Does Your Anxiety Get Worse at Night? 6 Steps to Manage Evening Anxiety
Does your anxiety get worse right as you lay down to relax and go to sleep? It might surprise you, but nighttime is a common time for anxiety to flare for many people after a stressful day due to changes in hormones and chemistry.
Anxiety is your body’s normal response to stress, but bedtime is usually when your stress levels should be the lowest–so why is anxiety often at its highest?
For millions of people, their nights are disrupted by racing thoughts and anxiety that can interfere with a good night’s sleep, which only further complicates the ability to regulate your mood the next day (1).
At night, anxiety might feel like (2):
- Racing thoughts
- Intense worry about work, finances, or personal relationships
- Heart palpitations
- Questions about self-worth
- Feelings of dread
Nighttime anxiety might also cause panic attacks, nightmares, and insomnia.
If symptoms persist during the day, you may have a panic disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. Let’s find out why anxiety often gets worse at night, and what you can do to relax and get some sleep when you have anxiety before bed.
You’re tucked in on the couch with a mug of warm tea wearing comfy pajamas with your best furry friend at your side–this is your ultimate safe space.
Far away from your boss, email notifications are finally turned off, and you no longer have anyone pulling your attention from one crisis to the next. So why do you feel more uneasy and anxious than you have all day?
This seems like the exact opposite of how you expect to feel anxiety, but if you experience it, you know that you don’t get to choose when it bubbles up.
In the evenings when your day winds down, for many people it’s the first time all day where no one is asking for your attention, and you’re not moving from task to task. You’re alone with your thoughts, and an entire day’s worth of worries and anxiety comes flooding into your mind after building in the background all day.
Simply put, no distractions equals more anxiety.
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An Anxious Day Creates an Anxious Night
Sleep problems, especially anxiety at night, are usually created during the day. If you don’t have a good way to manage stress and anxiety during the day, don’t expect it to disappear at bedtime (3).
In our culture where productivity is valued above almost all else, and it’s nearly a necessity to stay hyperconnected, it’s important to put into place intentional relaxation and mindfulness that will reduce stress during the day, so anxiety doesn’t come flooding you once you try to sleep.
In addition, there are also hormonal and chemistry changes that can affect your anxiety, which make dealing with stress that much harder.
Problems That Cause Nighttime Anxiety
Hormones play a big role in women’s health, and make a big difference in anxiety levels. PCOS, and other hormone imbalances can negatively affect your mood and symptoms of anxiety.
PCOS, for example, can inhibit ovulation in women, which worsens symptoms of anxiety especially just before your period (4).
Nutrient deficiencies, high-stress jobs, lack of support for busy moms, under-eating–and even over-exercising–can all impact your body’s fight-or-flight response.
This constant stress response can kick anxiety into high gear, especially at night when you should be feeling relaxed.
Gluten, dairy, and other allergens can create inflammation in your gut that can affect your mood and brain.
Plus, problems like Candida overgrowth, gut dysbiosis, a leaky gut, or food sensitivities can increase inflammation and increase feelings of anxiety. Many mood disorders begin in the gut because hormones and neurotransmitters–the signals that control your mood–are made in your digestive system.
If you’ve been feeling fatigued, but often can’t get to sleep at night, and you’re relying on caffeine to get you through the day, start by fixing your gut to heal these issues.
Steps to Reduce Bedtime Anxiety
Practice being present.
Whether you realize it or not, you probably spend a lot of time worrying about the future or replaying past events. This is common for women who experience anxiety, but it also piles on unnecessary stress to your daily activities.
Focus on the present moment by noticing how you feel right now, the simple joy of a sip of warm tea, a hug from a friend, or the satisfaction of a deep breath. You’ll likely hear this concept called mindfulness, and it can help you to train your brain to seek the positive instead of focusing on worries from the past or future.
If it seems difficult, don’t worry, mindfulness is a skill that can be learned and improved upon over time.
Build in time to wind down before bed.
Life is busy, and it’s easy to let the many things that are constantly trying to steal your attention take over. But a jam-packed schedule right up until the moment you go to bed sabotages a healthy sleep rhythm.
Your brain and body need time to calm down and relax, and produce messengers like melatonin that naturally help you get to sleep. Give yourself more transition time between your final nightly activities and when you need to finally let your brain relax. One way to do this is by working on the next point!
Stick to a bedtime routine.
A nightly routine can help you focus on your calming rituals instead of honing in on your anxiety.
Your bedtime routine should be centered around activities that promote relaxation–so nothing that will be too stimulating. A warm bath, journaling, or reading are great choices. Some people like to diffuse essential oils like lavender in their bedroom, or set up a noise machine to play calming sounds. Omit any blue light from devices, or don’t include them as part of your nighttime routine.
Spend time outside in the morning, or evening.
Decrease anxiety and promote a healthy circadian rhythm by spending time outside first thing in the morning, or in the evening when the sun begins to set (5).
Exposing your eyes to sunlight at certain times of day can help regulate your natural sleep rhythm, called your circadian rhythm. This helps your body produce melatonin to help you sleep, and decrease hormones like cortisol, which can make anxiety worse.
This one is a no-brainer for reducing anxiety at bedtime. Browsing social media feeds keeps your brain in a stimulated state, which can worsen anxiety and make it a lot harder to fall asleep (6).
Consider bedtime supplements to calm anxiety.
Magnesium is a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to relax a busy or tense mind in the evening. Serenease contains 420 mg of magnesium from the 6 most functional types of this miracle mineral.
Chamomile tea has also been shown to support a feeling of calm and ease before bed (7). You can find chamomile in the tea section at most grocery stores, or steep the dried flowers yourself.
To help you fall asleep, magnolia bark is a staple in Eastern medicine, and has been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, as well as increase total sleep time (8).
Sleep Savior contains both magnolia bark and magnesium, plus 3 mg of melatonin to help you drift off for a restful night’s sleep.
Chinese Medicine Remedies for Anxiety
Eastern remedies for anxiety focus heavily on adaptogenic compounds that support your body’s response to stress. Adaptogens do just what their name implies–help your body adapt! Here are some of my Eastern remedy favorites for combating anxiety:
- Reishi mushroom
- Jujube (red or Chinese date)
- Holy basil or tulsi
- Lemon balm
- Magnolia bark
Ayurvedic medicine suggests calming the Vata dosha, which may be out of balance and trigger anxiety.
An imbalance in Vata craves a stable routine, such as waking and going to bed at roughly the same times each day. Be consistent with relaxing rituals such as meditation or yoga practices, and try to be consistent with mealtimes from day to day.
Spending time in nature is also inherently harmonizing for Vata.
Anxiety at night affects millions of women, whether they’re diagnosed with anxiety disorders or not. Taking a holistic approach to treating anxiety is always more beneficial because it allows you to address the multiple factors that impact your mood from the time you get up in the morning, to the time you go to sleep at night.
Anxiety tends to get worse at night due to high stress during the day, hormonal imbalances, and even poor gut health. To minimize your anxiety at night it’s important to heal any nutrient deficiencies, digestive troubles, as well as put into place mindfulness and stress management techniques.
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