I used to dread night time. I would drop into bed around 9pm because I was completely exhausted, but then I would wake up at 3 AM, on the dot, like clockwork.
It felt like panic would jolt me awake, and then the monkey mind would start up. I replayed the worrisome thoughts over and over again like bad elevator music, and prayed to the great spirits above to just put me right back to sleep.
This painstaking ritual every night led to me to some serious WTF-ing because I knew that I would just lie there awake until 6:30 AM and then feel like shit the rest of the day.
To top it all off, I found myself worrying about and having anxiety over the idea that I was going to wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety. I literally had even more anxiety because of anxiety.
I was so frustrated and angry. I knew it was interfering with my workday, social relationships, and my marriage, and I was getting so sick of it.
I tried all kinds of night-time herbal supplements and teas but none of them seemed to work all that well. (I gave up on over-the-counter stuff a long time ago because they just made me feel super groggy and sluggish the next day. I didn’t need anymore help being the zombie that I already was due to lack of sleep.)
While lying in bed I also tried…
- deep breathing
- listening to meditation audios
- and visualizing my anxiety floating away
I even tried pre-bed prep work:
- taking a bath with lavender essential oils
- turning off the TV / computer several hours before bed
- and affirming sound, restful sleep
I was completely perplexed because night time started to feel like a curse.
So why does anxiety seem to worsen at night?
After some research and reflection on my personal experiences, here are my top 3 reasons…
1. From a biological perspective it has to do with the physical body’s regulation of cortisol.
At night time cortisol increases and then starts to lessen during the day. This is a normal body process that usually occurs between the hours of 1am and 4am. But when you are living with already-elevated stress levels and ongoing anxiety, your cortisone is constantly higher during the day, which then increases even more at night.
Plus, your adrenal glands are getting really, really tired. They then have trouble secreting the hormones needed to calm your body down, and reach the point where they are overworked and just crap out. This is called adrenal fatigue.
So when you are in a constant state of high-alert. Your hormones get all out whack and your adrenal glands take a vacation.
2. From an emotional perspective, nighttime can feel very lonely for many and trigger negative thoughts.
The world is quiet and still, and if you live with others, they are peacefully sleeping and enjoying their dream states.
Meanwhile you are up roaming around the house, with nothing else to do but feel lonely and anxious. Then your monkey mind starts to remind you of the miserable state you are in, and the situation is exacerbated.
I remember sitting in the living room feeling alone, sad, and depressed, praying for morning to come so that I could distract myself with people and daytime activities.
3. During sleep your brain processes the day’s events, and your day’s events might just be the culprit.
At night your brain sorts out what you experienced, what information to keep, and what information to toss. From a soul-level perspective it’s also the time where you restore your vital force energy which connects you to your intuition and essentially “life”.
I’m going to let you in on a secret here…
If you are experiencing anxiety, then something in your life is MISALIGNED!!
Intuitively, your inner being knows that anxiety is NOT normal. You are not meant to “live with it” or try and “manage it”.
So at night, when your brain is processing the day’s events, if your day’s events are totally INCONGRUENT with your true self, then anxiety is going to happen.
Anxiety is a messenger that you aren’t doing something right.
Are you heeding the message?
Sleep issues are very common for people experiencing anxiety.
The typical response is to try all kinds of sleeping aids, meditations, breathing, etc. as a means to get some rest. However, difficulty sleeping is just a SYMPTOM of overall anxiety.
The key is to figure out the REAL reason you are experiencing anxiety, what you aren’t doing “right”, because when you fix THAT, then you can finally restore your inner-peace and soundly sleep through the night.