If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, you may have noticed that it often seems to be worse at night. As the day winds down and the lights go out, anxious thoughts and worries seem to become louder and more insistent. This may interfere with your sleep and affects your ability to function during the day. So, why does anxiety get worse at night, and what can you do to manage it? Let’s find out.
The Biological Basis of Elevated Nighttime Anxiety
Anxiety is a complex condition that can have both psychological and biological components. One reason why anxiety may feel worse at night is due to the body’s natural circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal clock that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle, as well as other physiological processes such as hormone release and body temperature.
Cortisol levels typically peak in the morning and gradually decrease throughout the day. However, in individuals with anxiety, cortisol levels may remain elevated into the evening and nighttime, leading to heightened feelings of anxiety and physiological arousal, which can make it difficult to fall asleep.
The Role of Negative Thinking Patterns
Another reason why anxiety may be worse at night is due to the tendency for negative thinking patterns to intensify when we are alone with our thoughts. During the day, individuals with anxiety may be distracted by work, social activities, or other responsibilities, which can provide a reprieve from anxious thoughts and feelings.
However, at night, when we are alone with our thoughts, it can be more difficult to control anxious thinking patterns. Negative thoughts may spiral out of control, leading to increased anxiety and difficulty falling asleep.
Managing Nighttime Anxiety
If you struggle with elevated levels of anxiety during nighttime, there are several strategies you can try to help manage your symptoms and promote better sleep.
1. Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing exercises can help calm the body and reduce feelings of anxiety. You can try the 4-7-8 technique, where you inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat this pattern several times, focusing on the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your body.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body to help promote relaxation. You can start at your toes and work your way up to your head, tensing each muscle group for a few seconds and then releasing the tension. This can help reduce feelings of physical tension and promote a sense of relaxation and calm.
3. Healthy Sleep Hygiene
Establishing healthy sleep habits can help promote better sleep and reduce nighttime anxiety. Some tips for good sleep hygiene include:
- Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening
- Creating a relaxing sleep environment
- Avoiding electronic devices in the bedroom or before bedtime
4. Challenge Negative Thinking Patterns
When negative thoughts arise, try to challenge them with more realistic and positive thinking. Ask yourself if your thoughts are true or if there are ways of looking at the situation. This can help break the cycle of anxious thinking, reducing feelings of distress and allowing you to relax and fall asleep easier.
5. Seek Professional Help
If your anxiety symptoms are severe or interfere with your daily life, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. A mental health professional can help pinpoint the underlying cause of your anxiety and develop a treatment plan for managing your symptoms and creating a more balanced lifestyle.
The Bottom Line
Elevated nighttime anxiety is a common problem for individuals struggling with anxiety. It can make it hard to relax and get the restful sleep our bodies need to function optimally. While it can be complicated to manage, there are several strategies you can try to help reduce your symptoms and promote better sleep.
If your symptoms persist, seeking professional help may be beneficial in developing a treatment plan tailored to your needs. With the right tools, you can take back control of your life and find relief from anxiety.