My anxiety likes to make a grand appearance after 9 p.m. Throughout the day, I am too overwhelmed with school and work to consider many of my anxious thoughts. By negating my feelings for hours on end, I create the perfect storm for a nighttime anxiety attack. It took a long time to overcome this horrendous routine. But from my personal experience, it is quite possible to escape this harmful cycle through consistent, mindful practices.
The elevation of anxiety at night is induced by a scientific phenomena. As your frontal cortex relaxes, your emotions and limbic system take the reins. Thus, you enter your nighttime feels, which can be tied to increased anxiety levels. This unwelcome pattern negatively affects healthy sleeping habits, as your racing mind keeps you up late at night.
In order to combat night anxiety, I have compiled a list of helpful tips to keep you calm at night. With consistent practice, you can train your brain to overcome the hump of nighttime anxiety, and elevate the quality of your sleep.
1. Don’t repress stress throughout the day
If you are coping with stressors in your life by distracting yourself throughout the day, this may cause a build up of anxiety, which is destined to explode at night. It’s critical to address your stress head on, and avoid placing your problems on the backburner. Strategize different areas of your life to reduce chaos, and facilitate a schedule with adequate “me” time.
2. Read a book before bed (and avoid technology!)
Reading is the ideal way to neutralize anxious thoughts. Getting lost in a book will free you from your worries, and lull you into a pleasant sleep. It’s critical not to read on your phone or laptop, as it is easy to get distracted by other applications and notifications. Also, the brightness from technology disrupts your circadian rhythm, as it mimics sunlight. It’s much better to read by a soft light, so your body can properly adjust to sleep.
3. Get your worries out of your head...
...And onto a sheet of paper! Externalizing your anxiety prevents it from building up in your mind. You can have a designated journal for your worries, or simply keep a note on your phone. Any way you do it, this habit truly changes lives! It allows you to closely identify your feelings, and silence the storm of worries in your mind.
4. Get your body moving!
We instinctively slow our bodies down at night as we prepare for sleep. However, if you suffer from nighttime anxiety, it may be beneficial to oppose these instincts. No, this doesn’t mean you have to go for a 10 mile run. However, a simple yoga session or walk around the neighborhood calms your nerves, and redirects focus from the internal, to the external. Plus, releasing this energy will help tire out your body, and get you ready for a full night’s sleep!
5. Limit caffeine intake before bed
This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people sip on coffee, soda, and tea before bed. These caffeine-rich drinks definitely get your heart rate going, and elevate your anxiety levels.
6. Keep a strict bedtime routine
Inconsistent nighttime habits escalate your nighttime jitters. Try going to sleep at the same time each night, and follow a regular self care routine.
Nighttime anxiety can be overwhelming, but it’s definitely an surmountable obstacle. With the right practices, you can train your body to relax and unwind as the day comes to a close. I hope one (or all!) of these tips works for you. Remember, every person is unique, and different habits may benefit you in different ways.
Written by: Brianna Rauchman