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Mental Health

How to fall asleep when you have Anxiety

Going to bed provides many people with relaxation and slumber after a long day. However, for those who suffer from anxiety, the midnight silence can sometimes allow fears to creep in.

Anxiety is difficult enough during the day, but anxiety also makes it hard to calm both your mind and your body in order to sleep. It might be unpleasant when your anxiety causes you to lie awake night after night, afraid to sleep. And once the habit is established, it’s easy to become trapped in a terrible circle: anxiety induces sleep loss, and recurrent sleep loss worsens anxiety.

Thankfully, there are methods for ending the cycle. We’ll discuss how anxiety affects sleep and offer advice on how to get the rest you need.

The science behind anxiety and Sleep

Let’s start with an explanation of how sleep functions.

Sleep is achieved by integrating two opposing forces. The first force is referred to be sleep pressure. The longer you stay awake, the more powerful this energy becomes. You will be fatigued if you are awake for 16 hours. Sleep is more likely after 24 hours of being awake. After 72 hours, staying awake gets challenging.

The second force keeps you alert by resisting sleep stress. This force is a warning signal that fluctuates according to your body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm). It becomes stronger throughout the day and then weakens at night. When this force falls in the late afternoon, all of your sleep pressure throughout the day pulls you to sleep.

Why does anxiety keep us up at night?

Many of the same neurological chemicals that are used by anxiety are used by the warning signal force. This is probably a relic of an adaptive characteristic that helped us survive in the past. The warning signal becomes higher whenever you are frightened, nervous, or worried. It’s your brain telling you, “If this is an attack, you should stay awake and tackle it.”

In today’s environment, we hardly skip sleep to avoid predators, but the fear created by modern risks is much the same.

What happens if you don’t get enough rest?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep per night to stay relaxed, energetic, and aware the next day. While sleep requirements differ from person to person – some of us need closer to nine hours of sleep, whereas others can get by with seven – it’s recommended that you maintain your sleep between 7-9 hours. There is nothing extra or fewer.

We all have a sleepless night or two, but sleeping less than seven hours per night or suffering disturbed sleep is connected to a higher chance of:

  • High blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke are all possibilities
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Anxiety, despair, or anger 
  • Poor coordination leads to frequent accidents.
  • Memory issues, challenges concentrating, and learning disabilities

Sleep, along with nutrition and exercise, is frequently referred to as the third pillar of health. Each of them must be coordinated for good health.

How to Distinguish Between Anxiety and Sleep Disorders

Anxiety and sleep difficulties can coexist, and it’s difficult to tell which developed first. That is why it is critical to identify the main cause of your sleeping problems. Especially since anxiety-related sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, can persist long after anxiety has been successfully controlled. The same is true for sleep disorders that generate worry. Anxiety about the disease may persist after treatment.

Common sleep problems associated with anxiety include:

Sleep anxiety

Sleep anxiety, as opposed to anxiety over unrelated items that impact sleep, is a distinct concern about sleep itself. People who suffer from sleep anxiety are concerned about whether they will be capable to fall or stay asleep; whether they will have nightmares, sleepwalking, or sleep paralysis; or whether they will wake up screaming for air due to sleep apnea.

If you have this issue night after night, you may begin to “dread the bed.” Someone who suffers from sleep anxiety is not worried throughout the day, but their worry increases when they consider returning to bed.


There are two types of insomnia: acute and chronic. Acute insomnia lasts shorter than three months and is usually associated with stressful times in one’s life. Chronic insomnia develops when it happens three or more evenings per week for three months or longer. Anxiety that stays you up at night can induce acute insomnia, which can progress to persistent insomnia.

Nocturnal panic attacks

When someone suffers a nocturnal panic attack, they awaken from their sleep in a state of extreme fear. Other symptoms of a panic attack include shivering shaking, shortness of breath, and a rapid heartbeat. It might take quite a while to fully recover from a nocturnal panic attack, and the prospect of another one can keep you up.

Nocturnal panic attacks are fairly prevalent in those suffering from panic disorder. According to one study, up to 71% of patients who have daytime panic attacks have also had a minimum of one nocturnal panic attack.

Making time to see a doctor who provides primary care or a therapist is a fantastic way to start getting answers. Medical professionals are able to identify and manage a wide range of problems, and if necessary, they might refer you to our psychiatric and behavioral health or sleep medicine facilities.

