Nighttime Anxiety: What to Do When Your Anxious Mind Won’t Let You Sleep

I’ve had an anxious mind, ever since I can remember. Long before I even knew what “anxiety” was, that it was a “thing” or that I’m not the only one who tends to overthink certain things, to a sometimes obsessive degree.

After making a lot of lifestyle changes over the years, I finally began to feel like my anxiety was a thing of the past. Yes, I’d still get anxious from time to time, but it was nothing that would keep me up at night. I knew that as long as I take care of myself, keep myself happy by sticking to my routine, my anxiety was under control.

And then, in December, right before Christmas, I suddenly lost my grandmother. For months, before every time I went to sleep, I’d beg her to visit me in my dreams, I begged her to let me know that she is okay. All I wanted, was to talk to her one more time, to make sure she knew how much I loved her. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, bursting into tears as soon as I remembered that she’s gone.

I think that was one of the things that made it so difficult for me to get any sleep during that first couple of weeks: I knew that if I fell asleep, I’ll eventually have to wake up. I’ll remember what happened, and will feel my heart burst into million pieces, time and time again.

I feel like my life and I, myself, haven’t been the same since. And so, my anxiety came back.

After I’ve given my grief some time, I started to worry about losing other people in my life. I’d stay up all night, worrying about everyone’s health, jobs, and overall wellbeing. Then, I began to feel like I’m back where I started: anxious and tired of feeling that way.

The smallest of things would “sit” on my mind for days, I’d overanalyze and overthink every detail of my day. I think that one of the most frustrating things is not being able to fall asleep because you feel anxious, and THEN feeling anxious about not getting enough rest and waking up tired the next day.

I finally had to take control and realized that the only way for things to get better, is by taking care of my mental wellbeing and going back to all those little routines and habits that seem so small and sometimes insignificant, but make all the difference.

It can be your hectic schedule, your workload, or something personal you are going through- whatever it is that keeps you up at night or gives you nighttime anxiety, it can be worked through.

NIGHTTIME ANXIETY: WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR ANXIOUS MIND WON’T LET YOU SLEEP

UNWIND

In my experience, one the best things to help with bedtime anxiety is an unwinding routine. Don’t just shower and jump into bed. Let your body know that it’s time for bed, let it know that your day is coming to an end. Take your time with this. Reach for your favorite skincare products (I love using MUN products as part of my nighttime beauty routine- read all about them in my post about adult acne here + use my code “MUN13T” for a discount), give yourself a facial massage, do some gentle stretching, yoga. Diffuse some essential oils, practice a little bedtime self-care, meditate. You kind of have to take the time to shut off your brain. Once this becomes a regular routine, your body will start to recognize these little rituals as signals that it’s time to get ready for sleep.

STAY AWAY FROM STIMULANTS

Coffee, energy drinks, and, when consumed in specific amounts, alcohol, most teas, can all act as stimulants. Avoid these for at least six-eight hours before bedtime. Instead, try herbal teas like peppermint or chamomile. Magnesium is also one of my bedside necessities, especially after those long, stressful days. I take it nightly as a supplement or mix this powder with some warm water, you can also try magnesium oil. Magnesium will help your muscles relax and will gently ease the tension.

YOUR BED SHOULD BE USED FOR THESE TWO THINGS, ONLY

Sleep and intimacy. Train your body to associate bed with sleep and rest- not stress and anxiety. If, after being in bed for 30 minutes, you can’t fall asleep, get up. Otherwise, your body will associate being in bed with feeling stressed. Do something soothing like folding laundry, coloring, reading- until you start feeling sleepy, then get back to your bed. If you can’t fall asleep and remain in bed, you’ll then start checking the time and will feel anxious about not getting enough rest.

nighttime anxiety

BRAIN DUMPING

If you can’t relax because of your racing thoughts or worries, dump them. Get a journal, or even a piece of paper, and write out everything that’s on your mind. The routine of putting your thoughts down on paper itself, can help you feel more at ease. If you’re feeling anxious about something that happened during the day, write out your plan, or a to-do list for the next day.

YOUR ROUTINE MATTERS

Eliminate visual stimuli from your routine. Don’t look at your phone, tablet, laptop. I spent years sleeping with my laptop next to my pillow and the concept of a restful night was a foreign one, to me. These days, I can’t imagine bringing “work” to bed, like I once used to. I keep my phone on my nightstand, but usually, don’t reach for it past 9 pm- especially since I discovered I can listen to my audiobooks on my Echo. If possible, try to stick to a similar schedule daily, and get to bed at the same time, every day.

