Do You Suffer From Night Anxiety?

That at sunset our thoughts prevent us from relaxing and falling asleep is a symptom that anxiety has gained space, and a very important space, in our lives. Nighttime anxiety is caused by the high levels of stress that we generate during the day, whether due to work, family, the sum of the tensions in the two areas or it can even appear without us knowing how to identify a reason. It is characterized because concern and nervousness emerge  when it is time to rest.

Night anxiety is one of the most frequent manifestations when suffering from some type of sleep-related disorder. Fear takes hold of the person who suffers it and their dream has to start over constantly, so it is difficult for it to reach the deep phases.

Generally, people who suffer from nighttime nervousness tend to be distracted people who have difficulty concentrating during the day. This is because nocturnal anxiety attacks prevent rest and this affects the daytime routine of the person who suffers them.

When it comes to sleep, quality is better than quantity. If we focus on the thought of not being able to sleep instead of trying to relax and think that we will already fall asleep throughout the night, it will be more difficult for us to fall asleep. Therefore, we must wait for the dream, understanding that it will reach us as a natural process that it is, without anticipating that it will not attend the appointment.

It is paradoxical that sleep, as it is so necessary for survival and the proper order of psychological functioning, presents such a wide range of disorders and dysfunctions that in many cases they require complex intervention.

To  overcome anxiety at night  we can try to identify the cause during the day  and acquire enough skills so that it stops having an influence. Once we have overcome fears  and worries, anxiety and its symptoms will disappear.

“Finish each day before starting the next and put a solid wall of sleep between the two of you”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson-

Causes of nighttime anxiety

Anxiety does not know about schedules, and that is why we can suffer night anxiety even though this is a time when in theory we should be relaxed. In this sense, anxiety is an emotion that we should not underestimate since its energy, misdirected, can accumulate and cause us many problems.

Anxiety disorders have so many ways of manifesting that it is very difficult to systematically classify them and identify their causes. There are people who experience a lot of agitation, while others are paralyzed. Similarly, there are people who notice more anxiety in the morning, while others have  panic  when going to sleep.

Worries  produce anxiety, and it is these that ultimately rob us of sleep. They are the main cause of nighttime anxiety. Worries about the future and anticipating events make us more vulnerable to stress and trouble sleeping. Difficulties in disconnecting when going to bed, overwork during the day and emotional problems are the main causes of worry and, therefore, of nighttime anxiety.

However, there is a key difference: at night most of the problems that concern us cannot be solved. Thus, spinning them only increases our concern and activates us, a state opposite to the one that attracts sleep.

On the other hand, high levels of anxiety accumulated and experienced during the day make people more prone to anxiety unable to sleep. They find it difficult to fall asleep as a result of constant fatigue, poor daytime performance and the discomfort that all this entails.

Anxiety, when it overtakes us, takes control. In addition, when it takes control it usually leads us to behaviors that eliminate emotion for a few moments, so that it “comes back” to resuscitate with more force. One of these behaviors that stops and makes anxiety come back more strongly is “raiding” the refrigerator at night.

In addition, symptoms of anxiety when sleeping are often preceded by previous anxiety pictures (daytime anxiety pictures). These pictures are usually accompanied by tachycardia, a feeling of anguish, a feeling of suffocation and a startled awakening.

Mariano Chóliz, from the University of Valencia  tries to explain the relationship between nighttime anxiety and insomnia through the so-called “Monroe hypothesis” or somatic activation. For it, it is assumed that a high degree of activation of the body (arousal) impairs sleep in qualitative and quantitative terms.  One of the disorders that causes this increase in arousal is anxiety, which is why its relationship with difficulties in falling asleep is evident.

Chóliz considers sleep as a basic need strongly vulnerable to psychological, physical or physiological variables. These components are part of anxiety ( three-dimensional model of anxiety proposed by Peter Lang ). Hence, intrusive thoughts, worries, rumination, giving too much “spin” to things, trying to anticipate the future or setting “homework” for the next day are tremendously harmful to sleep well.

“Some thoughts are too hateful to sleep on. They stay up all night and become obsessions “

-Marty Rubin-

How to deal with insomnia due to anxiety?

