How To Deal With Sleep Anxiety: Tips To Calm Your Mind at Night

sleep anxiety | Wakefit

About the blog: Having difficulty going off to sleep? Has it been worse with all the social media messages and notifications? You may be dealing with Sleep Anxiety. This blog post tells you everything you need to know about sleep anxiety and related sleep phobias. We will be looking into questions such as what is sleep anxiety, what are the symptoms of sleep anxiety, how do you get rid of sleep anxiety, how does lack of sleep due to sleep anxiety affect mental health, and sleeping problems & solutions etc. 

What is Sleep Anxiety & What are the Types of Anxiety Disorders?

Types of Anxiety Disorders

We are all currently feeling anxious. How can we not, when a pandemic is wreaking havoc outside our doors! 

This feeling of anxiety might seem innocent, but it affects your health way more than you are aware. Sleep anxiety or Somniphobia is the fear associated with sleep. Going to sleep seems like a very natural thing to do, but it can be a dreadful thing for some people.

In a stressful situation, like the pandemic, the anxiety around sleep may not be all that unfounded. 

You are constantly stressed and always receiving news that doesn’t help, so it is natural for you to get nightmares, which can further create a fear of sleep, adding to your sleep anxiety. So looking into sleeping problems & solutions becomes essential. Maintaining good sleep timing and good sleep hygiene helps a great deal. Now that we know what an anxiety disorder is, let’s check the different types of anxiety disorders:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Breakup anxiety
  • Selective mutism
  • Specific phobias
  • Medicine induced anxiety disorder
  • Agoraphobia

Suggested read: Deep connection between sleep and mental health

What are some Sleep Anxiety Symptoms?

Sleep anxiety symptoms manifest themselves in various ways, and they may affect people differently. However, some of the usual sleep anxiety symptoms mainly include:

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness or worry 
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Struggle in falling asleep or remaining asleep
  • Gastrointestinal issues

A panic attack is one of the most common sleep anxiety symptoms that you must know. A panic attack around sleep anxiety is characterised by a profound and intense fear of falling asleep, which is often accompanied by physical manifestations, such as: 

  • A sense of impending doom caused a rise in heart rate and chest pains
  • Throat tightness and shortness of breath
  • Sweating, chills, and hot sweats.
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • A sense of detachedness or as if nothing were real

You can also awaken from a nocturnal or nighttime panic attack in some cases. Nocturnal panic attacks exhibit the same signs and symptoms as regular panic attacks, but they occur when you are sleeping. When experiencing a nocturnal panic attack, it can be difficult to calm down and fall back asleep. This, in turn, can worsen sleep phobias like sleep anxiety, so looking into sleeping problems & solutions is vital.

Causes of Sleep Anxiety: Here’s Why You Are Finding It Difficult Falling Asleep

good sleep timing

Are you wondering why you are experiencing anxiety when trying to sleep? Anxiety and sleep are very closely related. Sleep deprivation can trigger sleep anxiety, adding to a lack of sleep. Higher levels of sleep anxiety can severely affect your sleep and, in some cases, cause insomnia. Trying out some natural remedy for insomnia and anxiety helps a great deal. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough scientific research on sleep anxiety. There are a variety of explanations for why this kind of anxiety happens, especially at night. You may feel that your mind is racing and that you are unable to stop your thoughts. The best solutions are to maintain good sleep timing and good sleep hygiene.  

You may be preoccupied with the day’s problems or thinking about the stuff on your to-do list for the next day. This perceived “stress” can trigger an adrenaline rush in the body, making it difficult for you to sleep. So coping with anxiety and stress disorders helps a great deal.

What’s the Relationship between Sleep and Anxiety?

Though there may not be enough evidence about sleep anxiety, there is plenty of research on how anxiety can influence sleep and vice versa. According to the ADAA, sleep disturbances are found in almost all psychiatric disorders. In addition, several studies have explored the relationship between cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and sleep quality. CBT is a psychotherapeutic treatment where the patient is taught how to identify harmful thought patterns. Once these patterns are identified, CBT encourages you to challenge them and offers ways to replace these thoughts with more objective ones. 

