How to Sleep When Anxiety Is Keeping You Awake: 5 Tips (2022)

Anxiety at night is common. If you find it difficult to sleep, there are ways to manage anxiety and get a restful night’s sleep.

If you’re lying in bed feeling anxious, chances are you might have a hard time falling or staying asleep.

If this tossing and turning is becoming a nightly routine, you’re not alone. More than 40 million people in the United States have a long-term sleep disorder.

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to feeling your best. But, when you’re begging your brain to stop fixating on unwanted thoughts, it can feel overwhelming and cause anxiety.

There are ways you can manage anxiety at night to help you get better rest.

Anxiety can be common at night because nighttime is the only time of day when things are quiet, the demands of the day start to slow down, and our opportunities to worry start to increase, says Annia Palacios, a licensed professional counselor in Texas and Florida.

“These ruminating thoughts contribute to difficulty falling and staying asleep,” she says.

Correlation between anxiety and sleep

(Video) How to Beat Anxiety and Insomnia | Neuroscientist Matthew Walker

Anxiety may play a major role in how well you sleep, according to a 2013 review of research. If you’re prone to anxiety, you may find it hard to sleep at night. If you’re having a hard time sleeping, you may start to get anxiety.

The research acknowledged that various studies found a bidirectional relationship between sleep and anxiety, which means either disorder can come first. However, more research is needed to verify this.

An older 2003 review of studies indicates that anxiety and sleep problems both contribute to one another, which in turn produces anxiety symptoms as well as sleep loss.

A more recent 2019 study found that people who have insomnia symptoms are vulnerable to anxiety during times of stress.

Sleep disturbances are often a symptom of many anxiety-related disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A 2020 review of studies on sleep disturbance in PTSD and anxiety disorders found that there’s a bidirectional connection between sleep problems and anxiety. This means that sleep disturbances can lead to anxiety, and anxiety can lead to sleep deprivation.

People who have an anxiety disorder often have constant sleep-wake difficulties, which can present in the form of insomnia.

An older 2003 review found that 24% to 36% of people with insomnia also experience anxiety.

(Video) Sleep, Anxiety, and Insomnia: How to Sleep Better When You're Anxious

To help you manage anxiety at night and sleep more soundly, there are a few things you can try before you go to bed:

  • Control your breathing.
  • Write down your worries.
  • Maintain a nightly schedule.
  • Try to focus your mental energy.
  • Create a comfortable environment.

Control your breath

“One of the best ways to activate a sense of calm is through breathwork,” says Martamaria Hamilton, a licensed professional counselor and founder of TeleWellness Hub who lives in El Paso, Texas.

By controlling your breath, you’re activating the “rest and digest” response, which is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response, Hamilton says.

“Breathwork, including diaphragmatic (belly) breathing, is one of the most important and impactful ways to activate the vagus nerve and trigger relaxation in the body, and quickly,” Hamilton explains.

Write down your worries

Palacios suggests writing down your worries before you get into bed each night. “Ruminating thoughts happen because we continue to go over and over things in our minds,” she says.

Writing down our worries and to-do’s can help free up some space in our minds, Palacios says.

“Writing one’s anxious thoughts down is an excellent way to disconnect from them,” says Po-Chang Hsu, a physician and medical content expert at SleepingOcean, a website that reviews sleep products. “Many people also find the process itself soothing, which may help them wind down and sleep better.”

You can try starting a nightly journal where you write down your thoughts each night before you go to sleep.

Maintain a bedtime routine

You can create good sleep habits by maintaining a regular sleep schedule. If you can, try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every night — even on the weekends.

(Video) STAY STRONG – Anxiety Busters: Techniques for Better Sleep

“Try to avoid stimulating activities like watching TV and scrolling social media,” Palacios says, because “stimulation like TV and our phones can make it even harder to fall asleep.”

Also, try to avoid caffeine and nicotine. These are stimulants that can not only make you feel anxious but can also keep you awake.

You can try incorporating things into your routine that help you slow down, such as reading a book or listening to soothing music.

Try to focus your mental energy

In order to stop anxious and racing thoughts, try to focus your mental energy on something that you can imagine or something that you can see or hear in your bedroom, says Chloe Sica, a licensed psychologist in New Jersey and New York.

Sica suggests focusing on “the white noise of a sound machine or a visual image that you find soothing, such as the crashing waves on a beach or the wind blowing the trees.”