The most common is that people who suffer from this type of alterations look for substances or medications that allow them to be calmer and sleep better. However, we are rarely aware that most cases of nocturnal anxiety can be redirected through a series of guidelines, and the use of drugs or herbs are not always the best solution.

Anxiety is highly linked to what we do, think and feel, so depending on how we manage these three aspects during the previous moments of sleep we will be calmer or more nervous. Treatment for nighttime anxiety can be divided into two large blocks.

First, there has to be a change in the habits we have before sleeping. Once that is achieved, we have to learn to deal with daily worries and leave a space away from the night. Addressing concerns earlier in the day gives us a tighter approach and more time to address them.

A good practice to achieve a pleasant sleep is to exercise before going to sleep, since the mind will keep us awake but our body will be tired. This will help us to achieve sleep more easily. It is also important to avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks a couple of hours before sleeping.

If we wake up during the night, we have to try to keep our eyes closed and think about what a relaxing and satisfying feeling that sleep causes.  LThe ideal against insomnia is to stop worrying about the problems that we cannot solve from bed. Let go of worry, free ourselves and the dream will come.

Here are  7 steps to deal with nighttime anxiety:

  • Maintain consistent schedules.  Insomnia and nighttime anxiety can also occur from not having a set schedule. Sleeping at the same time every day, with a difference of approximately 30 minutes, regulates our circadian rhythms, allowing a natural and quality sleep to occur.
  • Avoid overeating before going to bed. Eating should be especially careful at night, as heavy meals can cause difficulties in falling asleep.
  • Create a pleasant environment before sleeping. We must take care of the space where we sleep: a comfortable pillow, a correct temperature, are factors that can cause a poor quality of sleep and can make us wake up in the middle of the night and then we cannot sleep properly.
  • Use the bed only to sleep.  Experts say that the room should be used to sleep or have sex if we want to sleep better, so they do not advise having the computer in this space of the house. Also,  having the television nearby can be counterproductive, especially if we go to bed with the TV on.
  • Practice relaxation exercises. Doing relaxation exercises  seems to have a positive effect in combating anxiety, stress or insomnia.
  • Take deep breaths. This exercise will allow us to focus our attention on our own breathing,  thus avoiding any thoughts that can make us nervous and prevent us from sleeping. Deep breathing exercise:

    -Breathe deeply through the diaphragm, directing your attention to the movement and the air that enters and leaves your belly.

    -Release the air slowly through your mouth and with each inspiration, mentally repeat a word or phrase such as “I’m calm” or “I’m dreaming.” At the same time imagine a landscape or a mental image that transmits calm and serenity.

    -Don’t try to attract the dream directly with thoughts that allude to the dream. Seek relaxation, not sleep. If you relax, the dream will invade you.

    • Ban negative thoughts before you go to sleep. Do not try to do it directly, do it attracting thoughts  that relax you and that in no case inspire concern.

    The insomnia is not a good companion. In fact, people with insomnia suffer, and much more so. A good rest is precisely one of the best tools to avoid accumulating failures during the day, and therefore problems and concerns that assail us at night. Thus, we speak of a circle that feeds itself, both when it rotates in a positive sense and when it does so in a negative sense. The good thing is that it is in our power to turn in a positive and not a negative direction.

    “Anxiety is like a small river that flows slowly through our mind. If we encourage it, it becomes a great channel into which all our thoughts are drained “

    -Arthur Somers Roche-


    Aguirre, F. (2013). Fighting anxiety: symptoms and treatment. Linking Magazine .

    Antón, A. (2014). Cognitive-behavioral treatment in a child with bedtime anxiety. Journal of Clinical Psychology with Children and Adolescents1 (1).

    González, M. Á. M., & Ortuño, F. (2016). Treatment of insomnia. Medicine-Accredited Continuing Medical Education Program12 (23), 1359-1368.

    Subirana, SR, & Adell, M. À. M. (2014). Treatment of nocturnal restlessness and insomnia in the elderly. FMC-Continuing Medical Education in Primary Care21 (2), 104-112.

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