mental health

Nighttime emotional upset: why do I feel anxious at night?

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The night can become very dark in those moments of vital torment. In this article, we look at why and what we can do to ease or improve our nighttime routine.

Nighttime emotional upset: why do I feel anxious at night?

The night is feared when it goes through a stage of emotional discomfort. Both the need to rest and the imposition of 8 hours of rest hammer us when we cannot fall asleep. Other times, despite reconciling it, it is not restorative, which adds to the emotional maelstrom of the day-to-day.

It may happen that, in the midst of our despair, anguish and hopelessness appear. This causes our nocturnal emotional metabolism to be altered and, therefore, fatigue is added to the problems we are experiencing.

There are times of the day when we are most vulnerable and, undoubtedly, the night is one of the most common for various reasons. Let’s see why and what are effects this has on our health.

Why do emotional distress and anxiety intensify at night?

The truth is that the night has a series of distinctive characteristics that can promote different psychological states depending on the predisposition of a person. On the one hand, the decrease in external stimuli at all sensory and social levels can lead us to focus on various bodily sensations. This is the reason why pain, muscle tension, tachycardia, or thoughts are interpreted in a more dysfunctional way at night.

For example, due to lack of external stimulation, people with tinnitus or ringing in the ears are accused more in the dead of night. To alleviate this effect, it is usually recommended that the person lives with relaxing music at a low volume since this will decrease the intensity of the tinnitus and help them to fall asleep and overcome the discomfort that it produces.

On the other hand, we must also indicate the importance of our interpretation of nocturnal emotional distress. Since the night is the socially and biologically reserved space for rest, not being able to do so leads us to anticipate enormous discomfort.

Likewise, the silence of the night and the lack of activity can lead us to enter our minds and overthink what worries us or that concerns us. Being a period of time in which we cannot execute a solution, if we find it in our rumination, thinking will undoubtedly lead us to a path full of uncertainty.

In this way, giving a lot of minds turns to something that usually entangles us in a spiral of suffering in which we end up analyzing mental reality too much and creating scenarios that may have little to do with what happens.

Disrupted sleep as a cause and consequence of anxiety at night

Many times our sleep is constantly interrupted by waves of discomfort, anxiety, or frequent awakenings. This trend is extremely damaging. In fact, studies such as the one carried out at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, show that interrupting sleep is very dangerous for our mood since the phases of sleep are also altered.

Slow brain waves have been shown to decrease in sleep disruption. This has been associated in the scientific literature with mood disorders.

Let us not forget that, for adequate mental and physical recycling to take place, our regulation system has to complete a series of sleep cycles, going through REM and Non-REM phases on several occasions. The fact that this is altered, puts our mind in a kind of loop. We don’t sleep well because we feel bad and we feel emotionally drained because we don’t sleep well.

What’s behind nighttime emotional distress?

Usually, when we analyze why a person feels anxiety at night, we find emotional discomfort that has not been managed. Dreams are precisely mental elaborations that are generated with the aim of digesting or recycling what our psyche has experienced during the day.

Sometimes dreams are clothed in memories, events, or fears, but what is clear is that they are the attempt of our mind to reposition while we sleep what we have not consciously organized during the day.

If what we have to filter, digest or elaborate has a great emotional charge, this nocturnal mental task will be much heavier and indigestible. Therefore, our rest will be altered, being the cost of this sleeping later or waking up earlier, that our sleep is constantly interrupted, that there are nightmares, night terrors, or repeated dreams, etc.

This has a devastating effect on our psychological state, complicating the management of daily challenges and fear of what will happen at night. This fear induces the appearance of thoughts from which we build catastrophic realities full of negative mental and physical sensations.

It should be borne in mind that in some cases it will be important to request psychological help from a mental health professional to help us develop and manage what we are experiencing.

Keys to reducing emotional distress at night and regain a good sleep routine

To break this loop, it is essential that we know that reconciling with the night and sleeping is a process that requires us to evaluate what are the factors that affect us. Also, other considerations to take into account are the following:

  • Dismissing worries and resolving what is possible during the day is crucial to speed up emotional digestion at night and ward off the appearance of anxiety at night.
  • Regulate the hours dedicated to physical activity. Both too much and too little activity can affect sleep.
  • Periods of physical activity should move away from bedtime so as not to have to deal with physiological overexcitation. Likewise, we must bear in mind that the use of technological devices at night interferes with sleep.
  • Maintain adequate temperature, hygiene and ventilation in our rest area , which should only be used for sleeping or having sexual intercourse.
  • Identify which stimuli alter us the most and try to reduce their effect.
  • Maintain regular meal and rest hours.
  • Perform compensatory activities that allow us to reduce the physiological activation of emotion. For example, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, or mindfulness .
  • Finally and most importantly, keep in mind that sleep will come and that there are many tools that can be acquired to regulate it. Based on this, it is about exploring what can be improved and what we need.

Sleep and rest are mechanisms in the body that allow us to regulate our physical and mental systems. Let’s say it’s a reboot that helps get everything working again. For this reason, daytime emotional material that we do not review can appear in the form of nighttime torment.

Let’s not forget that taking problems to bed has devastating effects, so it is essential that we give ourselves the option of psychologically managing what we need.

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