Anxiety at night: Causes, remedies, and more – Medical News Today

Anxiety at night is common, especially among people who fixate on upsetting events of the day or who worry about every noise in the dark.
People who feel anxiety at night may struggle to sleep, making the day feel more stressful and intensifying the anxiety over time.
With the right help, anxiety at night is treatable.
Nighttime anxiety is not a special class of anxiety. People become anxious at night for the same reasons they do during the day. However, the following factors may make anxiety more noticeable at night:
People with pre-existing anxiety disorders or anxiety risk factors may have a predisposition to nighttime anxiety. Examples include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a recent trauma.
Certain medical conditions or hormonal states may also contribute to anxiety. For example, a 2019 study suggests that nighttime anxiety may be a sign of menopause in some cases.
Some symptoms of nighttime anxiety include:
The following treatment options can help a person manage nighttime anxiety:
Therapy focuses on addressing the source of anxiety and helping a person develop effective coping skills.
The American Psychological Association reports that therapy is often more effective than medication. This may be because therapy helps a person identify the cause of the problem and address it in a constructive way.
Therapy often works best alongside medication, as medication can offer some immediate relief, allowing a person to focus on the therapy.
Several different therapies can be effective for anxiety, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.
Anxiety medications can change the body’s physical response to anxiety, helping a person feel less anxious.
Antidepressants affect chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, in the brain. They can help stabilize a person’s mood or alleviate stress.
Antidepressants can take some time to begin working. A person should give the medication a chance before deciding whether it is effective.
Benzodizaepines are the most common type of anti-anxiety medication. These drugs tend to begin working almost immediately.
Benzodiazepines bind to the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). This helps slow down activity in the brain, thereby helping a person feel less anxious. However, these drugs come with risks that a person should discuss with their doctor first.
Beta-blockers are medications that people ordinarily use to treat high blood pressure. However, doctors sometimes prescribe these drugs to help alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Sleeping pills may help people fall asleep faster, thereby reducing nighttime restlessness. However, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that sleeping pills only reduce the length of time it takes to fall asleep by 8 to 20 minutes.
Sleeping pills can also be addictive, so it’s safest to try other interventions first. People who do use sleeping pills should:
There is no scientific evidence suggesting that a specific sleep position might help a person sleep.
However, if a person finds that their sleep position is related to their anxiety, they can try out alternative sleep positions. For example, a person who fears a home intruder may be less anxious if they sleep with their back against the wall.
Additionally, evidence suggests that people with obstructive sleep apnea may wake up anxious or experience anxiety and depression throughout the day. Sleeping on the side or stomach may reduce the risk of sleep apnea events at night, thereby reducing the risk of anxiety.
Some other strategies that may alleviate nighttime anxiety include:
Occasional anxiety is common, especially during times of stress. However, chronic anxiety is a medical condition that often does not get better on its own. Delaying treatment gives the anxiety time to spiral out of control, potentially affecting other aspects of a person’s life.
A person should see a doctor if they experience any of the following:
People should also contact their doctor if they experience a recurrence of anxiety while undergoing treatment for anxiety. The doctor may recommend adjusting or adding to the treatment plan.
Nighttime anxiety can feel overwhelming and can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.
Thankfully, there are a number of treatments for night-time anxiety. Examples include medications, talking therapies, and relaxation therapies.
A person who experiences nighttime anxiety should seek treatment as soon as possible. Prompt treatment can help prevent the anxiety from escalating and causing further problems. A person can seek help from their regular doctor or from a qualified therapist.
Last medically reviewed on June 29, 2021
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