the demands of day-to-day life,” says psychologist Adam Borland, PsyD.

Is anxiety a mental illness? ›

Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

What age does anxiety usually start? ›

Separation anxiety disorder, specific phobia, and social phobia had their mean onset before the age of 15 years, whereas the AOO of agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder began, on average, between 21.1 and 34.9 years.

Who is most affected by anxiety disorders? ›

The groups of people who were most affected by anxiety disorders were women, adults under the age of 35, and people with other health conditions. Around 10.9 percent of adults with cardiovascular disease in Western countries also had generalized anxiety disorder.

Can't sleep because of anxiety? ›

Serious sleep disturbances, including insomnia, have long been recognized as a common symptom of anxiety disorders. People who are plagued with worry often ruminate about their concerns in bed, and this anxiety at night can keep them from falling asleep.

How Do I Stop overthinking at night? ›

8 Sleep Experts on What to Do When You Can't Turn Off Your Thoughts at Night
  1. Distract yourself with meaningless mental lists. ...
  2. Try to stay awake instead. ...
  3. Or just get out of bed. ...
  4. Write down whatever's freaking you out. ...
  5. Get back in bed and do some deep breathing. ...
  6. Try not to try so hard.
10 May 2017

What does night anxiety feel like? ›

Nighttime (nocturnal) panic attacks can occur with no obvious trigger and awaken you from sleep. As with a daytime panic attack, you may experience sweating, rapid heart rate, trembling, shortness of breath, heavy breathing (hyperventilation), flushing or chills, and a sense of impending doom.

What is the main symptoms of anxiety? ›

Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
  • Having an increased heart rate.
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.
  • Feeling weak or tired.
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.

How can I calm my mind? ›

Here are some simple exercises you can try that might calm you down.
  1. Take a break. Focus on your breathing. Listen to music.
  2. Spend some time in nature. Try active relaxation. Think of somewhere else.
  3. Try guided meditation. Get creative.

What time of day is anxiety worse? ›

Similarly, among those with panic attacks, general anxiety and panic symptoms are highest in the afternoon; however, sense of threat is highest in the morning (Kenardy, Fried, Kraemer, & Taylor, 1992).

Does anxiety worsen with age? ›

Does anxiety get worse with age? Anxiety disorders don't necessarily get worse with age, but the number of people suffering from anxiety changes across the lifespan. Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults.

How can I control my anxiety without medication? ›

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication: 7 Holistic Ways to Cope
  1. Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
  2. Avoid Stimulants. ...
  3. Get Enough Sleep. ...
  4. Just Breathe. ...
  5. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  6. Exercise. ...
  7. Do What You Enjoy. ...
  8. Where to Get Help.
6 Dec 2017

Videos

1. Nervous? 7 Tips to Reduce Test Anxiety!
(Duolingo English Test)
2. How to STOP Anxiety, Worry, & Stress: Sleep Like A Baby
(Bob & Brad)
3. 7 Tips To Beat Exam Anxiety
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4. Relieve Stress & Anxiety with Simple Breathing Techniques
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