7 Effective Activities to Calm Anxiety at Night

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Anxiety before sleep is a result of worry, fear, or unease. While it’s normal sometimes to experience anxiety, it can be overwhelming and interfere with our ability to sleep at night, leaving us with the question of how to calm anxiety at night.

What Is Sleep Anxiety?

Sleep anxiety is a form of anxiety that can interfere with standard sleep patterns. It can cause people to have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting restful sleep. Those who experience anxiety may feel apprehensive about going to bed or the ability to fall asleep. In addition, they may worry excessively about things that have happened during the day or potential problems in the future. This type of anxiety can be very disruptive and lead to fatigue, irritability, and other adverse health effects.

There are many ways to deal with anxiety sleep. Some find relief by practicing relaxation techniques before bedtime, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation. Others find comfort in writing out their worries or concerns in a journal. But if insomnia or other sleep disorders interfere with your ability to get a good night’s rest, it’s advisable to talk to a doctor about what steps can be taken.

Common Reasons for Anxiety

Various conditions can trigger anxiety. For example, If you’re struggling with anxiety before bed, it’s essential to understand the root cause of this anxiety. Consider five of the following reasons.

1. Waiting for Change 

Nighttime seems to be when our minds wander. Some, for example, may worry about pregnancy, getting married, a job change, etc. While there are plenty of over-the-counter options for anxiety, some would instead not take medication. But there are natural ways to calm your mind before bed.

2. Worrying About Things You Cannot Control

It’s essential to remember that worrying about things you cannot control only increases anxiety when trying to sleep. So, for example, if you’re worried about an upcoming presentation at work, focus on the preparation you’ve made instead of the potential outcome—thereby controlling the situation and reducing your anxiety.

Similarly, if you struggle to fall asleep because of anxious thoughts racing through your head, try focusing on your breath instead. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly, counting as you do so. This exercise will help to calm your mind and promote relaxation.

3. Too Many Things to Do the Next Day

When your mind is occupied with thoughts of unfinished tasks, it’s challenging to relax and fall asleep. So try to finish any important work or chores earlier in the day to reduce your night anxiety.

Some may find that reading before bed helps them calm down and fall asleep. But choose a book that isn’t too stimulating (thrillers, suspense novels) and avoid watching TV or using electronic devices in bed. These charged activities can make it harder to sleep.

4. Irregular Sleep Cycles

Irregular sleep cycles can also trigger anxiety. When our bodies are unbalanced, it can be challenging to calm the mind and relax. Creating a regular sleep schedule can help regulate our body’s natural rhythms and minimize feelings of anxiety at bedtime. Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it—include such relaxing activities as reading, yoga, or meditation.

5. Rapid Thought Patterns

When you’re experiencing anxiety, your mind may start to race, making it difficult to calm down and fall asleep. To combat this, try focusing on your breathing—inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and exhale for four seconds. Repeat this until you feel more relaxed.

If your thoughts still don’t stop racing, consider writing them down on paper or in a journal. Putting them out there in the open can help lessen their power over you. And if all else fails, consider talking to a therapist about how to ease anxiety at night. They may provide additional tips and techniques to help you get the sleep you need.

Sleep Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety keeps you awake night after night, making it challenging to focus in the day and causing your mind to spin while trying to figure out what keeps you from getting better sleep. Consider the following seven symptoms of anxiety.

1. Frequent Troubles Falling Asleep

Anxiety while sleeping can be frustrating, leaving you feeling drained the next day. While many things can help, try to avoid caffeine or alcohol before bed, as these stimulants will keep you awake. And make sure you don’t eat anything heavy, which will cause discomfort when trying to sleep. Instead, wind down for 30 minutes before sleep by reading, taking a bath, or using relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises.

2. Concentration Difficulties

Anxiety can also lead to concentration difficulties, making it difficult to focus on anything other than anxiety. This often leads to feeling overwhelmed and like you cannot do anything, adding to anxiety at night symptoms. Instead, concentrate on your breathing—taking deep breaths can help center you. And if you have a task, break it down into smaller steps, making it feel less daunting and more manageable. You can also try focusing on one specific aspect of the undertaking rather than trying to accomplish the whole ‘burden’ at once.

3. Restlessness and Nervousness

Feeling restless and nervous is expected when you’re anxious while sleeping. A couple of methods to help calm yourself down before bed is to practice such relaxation techniques as deep breathing or visualization. You can also try yoga or meditation to help you relax or read a book before bedtime.

4. Gastrointestinal Problems

Many with anxiety disorders also experience gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, or nausea. These symptoms can add to anxiety, making it difficult to be calm at night. If you’re experiencing anxiety at night due to this complication, talk to your doctor about how to manage it—there might be medication or a lifestyle change that can help.

5. Nightmares

Many solutions help manage anxiety before going to bed. Common techniques include practicing mindfulness meditation, writing a journal about the day, or listening to soft music. Others have a cup of chamomile tea just before lying down for the night to prevent anxiety sleep. And some recommend reading books to let their minds relax so that they fall asleep quickly. But finding out what works best for each person requires some experimentation.

6. Twitching

Anxiety can manifest in different ways, and for some, it might cause twitching. Unfortunately, this is a common symptom of anxiety, especially when coupled with restless legs syndrome (RLS). If twitching is one of your sleep anxiety symptoms, consider the following actions to try and calm yourself down.

  • Massage your temples or the back of your neck to release some of the tension built up in your muscles.
  • Try deep breathing exercises. Consciously slowing down your breath can help relax your body.
  • Take a hot bath or shower. The heat from the water will help loosen up any tight muscles and promote relaxation.