If you feel anxious or like you can’t sleep, try getting up and gently moving — such as walking around or stretching — until you feel tired. It’s important to avoid watching TV or using screens.

Create a comfortable sleep environment

Maintaining a comfortable sleep environment often means using your sleep space or bedroom only for rest and intimacy, such as sleep and sex. Try not to do things in your bedroom or bed that might shift your focus from rest, such as watching TV or working on a computer.

Try sleeping in a cool, dark space that’s free from any noises or distractions. Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable and supportive, too.

Consider sleeping with a weighted blanket.

“Sleeping under a weighted blanket feels like a deep hug, which is incredibly relaxing for most people,” Hsu says. “This simple tool is proven to ease anxiety thanks to the deep pressure therapy such blankets provide.”

Medical treatment options for sleep and anxiety

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Treatment options are available for both insomnia and anxiety. These options include:

  • Medication. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or benzodiazepines (BZDs) can help treat anxiety and may address underlying causes of insomnia.
  • Herbal remedies. Melatonin or valerian root may help.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy can help you change behaviors that keep you awake.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga, exercise, and massage therapy can improve anxiety and sleep.
  • Light therapy. Artificial light may help improve mood and quality of sleep.
  • Sleep restraint. This therapy decreases the amount of time a person is in bed.

To treat both sleep problems and anxiety, healthcare professionals may recommend a combination of medication and therapy.

Anxiety at night is common because it’s the time of day when things start to slow down and get quiet. For some people, this is when worries increase.

Various studies have found a bidirectional relationship between sleep and anxiety, meaning they both contribute to one another.

If you’re prone to anxiety, you may find it difficult to sleep at night. And if you’re having a hard time sleeping, you may also get anxiety.

Studies have also found that if you have insomnia, you have an increased risk of having anxiety.

If you find it difficult to get sleep due to anxiety, you can:

  • practice controlling your breathing
  • write down your thoughts and worries
  • create a nightly bedtime routine
  • learn to focus your mental energy
  • create a cozy, comfortable sleep environment

Anxiety at night is manageable and treatable. If you think you have an anxiety disorder or a sleep disorder, a mental health professional or a sleep clinic specialist can help you.

(Video) 5 UNCONVENTIONAL TIPS TO HELP YOU FALL ASLEEP When Anxiety Keeps You Up

If you’re looking for a therapist but aren’t sure where to start, check out Psych Central’s guide to finding mental health support.

FAQs

What are 5 coping skills for anxiety? ›

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

What is the best way to deal with anxiety? ›

Anxiety management strategies
  1. Slow breathing. When you're anxious, your breathing becomes faster and shallower. ...
  2. Progressive muscle relaxation. Find a quiet location. ...
  3. Stay in the present moment. ...
  4. Healthy lifestyle. ...
  5. Take small acts of bravery. ...
  6. Challenge your self-talk. ...
  7. Plan worry time. ...
  8. Get to know your anxiety.

How do you simplify anxiety? ›

8 long-term strategies for coping with anxiety
  1. Identify and learn to manage your triggers. ...
  2. Adopt cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) ...
  3. Do a daily or routine meditation. ...
  4. Keep a journal. ...
  5. Socialize. ...
  6. Try supplements or change your diet. ...
  7. Keep your body and mind healthy. ...
  8. Ask your doctor about medications.

What sleeping position is best for anxiety? ›

Lying on your back with your limbs splayed out, otherwise known as the 'shooting star' position can also relieve anxiety. By outstretching your arms and legs, you're opening your body and increasing blood flow, allowing for a sound sleep.

How long is anxiety supposed to last? ›

From the time of diagnosis, an anxiety disorder can last from a few months to many years. Most people will have symptoms of an anxiety disorder for a long time before seeking professional help, sometimes up to 15 years³.

What is the 54321 technique? ›

One of the most common grounding techniques is the “54321” exercise. It goes like this: Start with deep breathing. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 5 seconds.

What happens to your brain with anxiety? ›

Anxiety happens when a part of the brain, the amygdala, senses trouble. When it senses threat, real or imagined, it surges the body with hormones (including cortisol, the stress hormone) and adrenaline to make the body strong, fast and powerful.

Where is my anxiety coming from? ›

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.

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.

