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Stop anxiety at night

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

Are you having trouble sleeping because of anxiety that hits at night? You’re not alone. Millions of people struggle with insomnia and nighttime anxiety – but the good news is that there are natural solutions you can use to help ease the symptoms and make for a better night’s sleep. In this blog, you’ll discover simple, natural strategies you can use to help cut down on anxiety-induced sleep trouble and get some peaceful rest as well as get a better understanding of what might be causing your anxiety at night and how to prevent it long-term.




1. Understanding Anxiety and Stress



Anxiety and stress do not follow a standard pattern, they differentiate between people, meaning one person's symptoms won't be the same as another.

Anxiety can be prominent at night time because it's a time for unwinding, you are less likely to be rushing around and have fewer distractions. Your body is likely feeling tired from the day even though your mind hasn't quite got the message yet. You may feel that you don't experience anxiety during the day however if you are not acknowledging and reflecting on those feelings when they happen whether it be day or night, they are emerging later on in the form of restlessness, insomnia, panic attacks or nightmares.


The first thing you can do to combat your anxiety at night is to get a better idea of what is causing it. Is your anxiety linked to a recurring theme? You might be thinking of a person, or place from the day, if you start off with these simple details you can then go on to evaluate further. For instance, if a person is on your mind at night what is associated with them? do they make you nervous? Are you putting off an uncomfortable conversation?

You can log these details in a journal and build a pattern. These feelings of anxiety are coming from somewhere, but only you can find out where.


The more you learn about anxiety and stress the easier you will find it to reduce the symptoms, try having a look online, visiting the library or speaking to friends about whether they have had similar experiences. I've personally found that the more information I gather about my anxiety disorder the easier I find it to manage. Before it was chaos, something that made me feel very alone but connecting with other people and learning more about it suddenly made anxiety feel very small.



2. Natural Sleep Aids

There are a series of aids that can help reduce anxiety, soothe restlessness and eliminate insomnia that you can start implementing as soon as this evening!


Camomille tea

Chamomile tea is a centuries-old tradition that has long been praised for its calming effects. Whether you're feeling stressed or looking for natural ways to unwind, this legendary beverage could be the perfect solution. Studies suggest chamomile could be a powerful source of relief, with one survey reporting that 57% of respondents felt more relaxed after drinking chamomile tea. Considering you can pick some up at your local supermarket, why not give it a try?


Fresh Air

There's a lot to be said about a bit of fresh air! Opening or just "cracking" a window before bed (although cold) might just get you feeling like you need need to hunker down. With the air quality in many cities reaching dangerous levels, we're increasingly aware of how our environment affects our overall health and well-being. According to the World Health Organization, ensuring that we receive enough fresh air, especially at night, is essential for good health and research has found that getting fresh air at night is associated with improved sleep, better cardiovascular health, and the potential to reduce stress and anxiety.


Journal


Journaling before bed is an underutilized yet powerful sleep tool that can help you relax, reflect, and get ready for a restful and refreshing sleep. Getting all the information and emotion you've collected throughout the day out of your body and down onto paper can be a therapeutic practice in itself. Journalling helps you self-reflect, and writing some of those concerns down prior to bed will encourage that self-reflection before bed and stop you from overthinking those issues when you are trying to get some well-needed rest.


Exercise

Have you ever considered that exercise could be the answer to better sleep? A growing body of research shows that physical activity can be a powerful sleep aid. Exercise can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed. Exercising in the morning is usually preferable as it maintains your energy levels throughout the day without the need for a nap, but don't be disheartened if a morning workout isn't for you. Any exercise is beneficial since tiring your body is one step closer to tiring out your mind, just try not to exercise up to 2 hours prior to sleep as you may struggle to reduce your endorphins enough to get to sleep as quickly.


Blackout blinds


Blackout blinds offer an easy, affordable solution to help block out bright light, so you can drift off into a peaceful slumber. Not only do they block excess light, but they can also help to keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, reduce noise disruption, and provide privacy. Black-out blinds can program your brain to understand that when it's dark it's time to sleep and this can help get you into a more reliable set schedule, however, some might find that if they struggle waking up in the morning, the lack of light can make it harder, this is why it's important to get into a schedule of sleeping and waking at the same time every day, making the process easier and morning run much smoother.


Try socks!

Now we have some particularly cold nights, wearing socks prior to and during sleep can maintain your body temperature and reduce the amount of time it takes to doze off! Your feet take the longest to warm up as they are the furthest from your heart, so if you are going to bed with cold feet your body will direct its energy into making sure you are warm enough to sleep.



