If anxiety is keeping you up at night, you’re not alone. Nighttime anxiety is a problem for many people with anxiety disorders, who find that their evenings are filled with a sense of uneasiness, worry, and apprehension.
Anxiety at night can keep you from sleeping, while lack of sleep can increase your anxiety. Luckily, there are ways to manage your anxiety so you can rest, function the next day, and live a fulfilling life.
Why Anxiety Increases at Night
There is no simple reason why some people’s anxiety levels rise at night. It could be the outcome of a number of circumstances.
One rationale is that there is less distraction and more chance for concern and rumination about your profession, income, or relationships when the lights are out and everything is quiet.
Difficulty falling asleep can also bring up concerns about how well you’ll be able to operate the next day.
Other factors that may contribute to an increase in anxiety at night include:
- Caffeine consumption during the day or close to bedtime might cause jitteriness and anxiety in certain people.
- Having recently experienced a terrible event or having pre-existing post-traumatic stress disorder
- When trying to fall asleep, you may experience health worry or notice more aches and pains.
- Having specific medical conditions; for example, one study found a link between nocturnal anxiety and menopause.
- Worry or apprehension about the coming day
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, and symptoms may vary. Symptoms of nighttime anxiety may be similar to those you experience during the day. Or they may be specific to the evening hours.
- Aches and pains
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart palpitation
- Feeling nervous or restless
- Uncontrolled or racing thoughts
- Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Panic attacks and nocturnal panic attacks
Evening anxiety can be quite inconvenient because it can rob you of your spare time, sap your vitality, and contribute to sleep problems.
Sleep deprivation has a significant influence on your ability to operate, your quality of life, and your general health. Sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety at night, creating a vicious cycle.
Panic episodes, also known as nocturnal panic attacks, are another symptom of nighttime anxiety. They occur during non-REM sleep, mainly in stages 2 and 3.
Nocturnal panic episodes might wake you up and make you feel exhausted for the rest of the day or days.
How to Manage Anxiety at Night
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help reduce your nighttime anxiety, allowing for a relaxing evening and a restful night’s sleep.
Set an Intention Early
Many of us go from one activity to the next without giving much thought to how we are feeling, let alone how we would like to feel, during the day. Do you ever think to yourself after a long day at work, “I really want to relax and enjoy this evening?”
You’re probably too busy or preoccupied to think about how you want your evening to go. Setting an intention early on, on the other hand, increases your chances of getting the results you want.
If you remind yourself each day that you are determined to have a peaceful evening, you are more likely to actually experience it that way.
It’s simpler to remember to establish an intention when you schedule it into your day. For example, when driving home from work, you may be replaying all of the tension from the day in your head.
You can set the goal to let go of work tension from that moment forward and enjoy the remainder of your evening on your way home, such as when you drive over a certain bridge or past a certain location. Another alternative is to set an alarm to remind you to make plans for a pleasant evening.
Regardless of what type of prompt works for you, get in the habit of setting your personal objective of how you want to feel each evening.
Learn to Be Present
Many of us spend much of our time utterly ignorant or separated from the current moment, which is similar to not being in touch with how we want to feel. You might be able to enjoy your evening more if you make an effort to be more mindful.
Mindfulness allows you to notice that you do not have to react to every thought that enters your mind, preventing you from running over every worry in your bra.
Mindfulness is a talent that may be developed through mindfulness meditation and other activities.
If mindfulness is unpleasant or time-consuming, simply try to be more aware of life as it is rather than scouring your mind for anxiousness and worry.
Try to pay attention to your loved ones, savor your food, and take in the beauty of the world—these are all simple strategies to reduce anxiety.
Leave Some Extra Transition Time
The time required to transition between tasks is known as transition time. Many of us underestimate the amount of time required for transformation. For example, your evening may consist of a variety of duties that you must do before going to bed.
Consider adding a few minutes to the time you’ve set out for each work as a buffer in case the task takes longer than you anticipated. You won’t feel overwhelmed if you don’t try to jam too much in before bedtime.
Prepare for the Next Day
Many people find it anxiety-provoking to think about all that they need to do the next day. Being prepared is one of the best things to do to avoid this type of anxiety.
Get as much ready as you can, like having your clothes picked out, lunches and bags packed, and your alarm clock set. Putting a small amount of effort into preparation can help keep evening anxiety under control.
Create Some Space to Unwind
When everything is done for the night and ready for the next day, you do need some time each evening to simply relax, let go, and re-energize. A few ideas:
- Practice a relaxation technique, such as deep breathing, journaling, or yoga.
- Read a book.
- Unwind with a warm bath or cup of tea.
Regardless of what brings you serenity, set aside at least 10 minutes of downtime each evening. Doing so allows you to feel calmer and maybe the prompt you need to get a good night’s rest.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Instead of dwelling in your worry, establishing a nightly routine allows you to focus on taking proactive steps for yourself. Showering, brushing your teeth, putting on pajamas, reading an inspirational book, praying, or listening to music may all be part of your bedtime routine.
To help you get a better night’s sleep, adopt a nighttime routine. Excessively stimulating activities, such as surfing through social media or watching TV, should be avoided.
Instead, make your routine peaceful and quiet in the hours leading up to bedtime. This will tell your brain that it’s time to sleep, and you’ll be able to fall asleep without an agitated or nervous mind.
While self-help strategies can go a long way, you may also find it useful to schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional. They can rule out any medical or sleep conditions contributing to your nighttime anxiety.
In addition to maintaining good sleep habits, treatment options typically involve psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both.
Research has shown that psychological treatments, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, can be helpful for treating anxiety.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): One study found that CBT improved both sleep quality and sleep latency (how long it takes to fall asleep) in people with anxiety.
- Exposure therapy: This therapy may be used to help reduce your fear about having anxiety at night and/or trouble sleeping due to your anxiety.
Anxiety can be treated with a wide range of drugs, including:
- The most commonly prescribed sedative medicines are benzodiazepines (sometimes known as “benzos”). They’re often used to treat severe or treatment-resistant anxiety for a brief period of time.
- SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are currently the first-line treatment for the majority of anxiety disorders.
- People who don’t react to SSRIs can try serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
A Word From Verywell
If your anxiety is making it difficult to function, reach out for professional help. Schedule an appointment with your physician or reach out to a mental health professional.
Anxiety is treatable and therapy, medication, or a combination of the two can help you manage your anxiety in a healthy way.