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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org