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Alcohol and Mental Health

Why Is My Anxiety So Bad at Night?

Published:
July 11, 2023
·
9 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 11, 2023
·
9 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 11, 2023
·
9 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 11, 2023
·
9 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
July 11, 2023
·
9 min read

Imagine you're at home, settling in for a quiet evening. Suddenly, an uninvited guest barges in — your anxiety. It makes itself at home, putting its feet up on the furniture, making a mess of your otherwise calm evening.

To understand this, we'll delve into the inner workings of our brain, understanding its ups and downs. We'll explore the connection between nighttime and anxiety — and how we can show this unwanted guest the door.

Anxiety at Night

Research reveals that our brain fluctuates throughout the day, influenced by our circadian rhythms.

As darkness falls, our brain rhythms shift. As melatonin production increases, our minds get quiet enough to hear the anxieties we haven’t dealt with throughout the day. The stressors we manage to keep at bay during the day feel insurmountable at night, leading to a surge in anxiety.

If we’re hyper-aroused through the day — overscheduled, overwhelmed — we can be left with no time to dwell. That changes at night, and our thoughts seem louder, our fears more daunting.

Anxiety can be worse at night due to several other reasons:

  • Fight or flight response. We may focus more on our worries once we are lying in bed without the distractions of the day. Our brain can’t discern what is a physical and immediate threat, and what is an anxiety you’re fixating on — so it doesn’t know if it’s safe to go to sleep. Remember, anxiety is our body’s fight or flight response.
  • Anxiety about sleeping. Staying up and worrying in bed can also create anxieties about whether or not we will be able to fall asleep that night, giving way to insomnia.
  • Daily stressors. Stressful situations, such as a first date or a job interview, can lead to increased anxiety. When this sense of worry doesn’t go away and even keeps you up at night, you may have an anxiety disorder.
  • Medical issues. Anxiety can be exacerbated by certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, the use of prescription or herbal supplements, and chronic pain.
  • Sleep deprivation. As fatigue accrues, it can become more difficult to deal with worries. This creates the perfect storm for anxious thoughts. As a result — and quite cruelly — a quality night’s sleep can then get harder to come by. This can make you more tired and less able to cope with nighttime anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Drinking to cope. It's tempting to use alcohol as a quick fix, hoping to drown our nighttime worries. While a nightcap can initially relax us or make us feel better, in the long-term it can make our anxiety worse.

If anxiety is keeping you up, night after night, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider for guidance.

The Truth About Alcohol and Anxiety

Neuroscience tells us that drinking regularly changes our brain's chemical balance, increasing the likelihood of anxiety disorders and perpetuating a vicious cycle — one that can result in dependency or misuse.

So we have to put in the hard work of getting to the root cause of our anxiety — including analyzing our own narratives. What stories do we tell ourselves as we grapple with nighttime anxiety and the urge to drink? Are we trapped in a narrative of powerlessness or self-criticism?

Our self-talk impacts our emotional well-being. Negative self-talk can amplify our anxiety and our perceived need for alcohol.

We can rewrite these narratives, empowering ourselves to face our nighttime anxieties head-on. The first step is to acknowledge our negative emotions and accept them, in order to work through them.

Embracing the Dark: Strategies To Overcome Evening Anxiety

Here are some tips to manage anxiety at night:

  • Meditation. Meditation can be powerful, and it can be beneficial in reducing anxiety.
  • Relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization techniques can help reduce anxiety.
  • Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep hygiene can help reduce anxiety. Cutting back on drinking will also help.
  • Ground yourself. No, we don’t mean taking away your favorite TV show. Grounding techniques can help us bring back to the present moment — redirecting our spiraling thoughts or feelings of panic. Recognizing the signs of escalating anxiety is a critical first step. Use aromatherapy or focus on the sensations of your body against the bed to bring your attention back to the present moment.
  • Establish a soothing evening routine. Our brains thrive on consistency. Regular patterns of behavior can signal to your brain that it's time to wind down and relax, reducing the intensity of anxiety and the impulse to drink.

Remember, therapists and other mental health professionals are equipped with evidence-based techniques to help us navigate anxiety and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

A New Dawn

We are not helpless to our brain's quirks or our nighttime habits. As we understand our evening anxiety more deeply, we can deploy strategies to manage our feelings and rewrite our self-talk.

However, if your nighttime anxiety impacts your ability to function every day, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional.

