Hi This week my blog is looking at night time Anxiety. I hope that you have found some of the tips that I offered helpful over the last few weeks. Anxiety can affect us in so many different ways and sometimes you don’t even realise that it is anxiety that you are suffering from.
Anxiety at Night.
Night time is often considered to be a time of relaxation, where we mentally unwind and prepare ourselves for sleep. However, it is still quite common to experience an anxiety attack at night.
Anxiety attacks are frightening at the best of times, but when they occur unexpectedly in the silence and darkness of night time, they can be particularly hard to endure. In theory, we are at our most relaxed when we are asleep, so it seems an unlikely time for anxiety to flare up. However, this is a common problem.
What causes anxiety attacks at night?
Night time anxiety or panic attacks, like their day time cohorts, result from the ‘fight or flight’ instinct being triggered by a perceived aggressor. In this case, the aggressor is likely to be mental angst resulting from pent up worries.
In the business of daily life they recede into the background only to rear their monstrous heads when all distractions disappear. In the stillness of the night there is no running away, and if we allow the worry monster to keep up its aggression, an anxiety attack may well ensue.
We also know that the brain does not fully switch off when we are asleep. How often does an event that occurred during the day lead to an odd dream during the night? Our brain naturally tries to process and sort out the day’s events and if these have been stressful then our dreams may well provoke anxiety too.
What can I do to stop anxiety attacks at night?
Trying to fight a night time panic attack will only make it worse. Combat this as you would an anxiety attack during the day; try to slow down, breathe deeply, relax your muscles and calm your mind with whatever thoughts or images help to make you feel safe.
The adrenaline may continue to course through your body, so it is unlikely that you will be able to just to drop off back to sleep. You may even just begin worrying about not sleeping so it can help to get up and do something else to shift your focus. Ideally, simple activities like the ironing, listening to a calming meditation, reading an inspirational or gentle book etc. or even practising yoga poses for sleep may help.
Avoid any over stimulating activity. Only once you are feel ready for sleep should you go back to bed. When you lie down, remain calm by breathing deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth; if you are breathing correctly, your abdomen (not just your chest) will be rising on an in breath and falling on an out breath.
It is possible to learn how to rationally identify and accept the anxiety attack, and allow the fear to pass. With practise of sensible tools and techniques, anxiety attacks will diminish in severity and frequency.
More Night time Tips
Sleep by the clock
When it comes to sleep, timing is everything, as Dr Michael Breus reveals in a new ground-breaking book. Our circadian rhythm – also known as the biological clock – affects every aspect of our life, including our ability to sleep well. Going to bed at the correct bio time means you won’t lie awake feeling wired.
Wind down, not up
Sleep is a natural physiological process – but you can help it along and avoid additional anxiety by having a set wind-down routine. The goal of this is to relax your body and prime it for sleep. So if you’re going to bed at 10-11pm, set aside 30 minutes to an hour for an identical nightly pre-sleep routine. This may involve things such as taking a shower, washing your face and brushing your teeth, moisturising your face, putting on your PJs and climbing into bed with a book. Psychologist Susanna Halonen says, ‘The more identical you can make every evening, the more you train your body to prepare for sleep and the easier it will be to achieve.’
Keep a cork in it
‘Alcohol is a stimulant as well as a sedative,’ says Dr Guy Meadows of The Sleep School. ‘While many people use it to fall asleep, it is also metabolised so quickly that it can leave the body craving more.’ So when we drink alcohol close to bedtime, we are more likely to wake up in the early hours, leaving us primed for a night-time anxiety attack. As a rule of thumb, it takes an hour to process one unit of alcohol, so to be on the safe side, have a last glass of wine at 7pm if you intend to go to bed at 10pm.
Soak it up
Taking a relaxing bath can help de-clutter the mind. Try a few drops of Therapy Relaxing Bath Essence – one that contains lavender, which is a natural sleep aid. There’s an added benefit to bath time, too: the fall in body temperature we experience when we get out of the bath is a signal for the brain to start producing sleep-inducing melatonin.
Breathe and let go
Practising deep breathing can distract your mind from worries, explains Dr Ramlakhan. ‘Breathe in, hold for a few seconds and then breathe out – do this three times. Just follow the breathing as you do it.’ Breathing in this way instantly slows everything down, relaxes the mind and body, and helps channel your energy into the breathing action. The breathing will give way to the tiredness, which will overcome anxiety and help you fall asleep.
Junk the caffeine
Avoid caffeine after 2pm, suggests Will Williams. ‘Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and it takes six hours for our body to recover from a single cup of tea or coffee. If you feel you need a hit of caffeine to get you through the afternoon, then consider learning to meditate to give you more energy throughout the day.’
That’s all for this week. I will continue with nighttime anxiety next week.
Until then have a great week and smile more. It makes you feel so much better.
Extracts from ‘Can I change‘ by Jon Adkin BAHyp Available from Amazon