Anxiety at night

General anxiety at night

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.  Take your devices out of the bedroom and see if it doesn't help. 

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

Some other Quick strategies for anxiety at night if you have general worry

Strategy: Containment

Set aside time during the day to worry. During that alotted time allow yourself to make a list of your worries which you will keep a running log of.  Next to each worry, you will write there is something you can do about this. Can you take action or is this a problem you cannot solve that is out of your control? You can refer back to this list or add to it if you find yourself excessively worrying during the evening or any other time during the day. You can jot down a new worry, or look at the list to remind yourself you have a plan. The idea is you tell yourself " I have time set aside to worry about that tomorrow".  Generally this is a great strategy to help " contain" your worries or rumination. 

Strategy : Distraction techniques

Although distraction isn't the main method you should use with worry, if it is keeping you up at night it may be okay. Try some of these strategies and see if they help. 

  • Count backwards from 1000 by 7. Start over each time you mess up
  • Choose a catagory with alot of options ( names , cities etc). Pick one name Anabelle, and the next name must start with the last letter of the first name. In this case it would be E- Edgar. Continue doing this until you get tired and have stopped worrying. 
  • Choose a fruit or another interesting object and imagine it perfectly ( for example a strawberry). Then change all aspects of the fruits color. The strawberry would change to blue for example, its seeds would change to green, it's leaves would change to orange. Continue doing this. 
  • Get in bed and instead of closing your eyes to go to sleep, force yourself to stay awake and do nothing longer than you would want to. This usually will have the effect of relaxing you and causing you to want to sleep. 

ANxiety at night Special situations :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. 

Anxiety at Night: Bipolar Disorder

Many of my clients who have bipolar disorder have a sudden spike in anxiety or depression in the evening. It can be very uncomfortable for them and feel unmanageable.This may be exacerbated during periods of mood swings ( depression or mania).  It seems in this case to be chemical and can sometimes be eased  by a medicine  change.

Anxiety at night: Sunday anxiety

Almost everyone feels some anxiety on Sunday night, but if you have an anxiety disorder it may become that Sunday nights are incapacitating, because you have been avoiding thinking about or dealing with work stress for the weekend and it now becomes unavoidable. The level of your anxiety may indcate that your work stress is more than you can handle. 

ANxiety at night: Menopause

Women who are in perimenopause may also deal more with anxiety at night. The discoomfort from hot flashes can cause sleep disruption, and hormonal changes wreak havok on women's moods. This may be something to talk with your doctor about supplementing hormones an antidepressant with because it can take years before you fully complete menopause. 

Learn more about anxiety

Anxiety disorder self help

Alcohol and anxiety

Accupuncture and anxiety

Anti anxiety herbs

Chest pain and anxiety

Breathing techniques for anxiety

Causes of social anxiety

counseling for social anxiety

social anxiety and anger

General causes of anxiety

generalized anxiety disorder facts

generalized anxiety disorder symptoms

Generalized anxiety disorder causes


Ellis, J. (2017, Feb 16). Forget counting sheep - imagine a RAINBOW instead. Daily Mail Retrieved from

Tippett, S., & as told to, S. F. (2011, May 03). G2: Health: Three-minute fix late-night worries. The Guardian Retrieved from

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