It’s important to understand that anxiety is a normal emotion. We all feel anxious at times, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, when anxiety starts to interfere with our daily lives, it can become a problem. More so, even, if your anxiety spikes up at night. Having more anxiety at bedtime is a common problem for many people. For some, bedtime brings an intensification of worries and fears.
For others, it’s not so much the fears getting more intense, but the lack of distraction. Your worries can take the backseat while you’re working/out with friends/doom-scrolling on social media. Not so much once you turn off all the lights, your phone, and put your head on the dreaded pillow. If you’re finding that your anxiety is keeping you up at night, there are a few things you can do to help cope with this.
deja vu, much?
First, and I know how crappy it sounds, try to establish a regular bedtime routine. This can help to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. A bedtime routine doesn’t have to involve complicated things like a bath or anything, but the more steps you take, the more time your body has to register that you’re in winding down mode. Even if you don’t, or can’t, have a regular bedtime, keeping the routine the same is a good start, no matter when you go to bed.
Oh, gee, where have i heard THAT before?
If you enjoy a warm drink, there are many teas that help with sleep, and the action of making the tea and drinking it adds to the routine. If you like to read, spend some time reading, either in your bed or anywhere comfortable with a dimmer light than usual. Dimmed lights are a good way to signal to your brain and body that it’s almost time to sleep. While it would be better to read a physical book than to use your phone, it’s not always an option.
If you’re like me, and you like to scroll your phone before sleep, I won’t tell you not to. However, it would be a good idea to put your phone on “night light” mode and using “dark theme.” Depending on the phone, there can be more settings; mine has “extra dim” and “bedtime mode” as well. Bedtime mode makes my phone grayscale, which I didn’t think I would enjoy so much, but I do! Bonus: grayscale makes me less interested in social media, so I often end up reading a book instead.
It’s also important to avoid anything that might trigger your anxiety. If you know that certain activities, settings, or thoughts tend to increase your anxiety levels, try to avoid them in the hours leading up to bedtime. This might mean avoiding the news or stressful conversations, for example. Avoiding any activities that require mental effort will help you relax and eventually fall asleep. If you often feel like you’ve forgotten something important just before sleep and it troubles you, you may benefit from my phone hacks e-book for the neurodivergent. It may also help you setting up a nightly routine and lowering your stress levels.
Meditation is an annoying tip but it works
If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep due to anxiety, try some meditation or simple deep breathing exercises. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, filling up your lungs. Hold the breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this several times until you start to feel more relaxed. If you’re struggling with this on your own, you can try a guided breathing exercise or meditation. I find it very helpful because it lets me focus on a voice other than my anxious inner monologue.
Just get back up
A lot of people, even doctors, will tell you that if you’re having trouble falling asleep, don’t try to force it. Instead, get up and do something calming until you feel tired again, like reading, listening to soothing music, or writing in a journal. It may work, but don’t worry too much if it doesn’t, or if, like me, you can’t even manage to get out of bed even if you can’t sleep. For me, it’s one of two things: either I get up, which simply means that I’m awake now and there’s nothing I can do about it, or I’m unable to fall asleep, but my body is so heavy that I can’t just “get up and read until I’m tired”
Scared OF sleep
You may also have issues at night because the sleep is causing you anxiety. There are a few different reasons for that; you might feel apprehensive of sleep because you often have nightmares, or you might not want to go to bed and have to battle insomnia yet again. In both of these scenarios, I don’t have much to offer except that sleep deprivation is a bitch and I get you. In a more serious tone, you may want to talk to your doctor or therapist about it. Perhaps some meds could help, either for the insomnia or the anxiety itself.
In some cases, you might even have an irrational fear of not waking up the next morning. While it is an unfortunate thought, I am also dealing with that. I’ve found that the only thing I could do about it is to say “well, if I don’t wake up, I won’t have to do [thing]” or just “passing away in your sleep is like, THE best way of going.” It’s something I started telling myself a long while back, and it seems to work pretty nicely.
I know, morbid as hell… But I can’t control my fear, I can only try to reason with it.
When I spoke to my therapist about it, she told me that “a peaceful death in your sleep is what most elder people hope for” and she ain’t wrong. So she agreed with the morbid but truthful thoughts I use to calm myself. You’ll have to decide whether it works for you, though.
it’s anxiety, not a monster in the night
It’s unclear whether it affects me now or not, but I used to have night terrors when I was a kid. I’ve seen a few theories about night terrors translating to insomnia later on, as well as being afraid of sleep. Is that the case for you, too? Leave me a comment and let me know!