Anxiety at Night

Natascha Carroll, Counselor

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, 50 percent of people struggle with anxiety at night. Studies have also shown that being tired can trigger anxiety. Often at night our thoughts start to race and we worry about a situation that already happened or is going to happen. This stress then releases cortisol rushing through your body making it difficult to go back to sleep.

Learning how to manage your anxiety at night can help to improve your quality of life. Some of the most common steps someone can try include meditation right before bed. Deep breathing. When the cortisol is racing through your body, oxygen helps to slow it down so your brain doesn’t feel that it is in fight or flight. A deep breath in this example should include counting to 5 while you inhale and exhale. Athletes often use box breathing which would be counting to 4 as you breathe in, holding for the count of 4, exhaling for the count of 4, and holding for 4 counts again.

Grounding is another tool you can do while lying in bed. This can include sensory awareness. Name a sound, a smell, an object in your hand. Saying today’s date out loud helps to bring you back to the present and out of the future or past. Creating a to-do list before you go to sleep helps your brain see what to expect tomorrow. This again can help to control random thoughts of worrying about tomorrow to manage your fight or flight part of the brain.

Developing healthy sleep habits are also a huge part of this. Exercise during the day has been shown in studies to help with sleep. Regulating the time you go to bed and wake up helps to set a rhythm for your body to follow. As a young adult, your body wants 8 hours of sleep a night because your body and brain are still growing. Avoid that Red-Bull before you go to bed at night. Lastly, and probably the most difficult, turn off electronics before bed. Studies have shown blue light suppresses the hormone melatonin which is responsible for sleep.

Here is a list of mental health resources if you are struggling with anxiety at night and feel you need more than what was mentioned above. Lastly, if you are struggling with insomnia please tell an adult.