The Ultimate Guide to Calming Sleep Anxiety
Between completing a complex evening skincare routine to finding that perfectly comfortable sleep position, we are the first to admit, easing yourself into restful sleep can be hard. When your thoughts are spiralling, and you just can’t seem to relax, falling asleep may even seem impossible. We’re here to help you understand and calm your late-night anxiety.
To start, it may be helpful to think of your brain like a light switch. We have our ‘ON’ self, who is busy working, cleaning, and completing the tasks our daily life requires. Then, we have our ‘OFF’ self, who is sleeping and recharging.
Late-night anxiety usually occurs during the transition between our ‘ON’ and ‘OFF’ selves while we’re trying to fall asleep. The mental and physical divide between these two selves can cause our minds to protest against our body’s natural circadian rhythm, creating a cycle of anxious thoughts.1
So why exactly does anxiety worsen at night, and how do you manage the symptoms? If you’re looking to navigate these important questions, you’re in the right place. We’re here to help you get the worry-free sleep you deserve.
What is Late-night Anxiety?
Late-night anxiety affects everyone differently, and the causes of sleep anxiety are equally varied. So let’s discover what happens behind closed eyes while you try to drift off.
What is anxiety?
Before we understand late-night anxiety, let’s first explore anxiety more generally. Anxiety itself is not inherently harmful; it’s a natural stress response.2 It may not seem like it, but anxiety is your body’s attempt to prepare you for survival. Anxiety symptoms like a racing pulse, quickening breath, and dilated pupils are your "fight-or-flight" response mechanism in action.3
However, as clinical psychologist Elaine Ducharme explains, the problem arises when “the physical danger is not real and there is no need to fight or flee,” or if the level of anxiety is disproportionate to the problem.4 Pointing to our next question, how do stress and anxiety impede our body’s ability to sleep?
What causes late-night anxiety?
Let’s briefly discuss the elephant in the room, the pandemic. Between lockdowns and the fear of being outside, we’re all experiencing pandemic stress firsthand. It’s no surprise anxiety has increased in the pandemic, but alcohol consumption and screen time have also increased—both of which can impact anxiety levels and the quality of your rest.5
Even before the pandemic’s widespread impact, researchers found over 50% of adults reported that anxiety affects their ability to sleep.6
Going from a busy day filled with distractions to laying in bed with nothing but your thoughts is a dramatic shift. It’s no surprise a common symptom of evening anxiety is uncontrolled racing thoughts before bedtime.7 Do you find yourself:
- Checking off a mental to-do list?
- Fixating on interactions you had during the day?
- Worrying about your career or relationships?
These stress-inducing thoughts can cause a rush of adrenaline, making it challenging to fall asleep and stay asleep.8 Giving yourself the space and time to catch up with your body’s needs leaves you with less room for rumination and more room for relaxation.
Trouble sleeping at night is a chicken and egg problem: we can’t sleep because we’re anxious, and we’re anxious because we didn’t sleep! These two issues go hand in hand, and understanding this phenomenon is the first step to fixing it. Now let’s dive into some practical ways to reduce anxiety in the evenings.
How to Calm Your Anxiety at Night
The simple answer? Good sleep hygiene. In this case, the word hygiene has nothing to do with cleanliness. Instead, good sleep hygiene is about setting yourself up for quality rest.9 We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you fight nighttime anxiety so you can get the sleep you deserve.
Easing anxiety before bed
Create a routine
Sticking to a schedule is a helpful way to calm your mind and hack your body into entering a rest state. Eating at the same time helps regulate your circadian rhythm while consistently timed rest trains your body to get sleepy at the same time every night.10
Try incorporating calming activities into your routine that can help reduce stress hormones like:11
- Reading a book
- Drinking decaffeinated tea
Turn off your phone
Phones are the ultimate enemy of sleep. Not only can hyperconnectivity and doomscrolling heighten anxiety, but screens keep our minds stimulated long after we’ve shut them off.12 Studies from the University of Toronto and Harvard have even found that there’s a correlation between repressed levels of melatonin (the hormone responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle) and the blue light cellphones emit.13 The combination of psychological stimulation and suppressed melatonin levels makes sleeping after scrolling very challenging. Incorporating a technology shut-down into your nightly routine is a practical way to prepare yourself for rest.
Easing anxiety while in bed
Try a weighted blanket
Simulating the psychological and physical benefits of touch, weighted blankets are the perfect relaxing bedroom accessory. Weighted blankets are typically between five and 30 lbs. When the weight is evenly distributed on top of us, it can have a calming effect on the body and mind, encouraging deep, restful sleep.
Helping Canadians get a better night's sleep is what we're all about–that's why the 15lb Endy Weighted Blanket comes with a risk-free 60-night trial, so there’s no harm in trying it to help ease your bedtime anxiety!
Arguably the most crucial aspect of a good night’s sleep is creating your very own sleep oasis. Ask yourself questions like:
What type of mattress do I want?
- Do I prefer firm or soft mattresses?
- Do I sleep on my side, back, or front?
- Am I a hot or cold sleeper?
Once you’ve created a space that you feel physically comfortable in, it can help ease you emotionally. There is no fix-all solution to creating a comfortable bedroom, but enveloping yourself in a dark space designed for your sleep needs can calm your anxiety and encourage relaxation. Shop our cozy line of pillows, bedding, and of course, our award-winning Endy Mattress for sleep you’ve only dreamed of.
*This blog post is intended for informational purposes only, and it is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Visit the links within the text for sources. Endy has not independently verified the sources.