A 2015 study on the relationship between CBT and sleep discovered that participants who reacted to CBT improved sleep quality and sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep). The researchers believe that addressing anxiety-causing sleep issues can benefit those who have difficulty sleeping.

Sleep Anxiety due to the Uncertainities of Life

The sleep anxiety you are currently experiencing may be due to the pandemic. Mental health deteriorates when people face a stressful situation, and very few things can be more stressful than a global pandemic. Most of us feel anxious with news of the Covid-19 virus flooding our regular newsfeeds and social media. So, even if you don’t get infected by the virus, your mental health may be affected by the news surrounding it. In such a situation, the daily activity affected the most is our sleep. If we are not sleeping well, we are weakening our immune system, increasing our chances of contracting the virus. So, do not get worried about this; we have your back. 

In the next section, we will be talking about how to sleep better at night with anxiety. 

What’s the Best Way To Deal with Sleep Anxiety?

Before we go into the tips on dealing with this sleep disorder, let us recap how anxiety affects sleep. People have various worries, from money and health to relationships and careers. All of our fears keep us up at night as we cannot relax our minds, obviously running helter-skelter because of these stressful thoughts. The most common sleep disorder associated with anxiety is insomnia. So trying out some natural remedy for insomnia and anxiety is vital. It is hard to fall asleep when you are worried. But it is also difficult to stay asleep, which is likely to cause fragmented sleep, resulting, in sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness. Addressing anxiety-causing sleep issues helps you cope with the problem better.

What is worse is that the lesser sleep you get, the more anxious you become, which means this is a downward spiral. Now that we are clear about what we are dealing with here, let us focus on how to sleep better at night with anxiety. 

Medical treatments to Sleep Better if you suffer from Sleep anxiety: 

It’s important to note that finding the best therapeutic approach for your anxiety will take time. 

Therefore, you and your doctor can opt for a variety of different treatment options.

1. Treat the underlying causes

Some medical conditions may cause anxiety symptoms. They are as follows:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Thyroid hypertrophy
  • Diabetes
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Certain types of brain tumours

Your doctor will want to handle all of these disorders first if they are causing your nighttime anxiety.

  2. Psychotherapy

Anxiety may be treated with a variety of psychotherapies. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one of the most well-established approaches. CBT is a form of psychotherapy in which you are encouraged to change your thinking habits to enhance your actions and mood. According to the ADAA, CBT can take 12 to 16 weeks to show results.

  3. Prescription medication

In some instances, managing anxiety requires a two-pronged approach. For the best outcomes, we can use psychotherapy and medication together. Your doctor may recommend a variety of medications to treat your anxiety. 

  • Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed medications for acute anxiety attacks. 
  • Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed medications for long-term sleep anxiety. 

You can also try beating anxiety without medication through natural food or meditation.

  4. Alternate Medicine

Alternative medication is another treatment choice for sleep anxiety for certain people. Beating anxiety without medication but through herbal and botanical treatment also helps. Herbal and botanical treatment for sleep anxiety is more restrictive than conventional medicine. However, a 2010 systematic review discovered that dietary and herbal supplementation could be beneficial therapies for anxiety. There is also good evidence that supplements containing passionflower, kava, L-lysine, and L-arginine may be helpful. However, before experimenting with supplements, please consult with your doctor.

How to Sleep Better at Night with Anxiety: Lifestyle Changes

Here are some sleep hygiene tips that you can try to sleep through your anxious thoughts: 

1. Relaxation techniques

a. Meditation

Meditation can go a long way in soothing that worried mind of yours. Several apps are available today that guide you through meditation and how to put an end to thinking and relax into sleep. Body scan meditation, self-love meditation, fear meditation, sleep meditation, etc., are some ways you can try to deal with sleep anxiety. 

b. Grounding exercises 

Anxiety can lead to dissociative episodes. Grounding is one technique for staying present in the moment. Grounding approaches require both cognitive and physical perception, such as pressing an object or saying the current date aloud. Doing this before bedtime will help bring you back to the present moment and allow you to sleep.

