It’s 2 a.m. and in 5 hours you have to get up for work. You’ve been tossing and turning for two hours, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get to sleep. You have tried everything to fall asleep quickly, counting sheep, doing the 4-7-8 method, etc., but every minute that passes you feel more anguished and more worried. You have less and less time to sleep and thinking about this keeps you more awake.
If you think this situation has happened to you, you may have suffered from nocturnal anxiety , a phenomenon associated with insomnia that can appear at specific moments or for long periods of time for various reasons. In this article you will find some tips to help you overcome this type of anxiety.
When the mind does not disconnect
This unpleasant sensation can appear for different reasons, and I’m sure you have experienced it at some time in your life. The nightly anxiety invades you when you enter that vicious circle in which you have very clear that you must fall asleep but those negative thoughts and that anxiety only make you feed this negative situation. You are sleepy, but you cannot relax .
Our mind has a tendency to ruminate, and if we give more thought to a matter we make things worse. Once those thoughts take over our attention the worrying seriously interrupts our ability to fall asleep .
Causes of nocturnal anxiety
Anxiety is a totally normal and adaptive emotion, and we can experience it in our daily lives many times, but nighttime anxiety is not exactly positive. Generally it is a consequence of the worries we may have about something that happens to us in our daily life.
Maybe it’s a warning about something that might go wrong, and at best, for example, it’s a way of letting us know that we should go out and look for a job because we’re running out of money.
But it can also happen that nightly anxiety is a consequence of imaginary or anticipated worries that we have and that we are exaggerating, it can be a symptom of the stress that we are suffering and that prevents us from sleeping, and it can even be a consequence of doing intense physical training just before going to bed, which activates our nervous system and, in turn, prevents us from disconnecting when we are in bed.
Tips for Overcoming Anxiety at Night
Suffering from this situation is undoubtedly unpleasant. But… is it possible to overcome it? Below you can find some tips and habits that can get you out of this complicated situation.
1. Detecting the problem
It has already been mentioned in the previous lines that nighttime anxiety can be caused by different reasons. Therefore, it is necessary to detect the source of the problem. Are we training at night? Are we worried about something in our life (for example, the mortgage payment)? Do we have a lot of work in our office and do we take this work home? Are we going through an existential crisis?
These questions can help us to know what is really happening to us, so that we can solve it. For example, if we have detected that the problem is that we train at night, perhaps it is better to train in the morning.
2. Seek psychological help
In some cases, we may not be aware of the problem, or in trying to fix it, the symptoms may not have improved. Then it is necessary to go to psychological therapy. An expert psychotherapist can help you to solve the problems of nighttime anxiety and insomnia, so that you can improve your general health and regain emotional balance.
Physical exercise is necessary because it brings many benefits not only physical, but also psychological . Studies show that practicing sports improves the mood because it helps release neurochemicals such as serotonin or endorphins, which make us feel good.
It also helps us to reduce stress and anxiety, because reduces the presence of cortisol in our body . Likewise, with physical exercise you will be more tired at home and sleep better.
4. But… don’t overtrain
However, to prevent the nervous system from being overly active late at night, it is best to practice sport or physical exercise in the morning or early afternoon. The important thing is to avoid exercising at night .
It is also necessary to avoid overtraining syndrome, also called staleness , which is different from physical overtraining. This condition occurs when an athlete does not get enough rest or overtrains , which has serious consequences for his mental health: feelings of emotional fatigue, lethargy, loss of vigour, insomnia, depression etc. It can be difficult to detect; however, you can learn more about this phenomenon in our article: “Overtraining syndrome: burned-out athletes”
5. Eat well
Food is also an important factor that determines to a greater or lesser extent our general well-being. Without doubt, a healthy lifestyle will encourage good sleeping habits , which can play an important role in preventing insomnia.
However, special care must be taken with food at night, as heavy meals can cause sleep difficulties and therefore nighttime anxiety.
6. Beware of stimulants
Although it is true that not everyone is affected equally by some stimulants such as coffee or theobromine, it is always preferable not to take products containing these substances (especially taurine) after 6 pm (when you have a normal schedule) because it can make it difficult to sleep and alter your nervous system.
7. Practice Mindfulness
The practice of Mindfulness seems to have a positive effect in combating anxiety, stress or insomnia. Mindfulness is a method that works on the ability to be aware, compassionate and capable of being present in the here and now.
His 8-week program called the “Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Program (MSBR)” appears to significantly improve the well-being of people who have used it. A University of Utah study showed that MSBR not only helps reduce stress and control anxiety, but can help us sleep better
8. Have a daily schedule
Insomnia and nighttime anxiety can also occur because of lack of a defined schedule. For example, from going to bed one day at 11pm, the next at 3am and the next at 12pm. The same goes for getting up at a different time each day. It is always preferable to have a more or less fixed schedule, say from 9am to 11pm, which allows the circadian rhythm not to be disturbed and a natural and quality sleep to be produced.
The schedule is often mediated by how we use technological devices. If we start watching a movie at 11pm we probably won’t go to bed until after 1am, which is not conducive to sleep at all and can cause nighttime anxiety.
Furthermore, scientific studies state that using electronic devices 30 minutes before bedtime also impairs our ability to fall asleep, since seems to keep the mind stimulated due to the lighting that these devices use.
10. Uses the bedroom for sleeping and intimate relations
Experts say that the room should be used for sleeping or having sex if we want to sleep better, so they do not advise having the computer in this space of the house. Also, having the TV close by can be counterproductive , especially if we go to bed with the TV on.
We must also take care of the space where we sleep: a comfortable pillow, a correct temperature, etc. are factors that can cause a bad quality of sleep and can cause us to wake up in the middle of the night and then not be able to sleep properly.