• Dayna Sharp, LCSW

Insomnia and Anxiety

There are many possible causes for sleep disturbances, and first priority is to follow up with a medical professional. But the next step is to consider the relationship between Insomnia and Too Much Anxiety. Some people may have trouble sleeping because they struggle with anxiety. Others may develop anxiety due to lack of sleep. Many people have both: the more they miss sleep, the more anxious they become, the more anxiety they feel, the more sleep they miss. It can be a cycle that feels impossible to break. But it's not!


How Anxiety Looks Different at Nighttime


It's possible that during the day you're less aware of the Anxiety--maybe you are busy, you're around other people, the Anxiety might be focused on a task you have to complete. You're on the move and you can kind of block it out or push it down or even use it to get things done. But then, it's time to go to sleep. It's dark--there are no more visual distractions. It's quiet--there's nothing to center your attention on. You're lying still--there's no escaping the anxious sensations in your body by moving from place to place. There is nothing but thoughts--likely anxious thoughts. And that alone is enough to make you feel even more anxious! Which doesn't leave you in a good place to find the restorative, peaceful sleep that you need.


It can be easier to manage Too Much Anxiety through the day's distractions, but at night time, when it's quiet and dark--there is no longer a distraction or escape.

You might find yourself seeking solace through falling asleep with the tv on, having a drink of alcohol or taking sleep medications to help avoid the experience all together. But unfortunately, these "solutions" can make the problem even worse! The truth is, there is no escaping Too Much Anxiety. The only way out of the cycle is to go through it.


But "Going Through It" Sounds Terrible!


Hear that? It's your Anxiety talking. Anxiety is like the wizard behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. It seems all-powerful, but in reality, it's just another voice. (And the power to go home is within you the whole time!). Acknowledge the anxious thought. And then let it pass by like a cloud. Now, here's some tips to go through the Anxiety.


  • Set up your sleep environment for success. Read my blog post "Restoring Peace in Your Sleep".

  • As you notice anxious thoughts entering your mind, try to intentionally stop them. Let your Anxiety know that you hear it, but now isn't the time. If it's helpful, set a time when it is appropriate to review the thoughts in a problem-solving way--perhaps first thing in the morning, ie. creating a task list, etc.

  • Re-center your attention on something soothing. Perhaps its light meditation music, maybe it's aromatherapy, maybe you do a guided meditation for relaxation.

  • If you feel uncomfortable sensations in your body, notice them, name them. They are uncomfortable, but they will not harm you.

  • Notice where the sensations are located in your body. Imagine if they have a certain color. For example, many people might associate the color red with an anxious stomach.

  • Imagine a peaceful color (glittery gold, light blue, peace) flowing through your head down through your body, gently pushing the flow of your anxious color out of your body through your palms and feet.

  • Once the red is gone, continue to imagine your peaceful color flowing through your body. Try to see if the color can make you float.


Are you still awake?


If that didn't help, take a break, walk around outside of your bedroom, flip through a boring magazine, and try again. At the very least, instead of feeling frustrated and upset, your experience of being in bed might now feel appealing and relaxing. But chances are, you will get to sleep. And it will get better and better the more you practice!


If you'd like to learn more practices to help break the cycle of Insomnia and Anxiety, call Creating Space Counseling and Wellness today for an appointment! 856-281-1664