2. Deep breathing  

When we are anxious or feeling panicky, our breathing tends to become abnormally fast. By entering your breath and breathing normally again, you can put your mind to rest. Bring your attention to your breath, and see how it becomes slow and deep, putting your mind and you to sleep. Deep breathing is an excellent method for coping with anxiety and stress disorders. Deep breathing can help to lower the heart rate and blood pressure. If you have a panic attack at night, try deep breathing to calm yourself down.

How to Sleep Better at Night with Anxiety: Preventive Measures 

1. Regular physical activity

Exercise will help enhance both the consistency and length of your sleep. If you have sleep anxiety or any sleep phobias. However, make sure you complete your strenuous routine by the afternoon. Exercise increases body temperature and heart rate, so working out before bed will interfere with falling asleep. Light stretches before bed are a good idea. 

2. Make a sleeping routine

Setting a sleep schedule will assist in keeping your circadian clock in order. When you keep your wake and sleep cycles consistent during the day, you will find it easier to fall asleep at night.

3. Avoid stimulants before going to bed

Stimulants can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, since stimulants increase body movement, taking them before bed will make falling asleep more difficult. Both alcohol and caffeine may have a detrimental impact on sleep, so it’s best to avoid them before bedtime. 

4. Switch off all electronic devices before bed

When you finally get into bed, turn off your devices. According to a 2017 study, the use of electronics after bedtime was solely linked to the amount of time it took to fall asleep in nearly 350 adult participants.

You find it hard to fall asleep before bed when you use your phones because the blue light from them inhibits the sleep hormone melatonin, making it even more difficult for you to fall (and stay) asleep.

5. Make yourself at ease

Pillows and mattresses should be accommodating and comfortable for your body and sleeping style. Since your bedroom is your personal space, making it a cosy, peaceful place to sleep will help you immensely with your sleep anxiety. 

6. Try maintaining a gratitude journal

Since your mind obsesses over evil thoughts, why not divert its attention to good ones instead. Maintaining a gratitude journal is a great way to feel better about your life and yourself, which further helps lower your worries about the world around you. 

Every night before you go to sleep, jot down five things you are thankful for and let your mind think about these thoughts.

Today’s blog covered sleep phobias and sleep anxiety, tell us if you found this article helpful. Additionally, we would love to know what you do when you get anxious and cannot sleep? Share with us in the comments.

Frequently Asked Questions on Sleep Anxiety

How Can I Overcome Anxiety at Bedtime?

Practising good sleep time and hygiene helps you overcome anxiety during bedtime. In addition, practising meditation and doing exercise enables you to sleep better.

What are the symptoms of sleep anxiety?

The different symptoms of sleep anxiety are
-Night terrors
-Nightmares
-Nervousness
-Trouble to concentrate
-Trouble falling asleep
-Trouble staying asleep
-Gastrointestinal problems
-Panic attack.

Why do I get anxiety when trying to sleep?

A feeling of anxiety when trying to sleep is caused when the mind is still experiencing a sense of fear or worry. While experiencing an anxiety attack, people suffer from exhaustion which effects their sleep.

How does lack of sleep affect mental health?

Lack of sleep can cause mental health conditions like:
-Feeling confused
-Anxiety
-Emotional instability
-Depression
-Stress

How do you get rid of sleep anxiety?

The following methods can be implemented to get rid of sleep anxiety-
-Therapy
-Shift your perspective
-Mindfulness
-Sleep hygiene
-Sleep timing
-Do a bedroom makeover

How to sleep better with anxiety?

Trying different relaxation techniques before bedtime helps you sleep better. For example, have a warm bath before bedtime and try listening to calm music. Practising meditation and deep breathing exercises also help a great deal to sleep better.