Night anxiety consists of the feeling of tension and restlessness during the night, specifically before sleeping. It is produced by the anticipation of a threat or a danger, which usually occurs thanks to the invasion of negative thoughts at this time of day.
This response comprises a series of unpleasant physiological and cognitive symptoms, which have an adaptive purpose. But if they intensify or are prolonged over time, they can cause serious problems in the person’s physical and mental health.
What is night anxiety?
Nocturnal anxiety is an unpleasant emotional state of tension, agitation, and restlessness. It occurs when anticipating a possible danger or threat and manifests itself through a series of physiological, cognitive and behavioral reactions. In this particular case, it happens at night.
In this way, anxiety has an adaptive and survival function. Well, it is a defence mechanism to face life threats. However, there are times when it does not facilitate a better adaptation, quite the opposite.
In these cases, the reaction arises in response to false alarms, to possible threats that are not, or when the danger tends to be overestimated. Thus, when faced with anxiety that appears at night disproportionately for the situation or lasts over time, we speak of pathological response.
The pathological anxiety blocks the answers adequate to cope with daily life. Somatic generates discomfort, worsening the individual’s performance and usually requires professional assistance to solve the problem. Every day, beyond its nocturnal presentation, in this case, is affected by difficulties in falling asleep.
Symptoms of nighttime anxiety
Nocturnal anxiety is characterized by the manifestation of a series of somatic and cognitive symptoms at night, just before sleeping. Not everyone experiences the same or in the same intensity, as it depends a lot on the person’s constitution.
Among the most common signs are the following:
- Elevation of the heart rate: there are palpitations or jerks of the heart accompanied by a feeling of suffocation and tightness in the thoracic area.
- Sweating: profuse, cold, unrelated to ambient temperature.
- Abdominal discomfort: sometimes with nausea and vomiting.
- Derealization: it is a feeling of unreality or depersonalization with the feeling of being separated from oneself.
- Extreme fears: losing control or dying.
Causes of nighttime anxiety
Anxiety at night can be due to multiple causes, which differ between people who suffer from it. An important step to alleviate it is to identify the problems that underlie these manifestations and solve them. The most common reasons are the following:
- Stressors of daily life: interpersonal, work or financial problems are factors that trigger anxiety crises. Also, it is common for these situations to invade the person’s mind in the form of negative thoughts, just before sleeping, making rest impossible.
- Traumatic events: the experience of catastrophic experiences, such as natural disasters, rapes and torture or kidnappings, among others, cause severe damage to the mental structure, which is associated with serious symptoms of anxiety. When going to bed, it is common for the person to relive these traumatic events.
- Biological factors: genetics plays an important role in the appearance of anxious expressions. Well, some people are more predisposed than others, especially by inheritance.
- Distorted thoughts: anxiety is presented as an overvaluation of threats and an undervaluation of personal potentials. These thoughts can carry away the person at the time of sleep, which causes the activation of anxious responses.
Keys to overcoming nighttime anxiety
If the anxiety manifestations at night are intense and occur most of the time, they should receive professional assistance. Well, it can be a severe anxiety disorder, whose most effective treatment is psychotherapy and, in some cases, medication. On the other hand, the person with nocturnal anxiety can carry out a series of activities that help calm it.
Activities to combat stress
Performing some physical activity helps the body to release tension and, therefore, to feel more relaxed. Running two hours before sleeping will make the person feel tired, making it easier for them to sleep without a problem.
On the other hand, meditation and yoga are options that teach to focus on the here and now. Also, body stretches are performed that release tension.
The techniques of muscle relaxation and deep breathing exercises are another alternative. This prevents tension in the body and hyperventilation, manifestations typical of anxious crises.
Establishing a schedule to sleep, that is, going to bed at the same time, will condition the body to prepare for that moment. This should go hand in hand with avoiding using the bedroom for work or study, which negatively contributes to the establishment of associations of stressful activities with the bedroom.
Similarly, stimulant substances such as alcohol and caffeine should be avoided at night. They promote anxiety states due to their action on the nervous system.
Before sleeping, avoid negative thoughts
At night, just before sleeping, we are more susceptible to being invaded by negative thoughts. It is one of the moments of the day in which we find the mind more unoccupied. In this way, it is common to feel anxious.
However, if the anxious manifestations increase in quantity and intensity, the effects can be detrimental to general health. In this way, it is important to recognize a problem and look for the necessary and appropriate tools to solve the situation.