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The ultimate guide to beating nighttime anxiety

An Overview of Nighttime Anxiety

What is Nighttime Anxiety?

Nighttime anxiety is a common condition that ranges from a general feeling of uneasiness to intense panic during the night, often accompanied by trouble sleeping and exhaustion during the day.

These symptoms may come and go but tend to increase in severity during high stress or depression periods. 

Common Causes of Nighttime Anxiety

Anxiety at night is caused by a variety of reasons, including:

Nightmares or vivid dreams, sleep-disordered breathing (including snoring, apnea, and obstructive sleep apnea), insomnia (difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or the inability to fall asleep at night), restless leg syndrome (caused by leg muscle spasms), circadian rhythm sleep disorders (also called non-24-hour sleep-wake cycle), nocturnal panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD e.t.c.

How to Treat Nighttime Anxiety

Since there are so many causes, it is crucial to be clear about the causes of your problem of nighttime anxiety to treat the issue effectively. The best thing to start with is to get a professional assessment.

Getting your nighttime anxiety problem assessed

To get an effective assessment you can either try these nighttime anxiety self-assessments which may give you some basic guidance after walking you through some questions.

You can try these nighttime anxiety self-assessments to get an adequate assessment, which may give you some essential guidance after walking you through some questions.

You can also find some advice on what to do about different causes of anxiety on this page. To help you, I have tried to give a detailed instruction of symptoms peculiar to specific causes of anxiety at night below.

NHS Sleep self-assessment

Psych central anxiety test

A restless leg syndrome self-assessment questionnaire

If none of these approaches works, it is time to find a good therapist who has experience treating people with anxiety.

To find a good therapist for nighttime anxiety, look for CBT psychotherapists or Psychologists. However, that is if you have a preference for non-medication-based treatment approaches. If you would like to try medication, you would be better off getting an assessment from a psychiatric doctor who has had a good experience working with people struggling with nighttime anxiety.

These professionals will be able to tell you whether or not you have any underlying medical issues that might be causing your nighttime anxiety.

Getting your nighttime anxiety treated effectively

Once your assessment has determined the root cause of your nighttime anxiety, you will need to take specific steps in line with your uncovered root cause.

Failure to do this could mean that the treatment for your nighttime anxiety will fail, and you will suffer from this problem again. As with any other form of treatment, you can use different types of therapies and treatments.

While waiting to get assessed, you may want to try any of the following to see if they help.

(Please note, however, that working with a professional versed in any of the following therapeutic processes may be 100 times more effective than using an app to do them yourself.)

Meditation: Meditation is a simple, safe and effective way to relax the mind and body. In addition, regular meditation has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.

Music: Certain types of music (e.g. classical, jazz, pop, etc.) have been shown to help with stress and insomnia. In addition, listening to music during the day helps promote relaxation, leading to better sleep.

Exercise: Regular exercise is an essential component to good health. While we cannot always control how we feel, exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety.

Relaxation training: Relaxation training is a therapy that aims to teach people how to relax, allowing them to reduce stress and anxiety.

Acupressure: Acupressure is a therapy that uses pressure points on the body to relieve stress and anxiety. In addition, some studies have shown that acupressure may help people fall asleep faster.

Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a therapy that allows individuals to monitor and control their physical body through the use of equipment

(e.g. electroencephalograph (EEG), electromyogram (EMG), electrocardiogram (ECG)).

Through the use of this equipment, people can track and control certain physiological functions of the body.

Stretching: Stretching is a great way to relieve tension and improve flexibility, which are both essential to overall physical and mental health.

Massage: A massage is one of the oldest forms of healthcare known to man and has been used for centuries. A massage is very relaxing and can help release tensions in the body, easing pain and stress.

Reflexology: Reflexology involves applying pressure to reflex points on the feet and hands using the thumb and index finger to stimulate the points.

This has been shown to be very relaxing and is recommended as a remedy to ease stress and anxiety.

Homeopathy: Homeopathy is an alternative therapy that utilizes highly diluted substances to treat symptoms of illness. The substance is chosen based on the type of illness and the symptoms present.

Herbal remedies: Herbal remedies are a type of medicine made from natural sources.

Herbal remedies have been used by people since ancient times and continue to be used today. 

Try a warm bath: A warm bath before bed can help relax your body and mind, and give you an opportunity to unwind. This will also help you sleep better at night.

Avoid caffeine: It's easy to confuse anxiety with stress and caffeine. Caffeine has been linked to sleep problems. Therefore, if you're trying to calm down before bed, try having a cup of coffee after breakfast. This might be a good way to help you sleep at night.

Have a routine: Many people find that they feel less anxious when they've got a routine. However, it's important to avoid overdoing this.

Don't watch scary movies: You probably already know that watching scary movies is not a good idea. But did you know that people who watch horror films often have nightmares and can even develop phobias? Therefore, it could be that watching scary movies makes it difficult for you to fall asleep.