With commitment and patience, we can welcome the night, not with dread, but with tranquility.

Imagine you're at home, settling in for a quiet evening. Suddenly, an uninvited guest barges in — your anxiety. It makes itself at home, putting its feet up on the furniture, making a mess of your otherwise calm evening.

To understand this, we'll delve into the inner workings of our brain, understanding its ups and downs. We'll explore the connection between nighttime and anxiety — and how we can show this unwanted guest the door.

Anxiety at Night

Research reveals that our brain fluctuates throughout the day, influenced by our circadian rhythms.

As darkness falls, our brain rhythms shift. As melatonin production increases, our minds get quiet enough to hear the anxieties we haven’t dealt with throughout the day. The stressors we manage to keep at bay during the day feel insurmountable at night, leading to a surge in anxiety.

If we’re hyper-aroused through the day — overscheduled, overwhelmed — we can be left with no time to dwell. That changes at night, and our thoughts seem louder, our fears more daunting.

Anxiety can be worse at night due to several other reasons:

  • Fight or flight response. We may focus more on our worries once we are lying in bed without the distractions of the day. Our brain can’t discern what is a physical and immediate threat, and what is an anxiety you’re fixating on — so it doesn’t know if it’s safe to go to sleep. Remember, anxiety is our body’s fight or flight response.
  • Anxiety about sleeping. Staying up and worrying in bed can also create anxieties about whether or not we will be able to fall asleep that night, giving way to insomnia.
  • Daily stressors. Stressful situations, such as a first date or a job interview, can lead to increased anxiety. When this sense of worry doesn’t go away and even keeps you up at night, you may have an anxiety disorder.
  • Medical issues. Anxiety can be exacerbated by certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, the use of prescription or herbal supplements, and chronic pain.
  • Sleep deprivation. As fatigue accrues, it can become more difficult to deal with worries. This creates the perfect storm for anxious thoughts. As a result — and quite cruelly — a quality night’s sleep can then get harder to come by. This can make you more tired and less able to cope with nighttime anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Drinking to cope. It's tempting to use alcohol as a quick fix, hoping to drown our nighttime worries. While a nightcap can initially relax us or make us feel better, in the long-term it can make our anxiety worse.

If anxiety is keeping you up, night after night, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider for guidance.

The Truth About Alcohol and Anxiety

Neuroscience tells us that drinking regularly changes our brain's chemical balance, increasing the likelihood of anxiety disorders and perpetuating a vicious cycle — one that can result in dependency or misuse.

So we have to put in the hard work of getting to the root cause of our anxiety — including analyzing our own narratives. What stories do we tell ourselves as we grapple with nighttime anxiety and the urge to drink? Are we trapped in a narrative of powerlessness or self-criticism?

Our self-talk impacts our emotional well-being. Negative self-talk can amplify our anxiety and our perceived need for alcohol.

We can rewrite these narratives, empowering ourselves to face our nighttime anxieties head-on. The first step is to acknowledge our negative emotions and accept them, in order to work through them.

Embracing the Dark: Strategies To Overcome Evening Anxiety

Here are some tips to manage anxiety at night:

  • Meditation. Meditation can be powerful, and it can be beneficial in reducing anxiety.
  • Relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization techniques can help reduce anxiety.
  • Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep hygiene can help reduce anxiety. Cutting back on drinking will also help.
  • Ground yourself. No, we don’t mean taking away your favorite TV show. Grounding techniques can help us bring back to the present moment — redirecting our spiraling thoughts or feelings of panic. Recognizing the signs of escalating anxiety is a critical first step. Use aromatherapy or focus on the sensations of your body against the bed to bring your attention back to the present moment.
  • Establish a soothing evening routine. Our brains thrive on consistency. Regular patterns of behavior can signal to your brain that it's time to wind down and relax, reducing the intensity of anxiety and the impulse to drink.

Remember, therapists and other mental health professionals are equipped with evidence-based techniques to help us navigate anxiety and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

A New Dawn

We are not helpless to our brain's quirks or our nighttime habits. As we understand our evening anxiety more deeply, we can deploy strategies to manage our feelings and rewrite our self-talk.

However, if your nighttime anxiety impacts your ability to function every day, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional.

With commitment and patience, we can welcome the night, not with dread, but with tranquility.

Move Into Joy and Reclaim Your Health With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet hundreds of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

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And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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