Help! My anxiety is keeping me awake

  • It’s not uncommon for those who experience anxiety to feel the effects at night.
Help! My anxiety is keeping me awake

Anxiety Keeping You Awake At Night? Try These 5 Things

Is anxiety keeping you awake? It’s not uncommon for those who experience anxiety to feel the effects at night. Sometimes we toss and turn, filled with worries that keep us from falling asleep. Other times we may wake up anxious in the night, and have a hard time getting back to sleep. 

If this sounds familiar, here are 5 things that can help keep an anxiety attack from keeping you awake. If your anxiety is impacting your life, it may be time to talk to someone about it. Brightside Health can help.

Start with a free assessment today.

Do some deep breathing

If you can’t get to sleep because anxiety is keeping you awake, deep breathing can be a great way to calm your body and your mind. There are a number of reasons that this works. 

First, deep breathing increases the oxygen flow in your body. That can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. 

Secondly, a deep breathing routine can give your brain something to focus on that isn’t the thing (of things) making you feel anxious. This can be especially true if you breathe in a rhythm dictated by counting. Here’s one of our favorite examples: “Breathe in for a count of four seconds, hold for a count of four, then exhale for a count of six.”

Consider how counting alone might help your brain to let go of some of the anxiety–and now combine that with the benefits of the increased oxygen. It’s easy to see how deep breathing might help!

Get out of bed

Sometimes, anxiety about not sleeping keeps you awake. This may be particularly true if you are already exhausted and have a big day coming up. As you lie there worrying about worry and feeling anxious about whether you can get to sleep, stay asleep, or even wake up in time, this can trigger an anxiety attack of its own. 

Instead of getting caught in that trap, experts suggest getting out of bed. Johns Hopkins’ Luis F. Buenaver says that staying in bed when you are feeling anxious “will lead your brain and body to associate your bed with wakefulness instead of with sleep. It can be difficult leaving a warm, comfortable bed after waking up in the middle of the night. But think of this step as an investment in better sleep—if not tonight then tomorrow night and in the future.”

When you get up due to anxiety in the night, do something relaxing, like reading a book or meditating. Don’t worry about how many hours of sleep you are getting, or practicalities like paying the bills. The key here is to change what you are doing and help your thoughts stop racing.

Try the 3-3-3 Rule

If those racing thoughts and anxiety are still keeping you awake, try the 3-3-3 rule. This is a widely practiced technique for grounding and helping to relieve anxiety. It goes like this:

  • Start by finding 3 things you see. 
  • Then locate 3 things you hear. 
  • Then pick 3 parts of your body and move them while appreciating the sensation of motion that this creates.

Too often, anxiety (and insomnia) are tied to things that are not in your control, and to things that aren’t necessarily in the room with you in the middle of the night. You may be worried about school, or work, or money, but none of those are things that you need to deal with when you are trying to fall asleep.

The 3-3-3 rule helps you to be present and mindful of what is actually there at that moment. Focusing on things you can actually see, hear, and feel can help your brain let go of the abstract thighs that it’s worried about.

Change your nighttime routine

For some people, the anxiety that keeps them awake is carried over from poor sleep hygiene. Many people scroll social media, watch TV, do homework, or play video games until bedtime, and then find themselves surprised that anxiety keeps them awake. But it’s no surprise at all. 

All of the things listed above stimulate our brains. And a stimulated brain is an active brain. This can cause anxiety that can keep you awake. 

Stimulants like coffee or nicotine can also cause your mind to stay “on” long after you’d like to put it to bed. So as we’ve suggested elsewhere on our blog, it’s a good idea to let your brain wind down. “Avoid screens and phones for at least 30 minutes before bed. Do relaxing activities like reading an enjoyable book, listening to relaxing music, or just taking some time to sit and chat with your partner, family members, or roommates.”

See a professional about your anxiety

If your anxiety keeps you awake often, you may be experiencing a generalized anxiety disorder. The key symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry about not just one, but many issues, individuals, or events
  • Difficulty in controlling the feelings of worry, often without control in shifting from one topic to another

One of the most common symptoms that individuals experience are sleep problems. You may have difficulty falling or staying asleep. The worries and fears that you experience may keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.

While we can all benefit from relaxation techniques and healthy sleep habits, those with an anxiety disorder should see a mental health professional. Often, with therapy and, when necessary, medication, we can help you get your rest.

Want to speak 1:1 with an expert about your anxiety & depression?

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Key Takeaways
  • It’s not uncommon for those who experience anxiety to feel the effects at night.
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