After a long day, a good night’s rest is essential for your body and mind. But what if you just can’t get to sleep? Or find yourself tossing and turning throughout the night? Maybe your mind tends to race as soon as you lie down, or you wake up at 3 am in a panic. Unfortunately, if you’re struggling with nighttime anxiety, it may feel as though you’re running on autopilot the next day.
I’ve experienced this draining scenario throughout the years. Before I was first diagnosed with anxiety, I never understood why I felt especially anxious during the nighttime. It’d take me a long time to fall asleep and my mind wouldn’t stop replaying thoughts from the day.
Later, I’d learn that my sleep troubles stemmed from anxiety and not getting enough sleep further triggered the anxiety. It seemed like a vicious cycle, but I wasn’t alone.
In fact, a recent study found that 33 percent of US adults reported experiencing “at least one symptom of insomnia every night or almost every night.”
Back in July, I wrote a post about ways to reduce morning anxiety and wanted to follow up with a guide for nighttime anxiety. I hope that this is a helpful resource for anyone struggling with sleep and anxiety. 💗
What is nighttime anxiety?
Nighttime anxiety is anxiety that occurs or worsens right before bed, during bedtime, or late into the night. If you experience anxiety throughout the night, it can be difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep comes with many symptoms and often times makes anxiety worse.
Why can anxiety get worse at night?
According to Calm Clinic, nighttime can be draining for anyone who struggles with anxiety. This is because your thoughts and stressors have piled up throughout the day. You’re also in the quiet without any distractions.
There are quite a few other reasons as to why anxiety increases right before or during bedtime. Some of these causes include a poor sleep cycle, rapid thought patterns, and a spike in adrenaline due to stress.
Health Line also notes that sleep issues and anxiety seem to go hand in hand. While anxiety and panic make it difficult to fall asleep, not getting enough sleep can actually be an anxiety trigger.
After doing some research, I learned that there still hasn’t been enough studies done about nighttime anxiety. Thankfully, sleep and how it relates to anxiety is becoming less of a mystery as time goes on!
Anxiety affects everyone in different ways, but here are a few common signs and symptoms, via Mayo Clinic:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Trouble sleeping
- Experiencing GI problems
- Struggling to control worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
More on Nocturnal Panic Attacks
Nocturnal panic attacks are a scary but common feature of anxiety. They tend to last a few minutes and are similar to daytime panic attacks. It is also possible to have a panic attack while asleep.
Panic attacks right before or during sleep aren’t dangerous, but can be very unsettling for those who experience them. A few symptoms of nocturnal panic attacks are a fast heart beat, sweating, dizziness, and nausea.
For more info on nocturnal panic attacks, you can check out Very Well Mind. I’ve struggled with panic attacks mostly during the morning and right before bed, and found this article to be super helpful.
20 Ways to Fall Asleep Faster & Get Better Sleep
1. Read a chapter of your favorite book.
Reading is a great way to relax and escape to another world. If you’re a book lover, a good novel, comic, or memoir will definitely help reduce stress levels before bedtime. Check out a random novel at your local library, or research bestsellers online. A few people have recommended Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell to me recently, so I ended up ordering the book on Amazon!
Bestsellers Books Lists —
2. Unplug from technology and social media at least 30 minutes before bed.
Screens give off blue light, which suppresses melatonin. Since melatonin controls your sleep-wake cycle, a decrease in the hormone will affect how quickly you fall asleep. You may also notice that it’s harder to stay asleep throughout the night.
We live in the digital age, so it’s difficult to part with our devices at times. Even though technology is an awesome and useful resource, try to limit usage during the evenings. Also, give yourself at least 30 minutes before bed to unwind without your cell, tablet or laptop.
3. Drink a cup of warm milk or chamomile.
When I talked to my doctor about my anxiety, one of the first things she recommended before bed was a cup of warm milk or chamomile. Both of these beverages have a calming effect. Chamomile in particular contains an antioxidant called “apigenin” which is thought to help with sleep.
I recently found a Sweet Dreams Chamomile Latte on Pinterest, and it has helped me a lot with anxiety at night!
4. Make a playlist of calming music for bed.
In college, it wasn’t easy for me to adjust to a completely new setting. For the first few months, I had trouble falling asleep at night. Eventually, I created a playlist called “Sweet Dreams” filled with calming songs. If I can’t sleep, to this day I have it saved on my laptop!
Since I love creating playlists, here’s another version of my “Sweet Dreams” playlist on Spotify. Hope you enjoy! 💗
5. If you wake up in the middle of the night, meditate by breathing deeply and only focusing on your breath.
Meditation can help ease your mind and body. There are various styles you can choose from, including mindfulness, guided, and concentrated meditation.
I’ve noticed that mindfulness meditation has helped so much with my sleep struggles. At first, I take deep breaths in and out. If thoughts about the day begin to pop up, I’ll try to accept them and bring my attention back to my breathing.
Helpful resources on mediation:
6. Light a soothing candle.
Another way to unwind before bed is by lighting a candle. Search for calming scents like lavender, vanilla, rose, or cinnamon. I recently bought a few candles from B&BW called Paris Cafe, Lavender Cedarwood, and Blue Lagoon that have such relaxing vibes!
7. Avoid working in bed.
If you’re working in bed often, your brain will start to associate your bedroom as a work space. Choose a designated space for work, whether it’s an office or a cozy nook in your living room. Also, consider working remotely from a coffee shop if you need a change of scenery!
8. Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor.
There are many treatments available for anxiety and sleep. If symptoms persist, talk to your doctor about your anxiety and sleep struggles. They’ll be able to find a treatment plan that fits your individual situation, whether it’s a lifestyle change, medication, or therapy. I know this can be a scary step sometimes, but speaking to a professional and coming up with a solution together will help ease your mind in the long run.
9. Start a bullet journal to organize your week.
A bullet journal is an awesome tool that can help you organize your thoughts and ideas. In the journal you can keep a daily log, appointment reminders, to-do list, ideas, and so much more. If you’re stressed before bed, work on sections in your bullet journal. It’ll be so much easier to sleep with a clear mind!
More about bullet journals —
- How to Start a Bullet Journal via Little Coffee Fox
- 89 Bullet Journal Page Ideas To Inspire Your Next Entry via Teal Notes
10. Redecorate and reorganize your room.
Every now and again, it’s a good idea to change things up. If you’ve been having a hard time sleeping, you may start to feel negatively whenever you walk into your room. Move furniture around, paint the walls, buy new pillows, add a funky carpet. This will give your room a whole new vibe!
11. Play background noise, like an ocean breeze or campfire sounds.
Both white and pink noise have been thought to help with sleep. White noise is a steadier sound that blocks out other noises, like a blowing fan. Pink noise, on the other hand, has louder lower frequencies. A couple of examples include ocean waves and falling rain. Play around with different sounds and see what works best for you!
12. Eat foods that help you sleep.
There are a variety of foods that promote sleep. Look for snacks that contain melatonin, are rich in antioxidants, and help increase serotonin levels. A few recommended choices are tuna, cheese, oatmeal, bananas, walnuts, and popcorn.
Here are 16 Bedtime Snacks That Will Help You Sleep So Much Better–Via Reader’s Digest.
13. Download sleeping apps like Headspace or Calm.
Both apps offer guided mindfulness and meditation techniques. They’re free to download, but also come with subscription options. If you’re interested in learning about meditation, Calm and Headspace have a lot of helpful activities and exercises. I love that Calm comes with bedtime stories, including “Happy Little Zzzs with Bob Ross!”
14. Cut back on caffeine whenever possible.
Coffee is bae, I know. I’m totally guilty of walking into Starbucks at 10 pm for my iced latte. It can be a challenge not reaching for a cup of coffee when you’re busy at work or writing a final paper for class. However, if you’re having trouble sleeping, try to limit coffee during the day. Avoid drinking coffee in the evenings, and reach for a cup of hot chocolate or a banana smoothie instead!
15. Limit naps during the day to 20 minutes.
It’s best to keep naps to about 20 minutes during the day. Mayo Clinic suggests not taking a nap after 3 pm. Make sure to set an alarm on your phone so that you don’t oversleep. Also, try to nap in a room with minimum lighting and no distractions. A 20 minute nap won’t disrupt your regular sleeping schedule, and you’ll feel a lot more well-rested!
16. Take a relaxing bubble bath.
A soothing bubble bath will help relax your body and mind after a long day. Pamper yourself by playing music, lighting a candle, and reading a novel. Lush has a lot of adorable bath bombs that help reduce stress. Recently, I saw this “Twilight” bath bomb on their site that is so pretty! When you drop the bath bomb in the tub, it looks like a dreamy night sky!
17. Buy comfy pajamas.
You’ll feel super cozy and ready for bed in the right PJs! Target has really comfy and affordable PJs. Lately, though, I’ve been wearing a lot of sleep shorts and my faves are from Aeropostale! If it gets chilly at night, look for flannel pants and socks. In general, you can never go wrong with an oversized tee!
18. If darkness at night unsettles you, purchase or DIY a nightlight!
Nightlights aren’t just for kids! The truth is, it can be unsettling waking up in the middle of the night without any light. A nightlight may help give your bedroom a more calming vibe. Check out Pinterest for DIY nightlight projects! Etsy also has adult nightlights that look super cool! My faves are these fairy lights and quartz crystal plug-in night lights!
19. Listen to a sleep podcast on Spotify.
If you’re browsing through Spotify, check out their podcasts! They offer some awesome podcasts dedicated to sleep and relaxation. Their most popular bedtime podcasts include “Sleep With Me: A Sleep-Inducing Podcast,” “Meditation Minis,” and much more!
More sleep podcasts —
20. Log your dreams in a diary.
When my anxiety gets bad, I tend to have nightmares almost every night. Nightmares are usually a signal that I’m feeling anxious, and also a trigger. At first, I didn’t know how to deal with this cycle. I started writing down my dreams and thoughts in a diary.
This helped me so much because I was able to express myself and let out my thoughts. If you’re dealing with nightmares, consider reflecting on them through writing. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but I recently bought a dream journal from Francesca’s and I love it! I’ll even track my happy dreams, so that the journal doesn’t become a negative space. It’s a really amazing outlet!
Anxiety during bedtime is hard, but there are ways to make the nighttime a little bit easier. These tips have helped me deal with my nighttime anxiety, and I hope that they are helpful to you as well! Here’s to a good night and sweet dreams! 🌙🌌
I hope that you enjoyed this post, lovelies! Have a fantastic weekend! x
Have you ever experienced nighttime anxiety or sleep troubles? Also, what helps you unwind before bed, whether it’s music, writing, reading, etc.?