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Shut Down Your Sleep Anxiety

Updated: May 18, 2022

You are not crazy!!! Sleep anxiety does exist.

Maybe you know the feeling. Sometimes your body wants to go to sleep but your mind is still fully engaged in yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Perhaps you can't drop your to-do list, a conversation that happened or didn't happen is driving you nuts, or you are afraid of what's going to happen in the real world if you drift off to sleep.

Nightmare on Elm Street has become somewhat of a reality because going to bed has become something scary. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, at least 50% of adults have reported that they barely get sleep due to their anxiety.

I can tell you from personal experience what mine looks like:

  • Feeling like I have minimal muscle control and will literally lose consciousness

  • Concern over home invasion or overnight fire so I sometimes stay up later to "keep watch"

  • Chestpain or gastrointestinal bloating due to late meals (work schedule) that I have to remind myself aren't heart-attacks.

  • Shortness of breath or the feeling of not enough oxygen in the room

  • Fears of passing away and leaving my toddler in the house alone

...and these are just a few examples of how psycho I sometimes feel!


As with other types of anxiety, sleep anxiety can be triggered by many things. Sometimes it can be triggered by actual health conditions that produce true symptoms and worry. It can also be caused by the stress of deadlines or imbalance in brain chemistry. Some researchers even suggest the late night information overload can be a trigger.

In truth there is no direct or conclusive discovery of why some people are more prone to signs of anxiety than others. Also some people experience it more severely. Some of us are much more functional with coping than others.

When I get my sleep anxiety, I often have to do things that focus my mind on other things, depending on which stressor is taking over:

When I feel like it's something I ate and I'm going to have a heart-attack or it's just going to stop, I do a few minutes of exercise. What better way to keep the heart going than to make it do stuff🤣? Crank, anyone? The exercise is light, such as stretching or floor work.

When it is a fear that something bad is going to happen I start mentally making plans for things I need to accomplish in the near future or I listen to a motivational speech while I try drifting off.

Sometimes I say prayers and use positive self-talk. Sometimes I just go and get a drink of water and change my sleep position. Sometimes my body starts going limp and I know I'm just tired and I let go.

I think most of my anxiety is triggered by past events and personal expectation. It is also triggered when I am going through multiple life changes.


It is easy to feel that we are running out of time when people are constantly walking around saying "life is short, etc" which is one of the phrases I hate the most. I hate hearing it. It doesn't make things enjoyable to me.

When I'm dealing with my anxiety, whether during the day or at night, for me it is always a reminder to SLOW EVERYTHING DOWN. Life is so rush-rush and there is always something that needs fixed. Fortunately I know when my anxiety is anxiety and I don't allow it to debilitate me.

If you find yourself constantly having sleep anxiety to where it has turned into sleep apnea or even as far as nocturnal panic attacks (panic attacks while sleep), there is help for you.

You should first see your doctor (or a quality doctor that you have access to) that can help you rule out any physical reasons that you should be worried.

Next, you can begin to monitor what type of insomnia you are having due to your anxiety or stress. The American Institute of Stress describes for us five different types of insomnia that can affect our energy levels, day time productivity, and moods:

  • Acute Insomnia - brief episodes of insomnia as result of a traumatic event that does not require treatment

  • Chronic Insomnia - Insomnia for a period of three months or more in which several nights per week there is difficulty falling asleep.

  • Onset Insomnia - The consistent obstacle of falling asleep at the beginning of the sleep cycle

  • Maintenance Insomnia - The pattern of being unable to stay asleep through the full cycle. This usually is the result of falling asleep and being awakened without the ability to return to sleeping.

  • Comorbid Insomnia - Troubles sleeping alongside struggles with other physical or psychiatric medical conditions.