Do you ever long to get into bed for a great night’s sleep—but when you finally slip between the sheets your mind begins reviewing all your worries?
Nighttime anxiety is a painful reality for many. When we start to relax and the distractions of the day fade away, our brains, which are self-protection experts, may begin focusing on things they perceive as potential threats to our survival.
The intensity of nighttime anxiety and the reasons why we experience it vary from person to person. Because humans are complex systems, we benefit by considering multiple factors as we come up with solutions. We do well to look at elements within our physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, environmental, and social lives to see where we might make changes that may minimize our symptoms and optimize our well-being.
For some people, nighttime anxiety is situational and temporary. These are people already taking most of these steps to limit anxiety: talking with a therapist or wise friend; limiting sugar, caffeine, and processed food; getting good nutrition and exercise; spending time out in the sun and nature; and using a guided meditation app such as Relax Melodies. Sleep Sounds might be a good start to soothe the mind.
People with a variety of anxiety and sleep challenges may also consider some sleep supplements like magnesium glycinate, B6, and melatonin. (This is not medical advice. Consult with a nutritionally informed healthcare provider if you have a health condition or are taking medications.)
Others who struggle with nighttime anxiety may have some genetic variants at play. One example is GAD gene variants that can result in anxiety, insomnia, pain, and brain fog if people who have them eat too many foods high in free glutamic acid.
Fortunately, we aren’t doomed by our genetics, and lifestyle modifications can alter the ways genes behave. A good lifestyle hack for these people may be to reduce foods high in free glutamate such as wheat, grains, soy, and foods with MSG. Magnesium glycinate can also be helpful in this situation.
This genetic issue can affect children as well as adults. One can find out more about this issue by visiting the website Unblindmymind.org which educates about a whole foods approach to reducing inflammatory and excitatory neurotransmitter issues that many people experience.
For many of us, unresolved traumas contribute to nighttime anxiety. Trauma has a way of training the nervous system to be hypervigilant as a self-protective coping strategy. When we get still, we find ourselves experiencing relaxation-induced anxiety because our system thinks we are vulnerable when we relax. This is a very real phenomenon for those of us who had childhood trauma or PTSD.
Finding a trauma-informed counselor or coach is a good idea in these cases. There are now many coaches, therapists, and self-care resources available online.
Another effective skill for those with trauma-related anxiety is to use biofeedback to help the system learn to achieve and maintain a state of alert calm. Check out the website Heartmath.com to learn more about evidence-based biofeedback and meditations that help the nervous system become more resilient to stress and more able to deeply enter states of rest.
For more information on how to equip yourself to become more resilient, healthy, and happy, visit NeuroSource.net.
Lee Ann Foster is a Master’s level psychologist/neurotherapist, Epigenetics Wellness Coach, certified HeartMath coach, PSYCH-K Facilitator, and Frequency Specific Microcurrent provider offering well-rounded, holistic, and evidence-based services. She and Dr. Dale Foster own the integrative neuropsychology practice, NeuroSource, LLC.