Stop Anxiety From Keeping You Awake

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

When you lay your head on the pillow, do thoughts start racing in your head? Going over worst-case scenarios or thinking stressful thoughts is more than just an annoying habit. It can develop into a nightly pattern that leaves you physically and emotionally exhausted. If anxiety is keeping you up at night, here’s what you can do.

Change your approach

Anxiety is the exact opposite of the feeling you need to fall asleep. Instead of battling monsters in your head, shift your focus to be on the offense before sleep. Start by believing that you have the power to change how you respond to anxious thoughts.

Leave your bed

When you are feeling anxious, get out of bed. Don’t lie there thinking about it. This can subconsciously make you associate bed with being awake. If you have been in bed for more than 20 minutes and are still feeling anxious, go into a different room.

Identify the worry

When the anxious thoughts come, identify them. Label what it is that you are worried about. Perhaps it’s about a problem with the family, at work, or your health. Or maybe you’re worrying about everything, creating a jumble in your mind. Whatever it is, the first step to reducing anxiety is identifying the root of the worry.

Do something tangible

Once you’ve identified what is bothering you, do something tangible such as putting your worries on paper. Dumping all of your thoughts and feelings on paper helps empty your mind, instead of hanging on to every thought. You can either throw the paper away, or set it aside until later. This simple act, though, can free the mind of anxiety, at least for the night.


If you are still unable to sleep, get your mind focused elsewhere. One good option is to read a story from your favorite genre. Do not read from your laptop or other device, as the light can keep your brain awake. Use a table lamp or book light as your light source. Using an actual book that requires you to turn pages can also be very soothing.

Seek help

If the above steps do not help you calm your anxiety, seek the help of a professional for advice or therapy. Anxiety is not something to hide or be ashamed of--it is common and treatable.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.