DON’T LET SILENCE INTIMIDATE YOU

Here’s the downside to a tech-free nighttime routine: silence. I think that every person who suffers from anxiety would agree that being alone with your thoughts can be paralyzing at times. It’s literally, the last thing you want to do. When you’re lying in your bed at night, anxious thoughts running through your head, silence makes it so easy to notice everything else; every fear, every thought. Meditation has been a life-saver for me. When my heart and mind are both racing and won’t let my tired body get the rest it needs, I do a 10-minute meditation and start feeling better immediately after. If you absolutely cannot deal with complete silence, try an audiobook (and set a 15-30 minute timer) or play some soothing music/white noise.

If all else fails…

Seek professional help. Your body needs rest. Nighttime anxiety manifests itself in many different ways and if you just can’t cope with countless, restless nights, seek help. There’s no shame in looking for help if natural remedies or routine changes don’t help you. I know that for many people (and pretty much everyone I personally know), sleep comes easy. The moment my husband’s head touches his pillow, he’s falling asleep. I, in the meantime, am lying next to him, thinking: “why can’t it be this easy for me?” Your mind has such a strong power, that sometimes, it doesn’t even matter how tired you are physically, you just can’t fall asleep.

I won’t say that my nights are always peaceful, but going to back to my routine and practicing some of these self-care rituals, has helped me fell a bit more like “the old” me.  Do you have any bedtime rituals you look forward to, every night?

This content uses referral links. Read my disclosure policy for more info.

anxiety | sleep | sleep anxiety | sleep routine | wellness | mental wellbeing | how to sleep when you're anxious | bedtime anxiety | tips for dealing with anxiety | anxious mind | wellness and lifestyle | mental health
  • The mind always seems to go into over drive at night! I’m trying to get into more of a routine but pregnancy is making it a nightmare!

    Jaynie Shannon*

    Xx

  • Love this post. I have been really struggling with my anxiety recently
    http://www.petiteelliee.com

    Ellie xx

  • I have always been a good sleeper with the exception of the odd night where I was stressing out about something, and these days I am so tired I fall asleep whenever I lay down.
    From working shifts though I know how wrecked you feel after a few nights of not getting rest and it is not a good feeling. Fingers crossed you will have peaceful nights.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

    • I can imagine! My body and mind work in such strange way, that the more exhausted I am, more difficult I find it to fall asleep haha. Thank you, Anne!

  • nighttime is when my anxiety seems to be worst a lot of times, & I’m trying to do more of these things! Developing a soothing routine is really helpful. I am super naughty about using my computer in bed… like as I type this! (I am sick though, so I’ve got an excuse! haha)
    love these tips <3

    xo, kaeleen
    http://www.withdignityandcoffee.com

  • This happens to me all the time. I try to go to bed early but end up just overthinking and worrying and then getting frustrated that I can’t seem to rest my mind and sleep. I’ve recently been journalling more consistently before bed and i’ve found that it really does help a ton!

    Kathy x

    Alongcamekathy

    • Sorry you’ve been experiencing this Kathy, it’s never fun. Journaling can be so helpful, glad it’s working for you! x

  • Kiri Yanchenko

    This is a really great post.
    I am really bad at using the bed for sleep and intimacy only.
    Since it is winter and I am cold – I watch tv in bed with a hot water bottle.
    It is my safe place.
    These are all great tips – and I also like that you have included the bit about seeking professional help.
    Since losing my father I have seen someone on and off – something triggered my anxiety lately and I really should go and see them again.
    Kiri
    Set to Glow
    http://www.settoglow.com.au

    • Thank you so much, Kiri. Ahh things do get difficult in wintertime!

      So sorry about your loss, and that you’ve been experiencing anxiety. I hope that you can find some peace. Sending my love your way! x

  • Ruth

    Thank you for this! It’s so hard to shut off when so much is buzzing around in the brain, I’ll definitely be trying some of these tips and tricks- especially the brain dump and audio book!

    • You are very welcome Ruth, hope that you try some of these and that they help you! Thank you for stopping by! x

  • Chloe

    Thank you for this – The one thing that I’ve taken from this and really want to focus on is making a bedtime routine for myself. I’m going to have a proper think about it and come up with something that’s going to be soothing for me and make me want to go to sleep :) It’s a great idea and I’m really excited to create it!

    Have a great week :)

    Chloe @ https://girllgonerogue.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Rebecca Jenkins

    Magnesium has been one of my biggest helps with getting to sleep. I might have to try listening to an audiobook for those nights when my head just won’t shut up. Unfortunately one of my biggest problems with getting to sleep is pain which doesn’t really have a solution.

    • Magnesium has my go-to for years too! I am so sorry that you’re dealing with pain! I was recently involved in an accident and injured my back and struggle with pain at bedtime as well. So sorry to hear that, hope you feel better soon, Rebecca! Sending love.

  • I couldn’t agree more when you say bed should be for two things only and I have been guilty of just hanging out awake in bed and this doesn’t help! Luckily now I have my own flat and other places to chill!