How do I deal with anxiety and overthinking? ›

Here are 10 tips to try when you begin to experience the same thought, or set of thoughts, swirling around your head:
  1. Distract yourself. ...
  2. Plan to take action. ...
  3. Take action. ...
  4. Question your thoughts. ...
  5. Readjust your life's goals. ...
  6. Work on enhancing your self-esteem. ...
  7. Try meditation. ...
  8. Understand your triggers.

How I healed my anxiety without drugs? ›

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

Will my anxiety ever go away? ›

Most people with anxiety disorders never fully eliminate their anxiety. However, they can learn how to control their feelings and greatly reduce the severity of their anxiety through therapy (and medication if needed).

How do I shut my brain off from overthinking? ›

Here are six ways to stop overthinking everything:
  1. Notice When You're Stuck in Your Head. Overthinking can become such a habit that you don't even recognize when you're doing it. ...
  2. Keep the Focus on Problem-Solving. ...
  3. Challenge Your Thoughts. ...
  4. Schedule Time for Reflection. ...
  5. Learn Mindfulness Skills. ...
  6. Change the Channel.
24 Jan 2022

What is the 4 7 8 sleep trick? ›

Close your mouth and quietly inhale through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound for a count of eight. Repeat the process three more times for a total of four breath cycles.

Does lying on your stomach help with anxiety? ›

Prone Relaxation Practice:

Lay on your belly, breathe and relax, has been a staple yogic breathing preparation practice, as an acute yogic therapy, recommended in cases of anxiety or panic attack. By lying on the belly with arms folded and head straight, a slight elevation to the ribs is caused.

What are signs of high anxiety? ›

Symptoms
  • 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 triggers anxiety attacks at night? ›

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 do I have anxiety for no reason? ›

Anxiety can be caused by a variety of things: stress, genetics, brain chemistry, traumatic events, or environmental factors. Symptoms can be reduced with anti-anxiety medication. But even with medication, people may still experience some anxiety or even panic attacks.

What does anxiety look like? ›

having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst. feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down. feeling like other people can see you're anxious and are looking at you. feeling like you can't stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying.

Does anxiety increase with age? ›

Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults. This may be due to a number of factors, including changes in the brain and nervous system as we age, and being more likely to experience stressful life events that can trigger anxiety.

Why do I have anxiety everyday? ›

A little anxiety is fine, but long-term anxiety may cause more serious health problems, such as high blood pressure (hypertension). You may also be more likely to develop infections. If you're feeling anxious all the time, or it's affecting your day-to-day life, you may have an anxiety disorder or a panic disorder.

Can anxiety make you sick? ›

Yes, anxiety can cause nausea and other gastrointestinal problems. Outside of your brain, your digestive system contains the second largest number of nerves in your body. Some scientists even call your gut your "second brain."

What is extreme anxiety? ›

Extreme feelings of fear or anxiety that are out of proportion to the actual threat. Irrational fear or worry about different objects or situations. Avoiding the source of your fear or only enduring it with great anxiety. Withdrawing from social situations or isolating yourself from friends and family.

Why is my anxiety getting worse? ›

But long-term or chronic stress can lead to long-term anxiety and worsening symptoms, as well as other health problems. Stress can also lead to behaviors like skipping meals, drinking alcohol, or not getting enough sleep. These factors can trigger or worsen anxiety, too.

Why did my anxiety suddenly get worse? ›

A sudden onset of anxiety can be triggered by a plethora of things—from a major event, like a death in the family, to everyday stressors, such as work or budget worries—but sometimes it can be caused by seemingly nothing at all—or even issues you're not consciously aware of.

What does anxiety feel like physically? ›

When you are under stress or anxious, this system kicks into action, and physical symptoms can appear — headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, shakiness, or stomach pain. "Doctors see it all the time — patients with real pain or other symptoms, but nothing is physically wrong with them," says Dr.

What is a drug that calms you down? ›

The most common anti-anxiety medications are called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are a group of medications that can help reduce anxiety and make it easier to sleep.

How can I free my mind? ›

Use these tricks to add little bursts of mindfulness throughout the day to ease anxiety and calm your mind.
  1. Set an intention. ...
  2. Do a guided meditation or mindfulness practice. ...
  3. Doodle or color. ...
  4. Go for a walk. ...
  5. Wish other people happiness. ...
  6. Look up. ...
  7. Brew on it. ...
  8. Focus on one thing at a time.
10 Nov 2020

Can drinking water help anxiety? ›

Water has been shown to have natural calming properties, likely as a result of addressing dehydration's effects on the body and brain. Drinking enough water is an important step in managing your anxiety. Even if you're not experiencing anxiety, drinking sufficient water can create feelings of relaxation.

