Anxiety at night

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Anxiety at night can take many forms, and can happen for many reasons. One form is a general ruminating that keeps you up, wide awake and feeling tortured about your mistakes in the past and your fears about the future. You lay in bed thinking about all the things that happened, and how you've screwed up your life, ruined relationships, and sealed your fate. You also may worry about the future, and all the terrible and catastrophic things that can surely go wrong tomorrow, or five years from today.

At nighttime you are more vulnerable.  You are tired, and have less control over your thoughts and mind, and are less able to distinguish thoughts that are irrational or unrealistic. The pattern can then become one of becoming increasingly anxious in the evenings, because you are afraid of what your mind may subject you to. That can soon develop into a sleeping disorder, which might lead you down the path of sleeping pills or heavy caffeine use. 

If you have very strong avoidance mechanisms in place, and  you are unable to distract yourself at night,  then you cannot avoid your anxious thoughts when it becomes time to rest. It is for this reason that avoidance and distraction are not reliable avoidance techniques. Learning mindfulness, or being with your anxiety and befriending it, is a great technique to investigate if you suffer from nighttime anxiety. 

Check on this page on ruminating if this is the flavor of your anxiety at night. Also, this  page on mindfulness.

Additionally, being very careful of your alcohol and caffeine intake as well as the kinds  of exposure you are having to electronics and media before bedtime can have an impact on your ability to rest without anxiety. It may help you to have a nighttime ritual that entails winding down that you stick to.

People who struggle with this kind of anxiety can most benefit from cogntive behavior therapy or mindfulness based interventions throughout their day. 


ANxiety at night: Panic, PTSD or Night Terrors

Other forms of anxiety at night include panic attacks, anxiety related to imagery and memories of trauma for those with PTSD, or anxiety associated with night terrors. 

  • Panic attacks: People awaken in a state of panic similar to what occurs during a daytime panic attack and remember the attack, later become fearful of sleeping and then  having increased anxiety around the evening and may become avoident of sleeping. 
  • Night Terrors: Children  and adults with bipolar disorder may have very vivid nightmares that they have diffiuclty separating from reality, and this cycle looks similar to the one in PTSD. Some adults with Night terrors awaken but then quickly go back to sleep with little disruption or anxiety about their evening routine.  
  • Post traumatic stress disorder: If you have a diagnosis of PTSD it may be that you have your sleep disrupted by images or memories associated with your trauma that causes you anxiety and fear. This can cause you to then be anxious and fearful ABOUT going to bed, leading to a general increase of anxiety at night and an avoidance of bedtime. 

Anxiety at night: children, the elderly and sick and sleep disordered

Nighttime anxiety  is most common in children, especially if they have a fear of separation. You can learn more by reading my pages on my child website on separation anxiety and nightime fears.  Nighttime anxiety is also common in the elderly, those with dementia,  and in those suffering from diseases such as Parkinson's, psychosis or restless leg syndrome, or sleep disorders. 

Thanks for visiting! Feel free to email me at kristenlynnmcclure@gmail.com
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