    Lauren x aHuggled

    • That’s something I didn’t think of- not everyone has the entire apartment/home to themselves so they can’t help but do other things in their bedrooms :) Thanks for stopping by, Lauren!

  • My to-go trick is to drink oat flower tea… Sounds gross, but there are actually nice ones around :) I don’t know if this actually works or if my mind considers it a trigger somehow, but I am not sure what I’d do without it!

  • Jennifer Bowler

    This is me almost all the time. Thanks for sharing. I also love to read a bit before bed. It focuses my mind on other things and helps me unwind a lot. Sometimes I light a few candles in the room instead of using my lamp. I also have a nice lavender spray I spray on the sheets that is just soothing.

    • Reading before bed is the best. Candles are awesome too to set the mood- as long as you remember to put them out before falling asleep haha :) Love the scent of lavender!

  • Natalie Redman

    Great post! I love using herbal oils in my diffuser as that normally helps.

    http://www.upyourvlog.com

  • Recently, falling asleep has been an absolute nightmare for me. I get in bed around 11 and I’m lay there until 2am, unable to fall asleep! It’s driving me insane! I love the idea of getting out of bed and doing some colouring if I’m unable to fall asleep. Usually I just end up fidgeting, staring into space or reaching for my phone if I can’t sleep so I’m definitely going to try getting up and doing some colouring until I’m tired again! <3 xxx
    http://www.samanthafrances.co.uk

    • So sorry to hear that Samantha, hope things get better very soon. If you can’t fall asleep, I’d definitely try getting out of bed and doing something else for a bit, until you start feeling sleepy. Let me know how it goes! xx

  • Devynne Hadley

    You always share tips that I’ve never considered before! Thanks so much for sharing. Before bed I like to either journal or read as I find that it calms and clears my mind.

    https://littlearrowofstarsblog.wordpress.com/

  • I loved this post! I also went through a couple of meltdowns after the passing of my grandfather, but taking time for myself really helped. I especially loved the tip you gave about bed being used only for sleep and intimacy.
    Thank you for sharing something so private!

    http://www.thecupofjojo.com

    • Thank you Joanna! Hope that you’re doing much better now- taking time for yourself definitely does help. Sending love. x

  • Lisa Autumn

    Such a lovely post girl!

    xx Lisa | lisaautumn.com

  • I feel similar to you – I’ve always been a worrier with an anxious mind, even before I knew anxiety was a thing. I think my entire family always just put it down to my personality but recently I’ve been thinking that maybe it is something more than that.
    I tend not to have any issues falling asleep, but more staying asleep, and not waking up feeling anxious. I think unwinding and taking time away from my phone before bed might help, but I really want to get into essential oils as well and see if they help relax me.
    Rebecca ♥

    • I always felt like such a weirdo, growing up, glad that more and more people are speaking about things like anxiety these days. It’s nice knowing that a lot of people can relate to some of the fears and feelings we deal with. I love diffusing lavender oil, it’s so soothing at bedtime! x

  • Sarah

    Great Post, I have suffered with sleep problems for many years now mainly caused by stress and anxiety. I’m currently taking prescription medication, but some nights this doesn’t even work. My aim is to get off these this year, it will be a long slow process but I will get there. I have started a few little rituals these last few weeks, lavender sleep balm, yoga deep briefing through the nose right down to my stomach, deep slow breaths. Lastly white noise, which I’ve downloaded really helps, I’m listening to waves breaking on the beach which I associate with holidays when I do sleep much better. I just concentrate on the soothing sound and this really helps with the anxiety, it centres my mind and stops it wondering off to all the stressful issues going on.

    • Thank you Sarah! So sorry to hear you’ve been dealing with so much stress and anxiety. It sounds like you already have a lovely routine going on. Sleep is such an individual thing and after I changed my routine, it did take me a while to stop reaching for sleep aids- so worth the effort though, just gotta stick to your routine. Sending love!

  • Melissa Pettigrew Jackson

    Excellent post! Love the advice especially about not allowing your body to associate the bed with stress and anxiety.

  • I found this post so helpful! I often can’t sleep due to my anxious mind, but I’m going to be trying some of your recommendations out – thank you!

    Diana | http://www.thechicdiary.com/blog

  • Matthew LeBroke

    This was so helpful! I am trying to stay out of my room for the day and its been hard but I am getting there lol!

    Matthew | throughthemoments.com

    • Thank you so much, Matthew! It does take a while to break small habits like staying in your room most of the time, but it’s very much worth the effort! :)

  • I think writing out all your thoughts and feelings are especially important. I know that writing is very therapeutic for me and I feel a lot better once I let out some thoughts.

    Emily | http://emilytrinh.com

    • So glad that works for you Emily! There’s something very therapeutic about writing your thoughts/feelings down, I agree. x