Why Do I Keep Waking Up With Anxiety, And How Can I Sleep Well Every Night?

Reviewed by Rashonda Douthit, LCSW

Published 01/08/2021

If you ever find yourself waking up with anxiety, this by itself is not necessarily a cause for concern. However, if this continues to happen and affects not only your sleeping but your routine, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder or another type of mental condition. Here’s a look at what it might mean when you wake up with anxiety and what you can do about it.

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Why Do I Keep Waking Up With Anxiety?

Many people may experience morning anxiety from time to time. Perhaps you remembered that you have a stressful day at work ahead of you or have many tasks to complete on a certain day. There may be something else that is looming, and you are concerned about it. Any of these things can cause anxiety, especially if they are the first things you think about when you wake up in the morning. Consider if you are worrying before bed, as this may continue when you wake up. If this only happens to you every now and then, this is fine. However, if you wake up with anxiety more often than not, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Dreams

An anxiety dream occurs when a dream causes you to have anxiety, which continues after the dream is over. Bad dreams may be the cause of your morning anxiety. In some cases, this is due to stress or fear in your life, or you may just be experiencing a nightmare for another reason. Either way, if you have many anxiety dreams each month, this could mean that you might need to pay attention to them. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology published a study that states that anxiety dreams or nightmares were found to be caused mainly due to stress, worry, and sleeping too many hours at a time. Addressing these things may go a long way in lessening the number of anxiety dreams that you have. Again, at times, these dreams may be caused by an anxiety disorder as well.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD is a disorder that causes you to have anxiety, even when there is seemingly no reason to worry about something. People that experience GAD are worried quite often, and it affects the way they live their lives.

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Symptoms Of GAD

  • Irritability
  • Pains in the body, when there are no physical ailments.
  • Unable to relax
  • Unable to stop feeling uneasy
  • Constant worrying
  • Fatigue
  • Issues with concentration

When a person has GAD, they are often concerned about many aspects of their lives, including their job, financial status, health, children, and more. There is no definitive cause for GAD, and it is important to note that the severity of the symptoms can change from time to time. However, they will rarely go away completely unless the disorder is treated properly.

Treatments

There are a couple of treatments that are recommended when it comes to GAD. One is psychotherapy, which can be utilized for a number of different mental issues. It involves talking to a licensed mental health professional, who will offer you different strategies to handle stress, anxiety, and perhaps think differently about your life. There is evidence to support that cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is a technique that a mental health professional may utilize to treat GAD, can not only be beneficial in treating GAD but also when it comes to limiting bad dreams or anxiety dreams. The article in Behavioral Sleep Medicine focused on older adults, but it may also be valuable for younger adults.

Another technique that doctors may use for treating GAD is medication. You can talk to your mental health professional or a doctor for more information on what prescriptions are available and how they can help you.

If you suspect that you have an anxiety issue, you might want to take a test to see if you need to seek help. Take a look at this anxiety test to start.

Limiting Stress

You should always do what you can to limit stress, help you sleep better, and minimize your anxiety. Keeping stress levels low can be difficult, but is an important factor in improving sleep. Try to get everything done that you can well before you intend to sleep or make a list of what you need to get done, so you don’t have to worry about it later.

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Another thing that may help is taking time to relax or doing something for yourself. When you feel stressed, consider taking a hot bath or going for a walk with your dog. You may need to take some time out for yourself and stop focusing on everything you must get done.

You may also want to consider delegating work or tasks to others. You can delegate certain tasks to other people, when applicable. Keep in mind that you don’t always have to do everything yourself. When other people can help you, sharing the work can come in handy. If it isn’t possible, you can work through your task list in small sections, so you will be less likely to become overwhelmed. Getting through your list or meeting your goals for the day can help you sleep better since you can feel like you accomplished something or worked hard on a given day.

How To Sleep Well At Night

In addition to getting the mental health support you need, there are a few other ways that you can learn to sleep better, where you can hopefully be free of nightmares. Here is a look at some of these techniques.

  1. Do Your Best To Get Up

    Since there is information that suggests that sleeping too much can cause nightmares, get up earlier when you can. This may be easier to do on weekends, even though you might want to sleep in the afternoon. Instead, get up and do something else you like to do or just relax. This can not only help you prevent anxiety dreams, but it may also allow you to be able to sleep when night rolls around again.
  2. Sleep In The Dark

    When it is time to go to sleep, do your best to sleep in darkness. If the television is on or there are other lights in the room, this may disrupt your sleep cycle and cause you to get poor sleep overall. If you need a nightlight, be sure that it isn’t shining in your face while trying to rest.
  3. Consult A Doctor

    Visit a doctor to ensure that there is no physical ailment that you are experiencing. For instance, if you have something like sleep apnea, this may cause a few problems for you while you are asleep, contributing to anxiety when you wake up.
  4. Get Sunlight

    Even though you might not think about experiencing sunlight, it is a good thing. Go stand in the sun for a few minutes each day. This is a good way to let your body know what time of day it is.
  5. Excercise

    Exercising can help you sleep at night, as long as you don’t exercise at night. When you can, an exercise in daylight hours. This may lead you to sleep well when going to bed.
  6. Focus On Something Else

    When your mind makes you feel like you want to start worrying, do what you can to think about something else instead. For example, you can think about something you like to do or how you want to spend your vacation. In other words, focus on something that makes you feel better and doesn’t cause you to worry.

  7. Don’t Drink Or Eat Right Before Going To Sleep

    When you drink or eat right before you sleep, it may cause you to have to get up and go to the bathroom, interrupting your sleeping, or give you a stomachache that might lead to a bad dream. You can still eat a snack before bed when you need to. Just be sure that you do not eat it right before you intend to go to sleep.

Outlook

When you find yourself having anxiety when you wake up, many things can be done. This is not something you have to put up with, considering there is so much help available to you. Instead, you can reach out to a mental health professional to see if psychotherapy will be able to improve your sleeping and prevent you from experiencing frequent anxiety.

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You can also do everything you can to manage your stress level since this could be a major factor in your morning anxiety. Finally, you can work on your sleeping habits to get better sleep, which may limit anxious feelings upon waking. It is worthwhile to take your time to try everything you can, so you’ll be able to sleep well at night and feel better when you wake up. Be sure that you reach out for support when you feel like you need it.

CONCLUSION

You can reduce the symptoms of your anxiety and become calmer, less worried, and less tense. But first, it may be helpful to determine how severe your anxiety is. You can take an anxiety test online in just a few minutes and get an immediate answer to this question.