3. Try Some Relaxation Techniques


ASMR

A surprisingly simple way to reduce anxiety and improve your overall well-being is ASMR. Whether you're familiar with it or not, ASMR has been gaining attention as a powerful, yet effortless way to reduce stress.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, AKA ASMR, is a sensory experience characterized by a tingling sensation and calming effect and has become very popular on social media platforms such as TikTok and Youtube. Simple sounds and motions such as cutting or crinkling paper can trigger a calming effect and actually send you off to sleep. You can access free podcasts and play them prior to sleeping or even during.


Meditation

For centuries, people have been using meditation to promote a healthy sleep cycle. From ancient meditation practices to modern digital apps. A lot of people will think of meditation as basically...sleep. It is far from that. It is actually advised that meditation be conducted in a particular spot which you designate as your place to meditate and it is done in an upright position. Meditation is a learnt practice and it's best to study the art, go to a meditation class or use guided meditation on Spotify or youtube until you can follow them without instruction.


Blue light glasses

Recent studies have shown that the blue light wavelengths emitted from digital devices like smartphones and computers are damaging to your eyes and the circadian rhythm of your sleep cycles, but wearing blue light glasses can protect your health and help you get a better night's rest. We already spend far too much time looking at screens and it's easier said than done to just "put them down" or "turn them off" but there are more problems here than can be causing anxiety at night. The first one is content. What you see when you scroll could put you in a negative mindset and give you more to think or obsess over right when you want your mind to be clear. Secondly, the addictive act of engaging with a device and the blue light admitted is actually designed to keep you awake and activate your brain so putting it down even if it's just for the hour before bed, can go a long way!


Reading

According to the National Sleep Foundation, reading before bed can reduce stress by 68%, improve sleep quality by up to 30%, and even reduce symptoms of depression by up to 26%. Reading offers a wonderful opportunity to escape into a world of adventure and fantasy, while also stimulating the imagination and allowing your body and mind to relax. There are countless proven benefits to reading before bed, such as falling asleep faster and improving overall sleep quality, you just need to find the genre for you!


4. Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule


Sounds easier than it is right? As a perpetual night owl, I've always felt bed before midnight was a crime and the same about waking up before 9 but everyone is different. Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, this really shouldn't affect your ability to set a sleep schedule. For instance, I know that I need at least 7 hours to feel productive and well-rested. Treating sleep like anything else in your daily routine can really help towards making it more stable in the long term, just like a diet, exercise regime or work rota, sleep can be manipulated to suit what is healthiest and most beneficial to you.



Getting a smart watch or fitbit can sometimes makes sleep more "exciting" or at the very least interesting. Seeing your stages of sleep and the quality can make the idea of a sleep schedule more engaging in the long term and help you log the patterns.

5. Dealing With Worries and Negative Thoughts


Often the things that keep us up at night are worries and negative thoughts. At night they seem to spiral because we are not active and our focus doesn't shift as often. It's difficult to keep them under control when it seems like we have all the time in the world to think about them in greater detail.

It's quite normal to daydream or "drift off" in thought. There is a meditation technique which teaches that when you realise you have drifted, stop, acknowledge that you have and then go back to the previous thought. This can be applied to negative thoughts. When you sense them coming up or getting out of control, acknowledge that it's moving in a negative direction and bring yourself back to a happier thought. It does take some practice but soon enough you'll be able to stop the cycle.

We can often envision implausible or unlikely outcomes when we are fixated on negative thoughts. There is a lot of "what if" behaviours, if you find yourself doing this a lot, try and think of a "what if" scenario that is more positive. We often think that negative situations and outcomes are more likely than positive ones, but this just isn't the case, we simply look for the negative first.


Obviously, I'm going to mention journaling. Whether it's writing out pages or simply jotting down some notes/lists, freeing up some of those concerns and getting them down on paper prior to bed can be a huge relief and form of therapy in itself and if you are a natural worrier, being prepared for the next day can also be helpful. Making sure the car has enough petrol, setting out your clothes and getting your cuppa "just add water" ready can make your morning run much smoother and set you up in a positive mindset.


Finally...

Anxiety and stress can disrupt your sleep, but there are steps you can take to help you relax and get better sleep on your own. By understanding anxiety and stress, using natural sleep aids, trying relaxation techniques, establishing a consistent sleep schedule, and dealing with worries and negative thoughts, you can help stop anxiety at night and improve your sleep.


If you’re feeling anxious and having trouble sleeping, try these simple strategies and see if they help ease your nighttime anxiety. If you need additional help, you can reach out to a mental health professional who specializes in anxiety and insomnia.



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