How to Relieve Anxiety for Sleep

No matter how exhausted you are, falling into slumber can seem impossible when you are anxious. Avoid becoming upset with yourself or the circumstance, as this may worsen your anxiety. Instead, explore some of the sleeping suggestions listed below.

Make use of relaxing techniques

Relaxation techniques may assist us to overwhelm the warning signal and fall asleep by allowing cumulative sleep pressure to overcome the alerting signal. Among such techniques are:

Breathing techniques: Concentrating on how you breathe can help you fall asleep. Try breathing from the belly, which draws air deep into your lungs by using your diaphragm muscles rather than your neck and chest muscles. Alternatively, the 4-7-8 technique entails entering through your nose for 4 seconds, maintaining your breath for 7 seconds, and expelling via your mouth for 8 seconds.

Progressive muscle relaxation: Anxiety creates a variety of bodily reactions, one of which is muscle tightness. Individual muscular groups, such as your neck, shoulders, and legs, are tight and then released one at a time during progressive muscle relaxation.

Guided imagery: When attempting to sleep, imagine yourself in soothing, pleasant places rather than unpleasant situations. You can choose a setting that makes you feel the most relaxed, whether it’s lying on a beach, resting in an open space, or walking through a forest.

Meditation: Meditating before bedtime assists you to calm your mind and relax your body, allowing you to fall asleep gently and easily. If you don’t know where to begin, there are numerous guided meditations provided online.

Yoga: Yoga is good for your physical and psychological well-being at any time of day, but look for routines you can do shortly before bed to assist both your body and mind relax from the day. You can even do yoga poses from your bed.

Constructive worry: Set aside a few minutes in the evening, before you go to bed, to reflect on the issues that are upsetting you. And attempt to do so in a constructive, productive manner that focuses on answers.

Keep a notebook close to your bed

A gloomy bedroom’s peace and quiet can produce a mental state that is anything but. All of the sentiments that were pushed aside during the day’s activities have the opportunity to reemerge.

Start a nightly journaling routine by keeping a notebook or pad near your bed. You can use this area to look back on your day, make lists, prepare how you’ll finish future activities, and set reminders for yourself. When you write down all of your racing ideas, you clear your mind and may find it easier to sleep.

Go outside

A growing body of studies indicates that direct contact with nature can provide a variety of health advantages. Going outside during the daylight hours helps to strengthen your body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep and wake pattern. Sunlight exposure, particularly shortly after you wake up, might help you stay aware throughout the day and fall asleep once the daylight goes down.

Stepping outside is also a great opportunity to go for a walk, ride your bike, or play with your children. Exercising your body relieves tension and anxiety while also increasing your chances of falling asleep at night.

Encourage a healthy sleep environment

Check that your room is dim, chilly, and quiet before going to bed to ensure a good night’s sleep. You can use an air conditioner or a white noise machine to drown out other noises if your room is too silent.

You should also clear up your sleeping area each night and prepare a few things for the upcoming day. Laying out your chosen clothes, clearing up your desk, and cleaning your nightstand can all help you become better organized, practically and emotionally.

Do not stay awake in bed for more than 20 minutes

Stepping out of bed feels like the very last thing you should do while you’re trying to sleep. However, lying in bed and expecting sleep to come may increase your restlessness.

If you’re continuing tossing and turning after 20 minutes of attempting to sleep, get out of bed and do something calming, such as painting, reading, knitting, or crocheting. Then, as soon as you feel exhausted, go back to bed.

Avoid consuming food, doing chores, or watching TV in bed. Instead, keep your bed for sleeping. Your mind will then begin to equate the process of stepping into bed with sleep and will begin to calm down instinctively whenever you pull back the covers.

Other useful sleep advice includes:

Set a consistent sleep schedule: Even on weekends, get up at the exact same time each morning and fall asleep at a similar time every night.

Avoid screens before bed: Electronic blue light resembles sunshine and can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Remove screens at least one hour before getting into bed.

Say no to naps: No matter how exhausted you are throughout the day, it is preferable to sleep at night rather than snooze in the afternoon. Naps might disrupt your sleep cycle and keep you awake far later than you’d prefer.

Getting Aid for Anxious Sleep

We all experience difficult and anxious moments in our life, but it is usually at these times that we require the most rest. If worry has been keeping you awake or disrupting sleeping habits for more than three weeks, consult your healthcare physician.

Primary care doctors are capable of diagnosing and treating a wide range of problems, and if necessary, they may refer you to our mental and behavioral health or sleep medicine facilities.