Why does anxiety seem to get even worse at night?


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Being all cozied up at home in some silky PJs with a cup of chamomile tea in hand should be the ultimate safe space from anxiety. You’re far away from your boss, you’re no longer dealing with impatient commuters, and you don’t have anyone to answer to but yourself (i.e. your email is finally out of service for the night). So why do you feel more anxious now than you did all day long?

It seems like the complete opposite of how anxiety should work, but that’s kind of the hallmark of dealing with it, right? You never know when it’s going to strike. As it turns out, anxiety being minimal during the day then coming in like a ton of bricks once you’re winding down at night is a super-common experience. “It’s the first time of the day when no one is asking you any questions or you’re trying to complete a task. It’s when you’re first alone with your thoughts, and the entire day’s worth of thoughts come into your mind, which causes a level of anxiety,” clinical psychologist Michael Breus, PhD, tells me.

So sure, it’s totally normal—just not much fun!—to lay in bed sweating about any and every worry you held off during the day. But how are you actually supposed to wind down and get some shut-eye with all those thoughts hovering over you? To combat the anxiety—and even any physical symptoms that arise, like heavy breathing, a rapid heart rate, and chills—it helps to start preparing hours before you hit the sheets, then focus on calming your body down once you do.

“It’s when you’re first alone with your thoughts, and the entire day’s worth of thoughts come into your mind, which causes a level of anxiety.” —Michael Breus, PhD, clinical psychologist

“It takes all day to create a sleep problem at night. If you ignore your stress and anxiety all day long, you can’t expect it to magically disappear at bedtime, allowing you to sleep soundly until morning,” Dr. Breus says. “Relaxation exercises, mindfulness meditation, and mind-body exercise can all help reduce your stress throughout the day, as well as in the evenings before bedtime. Many of the natural supplements that help sleep are also beneficial for stress and anxiety, including magnolia bark, magnesium, and CBD.”

So there you have it: a doctor-approved reason to sip on a soothing CBD latte right before bedtime. By giving yourself a little TLC throughout the day and after you get home at night, you’ll be primed to getting a great night of sleep. Of course, if symptoms persist, seek the opinion of a doctor so you can find a solution that works for you.

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Here’s what to do instead of taking deep breaths to treat an anxiety or panic attack. Or, find out how you can be extremely supportive when dating someone with anxiety.

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