Avoid alcohol: Alcohol can make you anxious, which is why you might be drinking a lot of wine or beer. Alcohol can cause your breathing to become shallow, and this can be very hard on your lungs. Drinking alcohol can also affect your sleep.

Stay away from cigarettes: Cigarettes can help ease your anxiety, so you may find that you smoke more frequently when you're feeling anxious. However, the nicotine in cigarettes can make you drowsy, which can disrupt your sleep. Also, smoking can have other harmful effects on your health.

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When generalized anxiety disorder makes it impossible to sleep at night

Generalized anxiety disorder leads to a tendency to worry about any and everything. This often includes racing thoughts about one’s health, family, or finances. These worries can become so severe they can prevent a person from sleeping.

Sometimes sleeping problems occur because you have been too good at distracting yourself from certain thoughts or pent-up worries during the daytime.  If this is the case, then you might find that using a worry management strategy or problem-solving technique might help you get back into a healthy sleeping pattern.

At other times, the sleeping problem occurs because you are not well versed in distracting yourself from thoughts and worries. in this case, you might find that strategies like mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help you get to sleep.

When panic attacks turn your nights into nightmares

nocturnal panic attacks usually begin when a person is going to bed.

It may occur at the point you are about to fall asleep and can become intense when the person wakes up during the night. You may even wake up many times at night

The panic attack may last anywhere from several minutes to an hour, but the most severe episodes can last several hours.

Just as with daytime panic attacks, you may feel like you’re having a heart attack, as you’re sweating, your heart is pounding and you feel dizzy and nauseous.

Your breathing becomes very fast and shallow and you may feel like you’re choking, especially if you’re lying down.

However, most people with nocturnal panic attacks will feel fine all day but get triggered as soon as they are about to retire to bed for the night.

If you struggle with panic attacks at night, you can try interoceptive exposure to help you begin to get a good night's sleep.

When sleep apnoea causes anxiety problems at night

sleep apnea is a very common condition where there is a decreased ability of the body to breath while sleeping. This can cause poor sleep quality. Sleep apnoea can happen when there is a blockage of the airways or when the muscles of the airways relax. The severity of the condition can vary but it can be treated.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some people may feel tired throughout the day or they may have snoring. Other times they may feel restless and experience difficulty concentrating or memory loss. Sleep apnoea can be triggered by various reasons. These include:

-    Weight gain

-    Age

-    Smoking

-    Excessive alcohol consumption

-    Eating a high fat diet

-    Being obese

-    Having hypertension

Sleep apnoea is the most common condition which results in snoring. Many people are often unaware that their breathing stops and starts throughout the night. This is known as sleep apnea.

When Restless leg syndrome and insomnia create heightened anxiety at night

Restless leg syndrome is a condition that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs leading to an irresistible urge to move the leg.

Symptoms usually begin after lying down for a prolonged time. The discomfort often begins as pins and needles and then becomes a burning or tingling sensation that feels like a constant itch. Leg muscles may become weak, causing a feeling of dragging.

Sleep may be interrupted by periodic jerking movements. Restless leg syndrome is treatable, but it may take time to control the problem.

The root cause of restless leg syndrome is currently unknown, however, certain psychiatric medications may aggravate it. The good news is that CBT strategies have been found to work effectively for clients by improving the quality of sleep and reducing further symptoms of anxiety.

When PTSD promotes nighttime anxiety problems

PTSD can promote nighttime anxiety because of the long-term effects of the trauma on the brain. PTSD is stress-related, which means that the body is under constant threat of trauma, which causes stress.

It's no surprise then that sleep disturbance is heavily associated with PTSD. Sleep disturbance itself can promote PTSD problems since PTSD is usually associated with avoidance of stimuli and hypervigilance (i.e., “I don’t want to go there,” “I’m always watching for danger”).

PTSD is also associated with alterations in mood, such as increased irritability, decreased social interactions, and decreased ability to concentrate.

Nightmares and night sweats are very common consequences of PTSD. Other consequences include difficulty falling asleep, waking often, feeling like you are constantly on guard, hypervigilance, increased arousal, and fear of impending danger. PTSD may also be associated with increased sensitivity to external stimuli such as sounds, lights, smells, and other sensations.

If your nighttime anxiety is connected with PTSD, then I would highly advise you to get a professional to guide you through trauma-focused therapy.  Your sleeping issues will most likely be resolved once PTSD is no longer a problem.

Succeeding in your battle against nighttime anxiety

The truth is that Nighttime anxiety has been around for as long as people have been going to bed at night. I hope that by reading this article, it has become more obvious that there are multiple reasons for nighttime anxiety.

And the key to overcoming your own problem with anxiety at night lies in your ability to pinpoint the roots of your anxiety and then find ways to cope with them. for more guidance, make sure to click the links in each section that feel relevant to your own experiences so you can get a deeper explanation of the steps you must take to overcome anxiety problems at night.

Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa
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