Struggle with anxiety at night? Here’s some coping tips
Do you feel anxious at night? Before going to bed, do you have a tough time settling down? Does it seem like no matter how hard you try, you can’t get to sleep?
If so, welcome to the club. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent tossing and turning in bed, only to wake up in the morning with super baggy eyes (and a grouchy mood).
What makes it worse is when you go through several nights of this and nothing changes. After three or four days of crappy sleep, my anxiety transforms into something even worse: depression.
I don’t know about you, but my anxiety is always bad in the evening. In fact, I would say it peaks just before I’m ready to turn in.
Talk about sucky. I’ve even had moments where I’m afraid to shut my eyes because I’m worried sleep won’t come. Yes, that sounds crazy but I’m just being real with you.
On some level, I think the entire dynamic plays off itself, thereby making my fears become real in what some call a paradox.
At any rate, about six months ago, I decided to implement a series of major changes in my nighttime routine. Since putting these into place, I can tell you I’ve experienced MAJOR benefits.
That’s why today, I’d like to share with you 10 things I do to fight my anxiety at night. Obviously, I can’t promise these will work for you. But I can say that trying them can’t hurt.
Are you ready? Check it out:
1. No more nighttime workouts
It used to be the case that right after getting out of work, I’d make my way to the gym. By the time I got there and completed my cardio and weight lifting exercises, I was leaving around 7 or 8 at night.
Speaking only for myself, that’s kind of late – particularly when you still need to eat dinner and then try to get yourself to bed by 11 pm to be up by 7 am.
By changing my exercise routine to mornings (before work), I’ve found that I’m not as charged up at night. And there is some evidence to suggest evening workouts may have a negative impact on sleep. Again, this works for me and may not work for you.
2. I got all Zen
Yes, in the past, I had heard about the various benefits of mindfulness. But hearing about something and making it part of your life are two different things.
After doing some research, I found that by leaning into Zen, you can help calm your mind and body. Trust me, I don’t go overboard. But I do try to make meditation part of my daily ritual. It chills me out. That’s a good thing.
3. No T.V. one hour before bed
To be completely transparent, I love my T.V. shows. Even more so during football and basketball season. That said, I also recognize that television can sometimes amp up your energy in unintended ways.
As a remedy, I’ve decided to turn off the T.V. one hour before bed. This allows my mind time to calm down and chillax. Sometimes, I’ll read a book. Other times, I’ll meditate. Talk about super helpful!
Will this remain a hard and fast rule for me? It depends on which sports teams are playing. But I’m going to try my best to keep this part of my routine.
4. Amber light on my smart-pad
I never knew that the blue light emitted from things like a smart-pads and smart-phones can have an adverse effect on mood. But after an article about wearing amber glasses, I decided to investigate.
Sure enough, when I switched my smart-pad to the “ambient light” setting, I found it had a major influence on my anxiety. In other words, doing this makes me less anxious. So now, when I read a book at night, I do so against the backdrop of a yellowish screen.
5. No eating two-hours before sleep
You probably already knew this but it’s worth mention. When you eat late at night, you cause your body to work harder to metabolize food. Translation – the expenditure of energy.
It wasn’t until recently that I began employing the “no eating” rule two hours before sleep. In the past, I would snack on food right before hitting the sack. But not anymore. All I can tell you is that cutting off food before bed has really made a difference.
6. I shut off email
Can I be real with you? Most of us work for employers who expect us to be connected 24-7. Doesn’t it suck? The end result is that all of us feel the need to be constantly connected.
But after talking to some friends, I found that many of them make the conscious choice of shutting off their email at night. We’re talking all email, including work.
For me, I find that switching off mail two-hours before bed works best. The way I figure it, nothing is so important that it can’t wait until morning.
Obviously, depending on your job, this option may not work. But if you can swing it, I highly recommend.
7. I limit alcohol
Do you have a few drinks at night when getting home from work? I sometimes do. Nothing big. Just a beer – or maybe two. But recently, I’ve decided to cut way back on nighttime drinking.
That’s because I found out that alcohol, ingested at night, can contribute to insomnia. I guess it has something to do with the body’s ability to keep homeostasis.
At any rate, now I limit my drinking to maybe half a glass of wine once a week (meaning Monday-Friday). I can’t say I do this on weekends. Maybe that will change?
8. Shut down social media
Do you go through your Facebook feed at night? How about scrolling through Instagram and Twitter? If so, I can relate. That’s something I used to do too – a lot.
But when I decided to create the changes I’ve discussed in this post, I decided to make social media part of it.
Long story short – I now shut off social media (all of it) two hours before bedtime. Honestly, I can do without the stimulation or drama, you know?
I can honestly say this has made a dramatic difference in reducing stress.
9. I spend time with my dog
No need to spend a lot of time on this one except to say this – I’ve been spending more time with my dog at night. I’ve found that by playing with him and just being in his presence, I feel more chill. They say pets have a calming effect on people and when you think about this, it’s kind of true.
What’s weird is that when my dog can sense when I am getting tired. It’s like he mirrors my behavior in an uncanny way. Shoot, there’s even been times when he jumps into the bed as a kind of signal that says, “Hey, time to get some sleep!”
10. I have a self-care ritual
In the past, my bedtime ritual was brushing my teeth. But after doing some reading on why guys need to set up a skincare routine, I’ve started to add two other things: washing and moisturizing my face.
What I’ve found is by including these activities as part of my wind down process, I help to encourage sleepiness. Maybe the warm water splashing on my skin helps my brain to relax? Who knows? All I can say is that it’s helped me.
If you struggle with anxiety at night, you already know how horrible it can be. As a tool for coping, I encourage you to learn all you can about your triggers. Each of us is different, you know?
One of my favorite books is Anxiety for Dummies (Amazon). Inside, there’s lots of practical information with solutions for working through.
Finally, I’ll say this. If you are really struggling at night with calming yourself, it might help to talk to your doctor. Sometimes, an underlying medical condition can be part of the dynamic.
Anyway, I hope you found my 10 strategies helpful. Do you have problems with anxiety at night? What are you doing to deal with it? I’d love to read your comments below.