You’ve been here too many times before. Lying awake staring at the ceiling. You scroll on Instagram and make to-do lists in the dead of night because your brain won’t run a million miles a minute. Anxiety has kept you up late at night for years now. Or, ever since the intense stress of the pandemic, your sleep has never been worse. Whether you have an anxiety disorder or are experiencing heightened anxiety during this season of life, it’s likely affected your sleep.
Problems Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep
Many folks with anxiety, especially women, have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. And this can be for many reasons. Anxiety causes you to feel on-edge, restless, and tense. And, it is also accompanied by physical sensations. You may experience an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, or GI problems.
Nighttime is when we are meant to slow down and get our brains and bodies prepared for rest. Yet, when you work a fast-paced job or have kids running around all day, the quiet of night can be anxiety-inducing. This is the time dedicated to rest. But, when you have anxiety, nighttime can cause all the worries of your mental load to come up. You don’t have as many distractions to keep you from the exhausting “what ifs” and to-dos of tomorrow. So, as you’re doing your chores, washing your face, or brushing your teeth, you may feel your mind turning, and your heart rate increasing. Somehow, the quiet of night means the onset of a chattery mind.
So you finally get your nightly tidying up finished, do your bedtime routine, and now you’re cozy in bed. You know you should put the phone down and turn Netflix off… but you can’t. This is the only time you’ve had for yourself all day. It feels so good to not have to respond to anyone or tend to anyone’s needs. Even if it means sacrificing your energy for tomorrow. You tell yourself “ugh, I can’t believe I stayed up this late again.” But, you know that the same pattern will likely ensure tomorrow.
This pattern is revenge bedtime procrastination. It’s a recent discovery in the world of sleep and mental health. Often, women who engage in this pattern feel that they have no control throughout their day. They are always jam-packed full of errands, appointments, chauffeuring kids, and making meals. Oh and if you work too… WHEW! Today’s demands of women, single, partnered, and parents, are immense.
When you’re held to high expectations every day, the time you have for yourself is so precious. It’s called revenge bedtime procrastination because while you know you shouldn’t be doing it, you can’t help yourself. In short, you’re getting revenge or a sense of satisfaction, by engaging in this behavior. This is because the demands of your day take so much from you. Your ability to be present for yourself has been leveraged. Thus, you’re left feeling guilty when you set boundaries or don’t overextend yourself. You feel like it’s wrong to take time for yourself. So, when the day is finally over and the quiet of night creeps in, you can finally be alone.
How Anxiety Plays a Part
If you struggle with revenge bedtime procrastination, anxiety is likely playing a part. You finally have time for your mind to quiet down. Anxiety sees that as a perfect opportunity to wreak havoc on your peace. So you start playing through the scenarios of the day, analyzing each conversation. Or feelings of fear and worry come up as you try to plan for days, weeks, or months ahead. These thoughts and feelings become overwhelming. Thus, anxiety causes you to turn to distractions.
The wheels won’t stop turning in your mind. You know the only “helpful” thing is to do some research online, text a friend, or numb out binge-watching Hulu. But before you know it, it’s already 3 AM, and you’re dreading hearing that alarm in three short hours.
This cycle is draining and more harmful than helpful. You wake up groggy and feel like you’re a zombie throughout the day. But when you have no time in the day for yourself, bedtime is often the only place where you feel you can compromise. As women, we often feel that making a sacrifice ourselves is fine, as long as we can still support those who rely on us. But, the reality is that you deserve a good night’s rest. You deserve to have time for yourself during the day so that you can get that quality sleep.
Tips for Better Sleep When You’re Struggling with Anxiety
We know that revenge bedtime procrastination is a hard cycle to put a stop to. But, we have some tips that we encourage you to try out to get the rest you need.
Nowadays, there are so many apps to help with mental health, stress, and related topics. One suggestion we offer is to download a bedtime relaxation app. Some examples are Headspace and Calm. These apps have meditations that can help you drift off into sleep and away from the worries of the day. When you’re not used to shutting off your anxiety at night, starting with an app like this can be challenging. It’s going to take some getting used to. But if you stick with it and try, it can make a huge difference in your ability to turn off the thoughts and drift to sleep.
Breathing exercises can be helpful for folks struggling with anxiety and sleep issues. Have a go-to breathing exercise to practice throughout the day, even when you’re not anxious. This can help your body regulate itself. When you are sensing anxiety creep up, using the same exercise can tell your body “oh yeah, I’ve done this before, so I can do it again.” Try this breathing exercise. Inhale in for four counts, hold it for four counts, then exhale for four counts. Try implementing this into two parts of your day. Then, when you get to bedtime and feel anxiety rushing back, try it again. It’ll feel more familiar to your brain and body. This will likely help you be able to breathe through the anxiety.
Yes, this is a common tip for those who struggle with sleep. But it’s common because it’s so helpful! If you struggle with revenge bedtime procrastination, you likely find those little tasks you can do to make tomorrow easier. “Let me do the dishes tonight,” or “let me send this email real fast” turns into an unintended all-out cleaning spree. Or, a deep dive on Facebook. Setting up your night for a specific series of events for bedtime can help quiet anxiety. This can also curb the impulsivity to “help yourself” at night and save tomorrow’s tasks for tomorrow.
Anxiety Treatment in Orange County, CA Can Help
While these tips are a good place to start, we want you to know that there are other options available. You deserve to get a good night’s rest. Our practice has helped many women establish healthy bedtime routines. They’ve escaped the cycle of revenge bedtime procrastination and finally get some rest. Our skilled anxiety therapists have the tools and experience to help you manage anxiety.
Begin Anxiety Treatment in Orange County, CA
You don’t have to struggle through any more sleepless nights. Our caring therapists would be honored to support you in overcoming anxiety and getting a better night’s rest. We offer support from our Orange County, CA-based therapy practice. To start your therapy journey, follow these simple steps:
Other Services Offered at Moxie Family Therapy
Anxiety treatment isn’t the only service Moxie family therapy offers. Our Orange County, CA-based therapy practice also offers counseling for young adults, counseling for college students, counseling for teen girls, counseling for children, play therapy, art therapy, and family therapy. Contact our practice to learn more about how we can help you reclaim your moxie!