7. Panic Attacks 

Panic attacks can be scary, and, unfortunately, they often occur at night. If you’re struggling with panic attacks and nighttime anxiety, it’s essential to seek help from a therapist or doctor. Many treatments can help get your panic attacks under control, including:

  • Deep Breathing: This technique helps oxygenate your body and calm your nerves.
  • Focusing: Focus on something that relaxes you, such as nature scenes or pictures of loved ones.
  • Distraction: Distract yourself by reading a book, watching TV, or listening to music.
  • Talking: Sometimes, talking to another person can be what helps with anxiety at night. It also gives you something else to focus on.
  • Writing Out Your Feelings: Write down exactly how you feel about the panic attacks that occur at night. This will help you process what has been happening and may even give some insight into why these episodes of anxiety occur in the first place.

Consequences of Nighttime Anxiety

Just as daytime anxiety can lead to a host of adverse consequences, nighttime anxiety can do the same. Those with anxiety may have difficulty falling or staying asleep, which, in turn, can lead to fatigue and decreased productivity during the day. Note some of the following consequences of nighttime anxiety.

1. Moodiness

Anxiety can often lead to mood swings. You may feel on top of the world one minute and then incredibly low the next. Anxiety can change your hormone levels, consequently affecting your mood. Specific products—like crystals for anxiety—can aid with mood swings.

2. Poor Performance

Feeling anxious about sleep can also affect your work performance. You may find it difficult to concentrate or even remember things that used to come so quickly. You might be irritable and tired or have trouble controlling your temper.

3. Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the US, affecting millions each year. Depression is a mental health disorder that can cause intense sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Those with this illness may also have anxiety while sleeping and feel like they cannot control their thoughts or actions.

4. Reduced Cognitive Reaction

Anxiety can lead to cognitive overload or the feeling that too many things are going on in your head at once. This can be incredibly overwhelming at night when you’re trying to wind down and get some sleep. When you’re anxious, it’s harder to focus on anything else but your worries. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed can help reduce cognitive reactions and allow you to fall asleep quicker.

Key Takeaways

Knowing how to calm anxiety sleep will help those who have trouble falling and staying asleep due to an overactive mind or worry.
Nighttime yoga is one of the best ways to help those with anxiety because it focuses on breathing and body movements while simultaneously bestowing freedom from negative thoughts.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been used for years as an effective approach in treating generalized anxiety disorder. But new research shows this technique also helps improve sleep quality among those with insomnia symptoms.

How to Calm Anxiety at Night

When anxiety keeps you up at night, getting enough rest can be challenging. But the following activities can relax you before bed.

1. Sleep Hygiene

One of the best ways to calm anxiety is to practice good sleep hygiene, including avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, keeping a regular sleep schedule, and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.

2. Create an Appropriate Sleep Environment 

Creating a sleeping environment conducive to relaxation can be beneficial in calming anxiety. Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and cool. Purchasing one of the best smart beds with comfortable bedding and limiting technology or screens before bedtime is advisable. Blue light from electronic devices has been shown to suppress melatonin production and interfere with sleep quality.

3. Meditate

When you’re feeling anxious while sleeping, taking a few minutes to focus on your breath can be incredibly calming. There are various types of meditation; find one that works best for you and try to practice it regularly. This can help train your mind to focus on the present instead of allowing anxiety to take over.

4. Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects and can help soothe anxiety. A moderate amount of exercise is the key to maintaining your mental health and managing anxiety at bedtime—aim for at least 30 minutes per day. If you don’t have time for a full workout, try incorporating basic yoga poses or go for a short walk.

5. Keep a Journal

If friends and family are unaware of what you’re going through, writing about your feelings in a journal might help. Putting words to anxiety can be difficult but may also be cathartic.

6. Listen to Ambient Noise

Babies fall asleep to ambient noise for comfort because the sounds of nature are familiar and soothing. Try this at night but use white noise or any other sound than what you’d hear in your bedroom when trying to sleep. You can even download apps on your phone that create calming noises.

7. Talk to a Sleep Therapist

If you have trouble finding relief for your anxiety, talk to a sleep therapist. They can help identify the cause of your anxiety at night and how it affects your ability to fall asleep at night.

Conclusion

There are many ways to calm your anxiety. The key is to find what works best for you and stick with it. If you find that one method doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try another. Just remember, the goal is to attain relaxation and peace so that you can get a good night’s sleep.

FAQ

What if nothing seems to help?

What if the advice addressed in this article doesn’t seem to fit your situation? You can still ease anxiety—even without medication and relaxation techniques. Change how you think about sleep itself. Many with anxiety start worrying as soon as their head hits the pillow. They try to relax but finally give up on sleeping.

How do I know if my child has anxiety?

The best way to determine if your child is struggling with anxiety is by evaluating their behavior and emotional state. For example, if your child frequently experiences intense worry, has difficulty controlling emotions, or constantly seems on edge, they may be dealing with anxiety. In addition, children who struggle with anxiety often have problems sleeping or suffer from physical complaints, such as a headache or stomachache. Of course, every child experiences stressors in life—so not all of these symptoms need to be attributed to anxiety. But if your gut tells you something is wrong, it’s advisable to seek professional help.

How to calm anxiety at night?

Some find it helpful to do relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing or yoga. Others may prefer to listen to calming music or read a book. Taking a hot bath or using aromatherapy can also be soothing. If worry keeps you up at night, try writing down your thoughts in a journal and then set them aside for the next day. Distracting yourself with something fun can also help break the cycle of anxious thoughts. Whatever techniques work best for you, practice them regularly so that they can generate an automatic pacifying response when night anxiety starts to creep in.

ABOUT AUTHOR

I've loved writing since I can remember, and back in high school, I started loving psychology as well. So I majored in it while dabbling in spirituality and yoga on the side.

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