Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. It’s a response to real or perceived threats, fear and stressful situations. Whenever it rears its ugly head, it can be a challenge to handle. However, most of us find that calming anxiety at night is more difficult.
Why is that?
There are several reasons why calming anxiety at night is more difficult. Here are just a few of them.
Chemical and physical changes in our bodies during anxiety:
Evening is the time when we are supposed to be winding down. It’s a time when we typically relax and get ready for a good night’s sleep.
When it gets dark outside, our bodies typically produce melatonin. This helps us feel tired and allows us to fall asleep easily. At the same time, other hormones and brain chemicals which keep us going throughout the day start to subside.
Experiencing anxiety at night can have just the opposite effect on us. Anxiety causes the release of hormones and neurotransmitters such as cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline which cause the fight or flight response in us, and actually wakes us up!
This cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters can lead to physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, fast breathing / hyperventilating, nausea, digestive problems, chest pain and more.
It takes quite a while for those hormones and neurotransmitters to readjust and regulate, so it’s no wonder we have more difficulty calming anxiety at night.
We don’t have distractions to preoccupy us:
When we experience anxiety during the day, we are typically busy and can more easily distract ourselves with other things like work, running errands, etc.
Nighttime, however, is usually more peaceful. The hustle and bustle of the day is over and we are supposed to be enjoying a quiet evening. It’s typically the first time during the day when we are alone with our thoughts and can begin to process the happenings of the day.
Sometimes, that, in and of itself, is enough to bring on anxiety and we may find it more difficult to deal with because it becomes the center of our focus.
We may not have access to certain coping mechanisms:
There are many ways to handle anxiety when it happens during the day, which may not be available to us at night.
For example, during the day, we may be able to exercise, which releases a flood of endorphins into our bodies. Endorphins have a calming effect on us and make us feel good, thus reducing anxiety.
Or, maybe we are able to contact a friend or loved one who can talk us through the episode and help us relax.
If anxiety happens in the middle of the night, we may wake up feeling alone and isolated. We are exhausted and terrified at the same time. When that happens we may not have access to those alternative coping mechanisms, making calming anxiety at night more difficult for us.
Anxiety can cause insomnia and vise versa:
This might be the biggest reason why calming anxiety at night is more difficult.
The chemical and physical changes in our bodies, coupled with the fact that we don’t have the distractions or the coping mechanisms we might use during the day to alleviate anxiety, may end up giving us insomnia.
Experiencing sleeplessness, in turn, can cause more anxiety, which can become a vicious cycle. Not only can this feel like a hopeless situation, it can make calming anxiety at night nearly impossible.
The good news, however, is that there are simple ways to calm anxiety at night. As a personal empowerment coach, PSYCH-K facilitator and hypnotherapist, I work with many clients who struggle with anxiety and offer them techniques and tools to calm their angst.
If you are someone who struggles with anxiety and are looking for assistance in managing and calming it, contact me to schedule a consultation. I am here to help.