Is Anxiety Keeping You Up at Night? How to Get Good Sleep

by Anne Windermere Patient Advocate

There is nothing like a good night's sleep. But when you suffer from anxiety, a good night's sleep may be a difficult to achieve. Anxiety is like a constant but unwanted companion who repeatedly pokes you as you try to fall asleep.

Anxiety: "Hey you can't sleep. There is all this stuff you need to worry about."

You: "I don't want to listen to you. I just want to go to sleep."

Anxiety: "No you need to stay up with me. Let me turn on the worry machine so we can get this party started!"

You: "Leave me alone. I need my sleep!"

Anxiety: "Do I need to go to panic attack mode? This is a warning!"

You: "Okay I am up! You win!"

If you have had such nighttime battles with your anxiety, you are not alone. People who suffer from anxiety or mood disorders often find that sleep disturbance is one of their major symptoms. You may have trouble falling asleep and even if you do get to sleep, you may have trouble staying asleep. It can be a vicious cycle as the more you lack sleep, the less able you will be able to cope with your anxiety. The less able you are able to cope with your anxiety, the less able you will be able to sleep. Where does it end?

I suffer from both anxiety and sleep problems, so I know how the combination of these conditions can disrupt your mood, how you function, and generally make life miserable for you. I am going to give you some tips and suggestions for how to remedy the situation so that you are sleeping better through the night. You have to realize though, that any of these suggestions may or may not work for you. Everybody is different, and there is no magic solution to sleep problems. You simply have to keep trying different methods until you find the right one for you.

How to get a good night's sleep

  • If you are having sleep problems you want to discuss these with your general practitioner to rule out any medical issues which may be causing your sleep disturbance. In my case I discovered that I have restless leg syndrome, which is a neurologic sensorimotor disorder that is characterized by an overwhelming urge to move the legs when they are at rest. The feelings which accompany this disorder are unpleasant. Restless leg syndrome usually starts up right as I am drifting off to sleep. There are other medical causes for sleep problems, including things like sleep apnea or narcolepsy. You want to talk to your doctor to make sure you do not have a medical underlying cause for your sleep issues.

  • In addition to talking to your regular doctor, you may also want to discuss your sleep problems with your psychiatrist or therapist. If anxiety is the cause then it makes good common sense to treat your anxiety. There are many ways to treat anxiety, including talk therapy and anti-anxiety medications, many of which help with sleep problems.

  • You may want to look into sleep supplements. Melatonin has consistently worked for me. You can buy this natural supplement at any health food store. This supplement has been extensively researched and a 2005 analysis of 17 melatonin studies found that melatonin significantly reduced the time to fall asleep (sleep onset) and the time spent asleep (sleep duration). It doesn't work for everyone but it might be worth a try. As with any new supplement you decide to use, always ask your doctor if it is safe for you to use especially if you take other supplements or medications.

  • Write your worries down. I keep a small notebook beside my bed as a sort of worry journal. I find that seeing my worries in print helps me to find logical solutions to any problems I am facing. The act of writing down my worries also slows my mind down and stops it from racing. In time I find I am relaxed enough to fall asleep.

  • Drinking tea may help some people to relax and fall asleep more quickly. Chamomile tea is frequently described as being able to relieve anxiety and induce sleep. Other teas which may help you fall asleep include jasmine, peppermint, and lemon balm.

  • Some people find that certain sounds can help them to relax and fall asleep. For example, the sound of a fan is relaxing to some. If relaxing music is more your style, you can find stations on the internet like this one of music to fall asleep to. If nature sounds float your boat there are plenty of sleep-inducing nature sounds to be found such as the sound of falling rain or windchimes.

Anne Windermere
Meet Our Writer
Anne Windermere

These articles were written by a longtime HealthCentral community member who shared valuable insights from her experience living with multiple chronic health conditions. She used the pen name "Merely Me."