After a long day, you put on your silky pajamas, climb into bed, and close your eyes as you wait for sleep to come. But your mind has other plans. You start to think about work, unpaid bills, and an awkward conversation you had in a café earlier that day. Soon, your head becomes full of unnecessary worries.
Your bedroom should be the ultimate safe space from anxiety. You are far away from your office desk, and you no longer deal with a hectic schedule, rude commuters, and annoying posts on Facebook. So why do you feel more anxious at night right before you sleep than you did all day long?
When the lights are out, there are no more distractions to be found
When the lights are out, the melatonin production in our body is going up to tell us to rest. But if you have anxiety, the opposite happens. The anxiety, which is your body’s natural fight-or-flight response, kicks in because it wants you to be alert now that you’re alone in a dark, quiet space. But the problem is that there’s usually no need for anxiety. The physical danger is not present; no need to fight nor flee.
Your bedtime is also the first time of the day when no one asks you any questions. You’re not completing one task after another nor busy thinking of ideas for your rock and mulch landscaping projects for your home. It’s the first time of the day that you’re alone with your thoughts. Those thoughts that come rushing in can suddenly increase your anxiety and eventually keep you up at night.
Clinical psychologists say nighttime anxiety is a common experience. And there are ways to get some shut-eye even if tons of thoughts hover over you while you’re in bed and the lights are out.
Prepare hours before you hit the sheets
It’s a cycle. If you feel anxious at night and have poor sleep, you’re likely to feel tired and irritable the next day, which can make things even more stressful, worsen your anxiety, and result in another night of disturbed sleep. But there are various things you can do to prepare your body for a restful slumber.
- Establish a sleep routine. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Keep that routine even on weekends and holidays to reset and maintain your circadian rhythm.
- Do relaxation exercises in the daytime. If you ignore your stress and anxiety all day long, it will likely follow you at night when there are no more distractions. Perform mindfulness meditation and other relaxation exercises in the daytime to lower your stress levels throughout the day.
- Get professional help. If your nighttime anxiety impacts your sleep and other aspects of your life, it’s time to seek professional help. Talking therapies can help reshape the way you think, particularly when it comes to worries and other negative thoughts. Medications can help, too.
If your mind spins once the lights go out, you’re not alone. And with some preparations and other proactive solutions, you can better handle your nighttime anxiety and eventually get a good night’s sleep.