When Anxiety Keeps You Awake, Relax Instead of Worry

June 20, 2018 TJ DeSalvo

When anxiety keeps you awake, it can feel impossible to relax, but that's what you should do. Learn five ways to relax when anxiety keeps you awake at night.

It makes for rough nights and days when anxiety keeps you awake. It happens to me all too often. I work full time. I ride my bike to and from work every day. Theoretically, I should fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow, but I don’t -- racing thoughts and a restless heart, more often than not, make that impossible. Instead of letting every sleepless night snowball into catastrophe, I’ve learned how to turn them into something more manageable. Here are some of the things that have helped me the most when anxiety keeps me awake.

What to Do When Anxiety Keeps You Awake

1. Don’t blame yourself for your anxiety.

This is the most important piece of advice I can give and the one that takes the longest to come to terms with (I still struggle with it on occasion). It’s very common for me to frame my anxiety as some kind of character flaw. That self-blaming mindset causes me to beat myself up, making it even harder to get a peaceful night’s sleep.

The causes of anxiety are manifold and regardless of where yours comes from, the truth remains: anxiety is not a stain on your moral character, it’s simply a part of life. Framing it in this way allows you to approach it in a healthier way (Five Character Strengths of People Living with Anxiety).

2. Don’t try to fall asleep.

Once you’ve stopped seeing anxiety as an enemy, you can get to work on actually dealing with your lack of sleep. The best strategy I’ve found is to not actually try and fall asleep. I know it seems counterproductive, but focusing so intently on sleeping will just cause your mind to race more, further exacerbating the problem.

Instead, just lie in bed, close your eyes, and relax. If you fall asleep, great – if not, you’re still relaxing.

3. Put on your favorite music.

The therapeutic effects of music have been known to us since ancient times. Indeed, in my experience, music makes any situation better, no matter how distressing.

Make a point to put on a song or album that you love unconditionally. This is for two reasons: it gives your mind something to focus on besides sleep, and it will help your mind associate being awake with something positive.

4. Write in a journal.

Take whatever anxious thoughts are in your mind and commit them to paper. Writing is naturally cathartic – in the process of journaling your anxieties, you are banishing negative thoughts from your mind.

5. Call a doctor, if necessary.

If you’re concerned that your lack of sleep is symptomatic of something more serious, seek help immediately. Much like having anxiety in general, seeking help is not a stain on your character – it is the most important step you can take on the road to becoming healthy.

APA Reference
DeSalvo, T. (2018, June 20). When Anxiety Keeps You Awake, Relax Instead of Worry, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: TJ DeSalvo

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