How to Deal With Nighttime Anxiety?

How to Deal With Nighttime Anxiety?

If you’re someone, like me, who deals with nighttime anxiety, know that you’re far from alone. Many adults experience anxiety levels that are high enough at night to negatively affect their ability to sleep and function.

Regardless of the time of day, the key to keeping anxiety in check is to calm down the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response and physiological symptoms associated with stress. By instead boosting the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system — which counteracts the sympathetic — you’ll put your body into a calm state.

Whether you’re anxious at night due to an overwhelming schedule, lack of time to unwind, or worries related to things like job performance and finances, there are certain habits that can help decrease anxiety symptoms.

I’ve had anxiety issues at night all my life, and in this article, I’ll go over some methods for dealing with anxiety specifically at night that I’ve found to be most helpful.

1. Stick to a regular routine

Adequate sleep is important for keeping your mood and energy up, while sleep deprivation has the opposite effect. Missing out on sleep can kickstart a vicious cycle when it comes to feeling anxious.

The more fatigued you feel during the day, the worse you’ll feel overall, including at night, because you’ll feel pressured to perform at home, work, or school when you don’t have the energy to keep up.

Your ability to fall and stay asleep easily depends on your “internal clock,” also called your circadian rhythm.

Your circadian rhythm thrives on routine, so try sticking to a regular sleep-wake schedule as much as possible, including on the weekends. This means heading to sleep and waking up each day at roughly the same time every day, give or take about 30 minutes.

Finally, if one of your main goals is to fall asleep more easily and to stay sleeping soundly, make sure you set up your bedroom (your “sleep environment”) to be conducive to deep sleep. This means keeping it very dark, cool, comfortable, and quiet — perhaps with some white noise playing in the background.

Getting exposure to daytime sunlight is another effective way to help you naturally feel more drowsy before bed.

2. Create an aesthetically pleasing environment

Some people will sleep better if they are in an aesthetically pleasing environment, and studies have even shown that around 19% of people will sleep better if they have made their bed.

Make your bed every morning and keep your bedroom tidy. You should also decorate your bedroom to your liking. You could repaint your walls and change the carpets, and consider hanging something new on your bedroom walls, like prints from your favorite artist or even custom tapestries.

3. Avoid stimulants and alcohol (especially close to bedtime)

Caffeine, sugar, and alcohol can all interfere with your mood and contribute to symptoms related to anxiety. These can include jitteriness, nervousness, headaches, changes in appetite, and cravings for junk food. They can also prevent you from getting to sleep, which contributes to more anxiety the following day and night.

Rather than drinking alcohol at night to help yourself unwind, work on establishing a relaxing routine instead that makes you naturally calmer.

This might involve eating a healthy dinner (but avoid a very large meal close to bedtime), exercising, and sipping on something relaxing like kombucha, “moon milk,” CBD tea, or herbal teas containing chamomile or valerian.

4. Exercise during the day (ideally outdoors)

Exercise is a natural stress-reliever because it can help balance the release of the anxiety-provoking hormone cortisol. It’s especially calming when you exercise outdoors in nature and in sunlight. This has a natural de-stressing effect on your body since it boosts the release of serotonin and can help increase vitamin D levels, which is associated with improved mental health.

Exercising more vigorously during the day, such as running or lifting weights in the morning or late afternoon, can help you feel more tired and relaxed closer to bedtime. Exercise uses up energy, which allows your body to rest more easily.

However, it’s smart to avoid high-intensity workouts too close to bedtime because they can increase your heart rate, throw off your appetite, and possibly contribute to you feeling more alert or “wired” when you’re actually looking to get into a state of relaxation.

For the most help curbing anxiety, exercise intensely at least three to four hours before going to bed.

5. Try calming supplements 

Certain supplements help some people feel calmer and more relaxed. Melatonin can be an especially effective option if your anxiety interferes with your ability to sleep since this is the same hormone that your body produces at night in order to make you feel drowsy.

Other supplements to consider adding to your anti-anxiety routine include:

  • Magnesium, an electrolyte that can help reduce muscle tension and headache.
  • Kava, an herb with calming properties.
  • L-lysine and L-arginine, two amino acids that can help your body produce feel-good neurotransmitters that aid in relaxation.
  • Essential oils, including lavender and chamomile oils, which can be diffused for relaxing aromatherapy purposes.
  • CBD flower, which is derived from the hemp plant and has a natural calming effect on the body and mind. CBD flower works by interacting with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which positively impacts sleep and mood by reducing anxiety and restlessness.
  • Full-extract cannabis oil works in much the same way that CBD flower oil does. It contains the same active component, CBD. The main difference between them is that while CBD flower is smoked, cannabis oil is taken sublingually, which means the oil is placed directly under the tongue. The active ingredients are then absorbed into the bloodstream.

6. Practice yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises

One of the best types of exercises to do at night to de-stress is yoga, ideally along with meditation and breathing exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing in which you breathe deeply from your abdomen rather than your chest.

You can do these exercises while listening to relaxing music or before or after having a warm bath, which further releases muscle tension.

Gentle forms of yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, muscle relaxation, and visualization practices are all associated with the release of “happy hormones,” including the neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA, which contribute to calmness.

Breathing deeply while meditating and stretching can also slow your heart rate and improve your blood pressure, which helps to reduce symptoms of arousal and anxiety. Adding a body scan meditation to the end of a yoga session is one of the best ways to release stored-up tension and tightness in your body.

Meditation in general, of which yoga is considered to be a “moving” form, can help reduce anxiety overall by helping people cope better with their emotions and worries without judging themselves.

7. Try journaling

If it feels like you can’t turn off racing thoughts and worries at night, try keeping a journal in which you write down everything you’re worried about. Getting your concerns onto paper and out of your head will lift a weight off your shoulders and let you see things more clearly, which can improve your decision-making and coping skills.

Another helpful way to use a journal is by creating to-do lists that keep you organized and prepared for the following day. This can reduce feelings of overwhelm and dread.

Try writing down your ideal schedule and several things you hope to accomplish, but avoid adding tons of things to the list as that can increase anxiety.

For even more powerful effects, keep a “gratitude list” in your journal where you write down things that have gone well each day. This can help improve your perspective and self-esteem.

Additionally, you can practice cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises while journaling. These can help change the way you think and behave, particularly when it comes to negative thinking. Anxiety symptoms and both sleep quality and sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) can improve with the practice of CBT.

8. Read something relaxing

Reading at night is an ideal way to take your mind off of anxiety-provoking thoughts and practice “escapism.” Putting yourself into another person’s shoes gets you out of your own head. Reading self-help books can also greatly improve how you handle negative thoughts and approach challenges.

It may be helpful also when you’re lying in bed and trying to get to sleep but can’t seem to doze off.

If you can’t get back to sleep within 20 minutes, rather than tossing and turning for hours, which will make you feel worse, get up, go into another dimly lit room and read something calming. See if this helps your mind settle before you head back to bed.

9. Stay off of social media

Frequent social media use can increase feelings of anxiety and depression. This seems to be true because viewing others “living their best lives” can increase FOMO (“fear of missing out”), feelings of inadequacy, dissatisfaction, and isolation.

If you find yourself endlessly scrolling at night, consider taking a “digital detox” or putting a time limit on when and how much you use social media. Reading something inspiring can be a great replacement for nighttime social media use.

10. Put your devices down

You’ve likely heard that blue light emitted from electronics — including your phone, tablet, TV, and computer — can suppress the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, making it harder to feel sleepy enough to drift off. Ideally, turn off all devices two or more hours before going to bed in order to help regulate your circadian rhythm and get the sleep you need to function the next day.

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