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  • Writer's pictureSarah-Jayne Harrison

Why is my anxiety worse at night and what can I do?

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

Anxiety isn’t something that can be entirely avoided, it has a purpose in our lives to protect us from real danger. Millions of years ago cavemen needed it to avoid being eaten - the chilled-out caveman would not have survived. While our environment has changed since, that part of our brain is still active. However, when it becomes too much and starts to stop you from doing things is when help might be needed.

Ayla age 8 - depiction of sleep anxiety
Ayla age 8 - depiction of sleep anxiety

People can experience anxiety for several reasons and it can vary throughout the day. Anxiety can be most present in the daytime, evening, or first thing in the morning. It affects people differently.

Have you ever felt that you have a stressful day, you get through it ok and then as you sit down to relax at night the anxiety kicks in? Frustrating right, you probably just want to be able to relax after a long day.

This is often because when we are stressed, our body goes into survival mode, and it can spend the day distracted by dealing with the tasks at hand, therefore putting the anxiety aside for a while. It can be due to irregular sleep patterns or related to a health condition. While there can be many reasons for this, I suspect you probably want to know what can be done about it. Well, as a therapist, I obviously think therapy can help if the stress and anxiety becomes overwhelming and you feel unable to cope. But, there are also a few other things along that journey that you can do that may be helpful. 1. Self-awareness: Be aware when your anxiety is triggered and notice what is going on for you in your life right now. 2. Sleep: Ensure you get the right amount of sleep for you and try to keep it to the same time each night. 3. Avoid drinking alcohol: Now I’m not saying you must be teetotal here – (unless drinking excessively is a concern of yours then seeking help might be appropriate) but drinking too much of an evening can affect the quality of your sleep and this can, in turn, affect the way you feel the next day. 4. Exercise: Again, this doesn’t have to be a case of muscle mania, even light exercise, a walk, a little cardio, yoga maybe… Choose what works for you and how often. 5. Breath: Often, when feeling anxious, breathing becomes laboured, shoulders hunch, try to breathe through it, drop the shoulders, straighten the back, notice what happens to your body and work with it. There are quite a few youtube clips out there that can be helpful for this. This list isn’t exhaustive and you may already be doing these things. Sometimes it takes time and practice before the benefits can be felt, but that leads me on to my last point… Be kind to yourself, if you can’t exercise for example but you remember to notice the breath and focus on that instead, that’s ok too. Sometimes doing a little is just enough to get to the next step.

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