Is anxiety a disability? ›

Is Anxiety Considered a Disability? Anxiety disorders, such as OCD, panic disorders, phobias or PTSD are considered a disability and can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Those with anxiety can qualify for disability if they are able to prove their anxiety makes it impossible to work.

What is the 3 3 3 rule anxiety? ›

Follow the 3-3-3 rule.

Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.

What are some good coping skills? ›

Good Coping Skills
  • Practicing meditation and relaxation techniques;
  • Having time to yourself;
  • Engaging in physical activity or exercise;
  • Reading;
  • Spending time with friends;
  • Finding humor;
  • Spending time on your hobbies;
  • Engaging in spirituality;

What are good coping strategies? ›

What are some common coping strategies?
  • Lower your expectations.
  • Ask others to help or assist you.
  • Take responsibility for the situation.
  • Engage in problem solving.
  • Maintain emotionally supportive relationships.
  • Maintain emotional composure or, alternatively, expressing distressing emotions.
24 Nov 2020

Why are coping skills important for anxiety? ›

Coping skills help you tolerate, minimize, and deal with stressful situations in life. Managing your stress well can help you feel better physically and psychologically and it can impact your ability to perform your best.

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.

Why does my anxiety spike at night? ›

When you lie down at night to unwind, your brain turns to all of the worries it didn't have time for during the day. Frequently, this anxiety revolves around worries you can't solve in the moment.

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.

Is crying a coping mechanism? ›

In times of deep pain, anger and stress, crying can be a healthy coping option. Though more often associated with negative emotions, crying is more than just a symptom of sadness. Research suggests crying is an emotional release mechanism useful to your mental health for a number of reasons.

What are unhealthy coping skills? ›

A maladaptive coping mechanism may include avoiding a person or a situation which causes you stress, becoming defensive or harming yourself in some way. While adaptive coping mechanisms are healthy and positive, maladaptive ones are negative and could harm your health in the long run.

How do you handle stress and pressure? ›

If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you'll be in a better place to handle life's stressors.
  1. Set aside leisure time. ...
  2. Do something you enjoy every day. ...
  3. Keep your sense of humor. ...
  4. Take up a relaxation practice. ...
  5. Don't over-commit yourself. ...
  6. Prioritize tasks. ...
  7. Break projects into small steps.

What are 10 coping skills? ›

Top 10 Coping Skills
  • Deep Breathing. Often when faced with a stressful situation or feeling, our breathing changes. ...
  • Writing. Writing can be an effective means of working through stress. ...
  • Physical Activity. ...
  • Self-Talk. ...
  • Art. ...
  • Meditation. ...
  • Puzzles. ...
  • Music.
22 Oct 2019

How do you cope with life? ›

Here are 10 tips for coping with big changes in your life and coming out a better person for it.
  1. Acknowledge that things are changing. ...
  2. Realize that even good change can cause stress. ...
  3. Keep up your regular schedule as much as possible. ...
  4. Try to eat as healthily as possible. ...
  5. Exercise. ...
  6. Seek support.
19 Jan 2017

Can writing relieve anxiety? ›

It is free-flowing and unfocused self-expression. Although not everybody benefits from expressive writing, recent studies have shown that expressive writing helps anxious individuals perform better on tests.

Does cleaning help anxiety? ›

If you're stressed or anxious, doing household chores like organizing drawers, washing dishes, or mopping floors, can boost your mood and reduce your anxiety.

Can self talk help with anxiety? ›

The practice of positive self-talk is something that can be learned and which can be extremely useful in managing the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety.

Videos

1. How to Fall Asleep: Turn off Worry and Insomnia With This Quick Skill
(Therapy in a Nutshell)
2. What Happens To Your Body And Brain If You Don't Get Sleep | The Human Body
(Tech Insider)
3. NIGHTTIME ANXIETY KEEPING YOU AWAKE? 3 effective strategies to stop worrying & rumination at night
(Nena Lavonne, Psy.M.)
4. 5 Day Sleep Plan- Sleep Anxiety
(The Insomnia Clinic)
5. Nighttime anxiety | 10 tips to calm down
(OCD and Anxiety)
6. If You Struggle With Anxiety, This Mind Trick Will Change Your Life | Mel Robbins
(Mel Robbins)

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