Anxiety and nocturnal depressionIllustration: Alexandra Walter
Evening comes, the day draws to a close and we begin to perceive our emotions with different shades. There is an exact moment when our emotional control gives way to anxiety and fear , all worries seem to intensify at night.
L ‘ nocturnal anxiety is certainly your prerogative. There are many people who experience anxiety spikes (but also depressive symptoms ) at night.
The causes of nighttime anxiety should be investigated during the day. A serene mind is also at night: if you suffer from night anxiety you would do well to look inside yourself, this symptom is trying to communicate something to you.
Night anxiety tends to intensify in particularly stressful periods. The current pandemic, financial stress, concern for one’s own health and loved ones … are all factors that increase our stress levels. Stress, if not managed in an adaptive way, is destined to turn into anxiety or psychosomatic symptoms (heartburn, headache, knee pain, heavy legs, whistling ears …).
Other causes underlying nocturnal anxiety are: unresolved conflicts , fears of abandonment, fear of loneliness, fear of failure … each of us carries an invaluable emotional load and the causes should be investigated specifically.
Anyone wondering how to calm anxiety should ask themselves a priority about their level of awareness. When we worry, we generally do it for a tangible, easy to spot reason. With anxiety , however, unconsciousness reigns and so we end up incurring in some bias (cognitive errors) and we end up perceiving ourselves without hope .
Anxiety and depression at night: why do they intensify at night?
Suddenly our mind falls into anguish. The problems could be solved during the day , at night seem insurmountable. To aggravate everything there are objective limitations (for example, not being able to solve a problem immediately, waiting for the acquisition of a resource, difficulty in moving …). Why does it happen at night? Trivially, because we are not very lucid.
According to Freud, the symptoms would amplify during the night because the ego and the super-ego (instances of the conscious, characterized by strong vigilance) leave room for the unconscious (ancestral, fragile and defenseless). Furthermore, on an unconscious level there would be an analogy between the dark and our primordial fears (such as the unknown, death and metaphorically separation … that’s why anxiety and especially nocturnal sadness are related to intolerance to solitude ) . This association would lead us to amplify any small uncertainty.
Freudian theories aside, it is also true that there are less distractions at night. The night is the only real moment when everything stops and we are forced to be alone with ourselves and this, in some critical periods, can be frightening.
The mere awareness that others are asleep can trigger a sense of isolation and cause anxiety and nighttime depression . Being “alone with oneself” can be something unbearable for those suffering from abandonment syndrome, borderline personality disorder, or for those who have recently lost a loved one, for those who have not fully worked out a separation … As stated, the causes are manifold and should be investigated in a specific case.
How to relieve night anxiety
If during the day it is possible to seek reassurance from a friend and ask for comfort from a loved one, at night it is necessary to learn to reassure oneself .
The ‘ self-consolation is a practice that can be useful in many contexts of life and not only to counter anxiety and depression. A psychological support (delivered by a professional) may be the right solution to overcome crisis of anxiety or nocturnal anxiety.
The decision to embark on a psychoanalytic or psychotherapeutic path is not simple and while you take your time to mature it, you can follow these simple tips. These measures will probably not solve your anxiety or nighttime depression problems in the short term but in the long run they can help you improve the quality of your life.
The sleep routine
There is an invisible thread that connects emotional regulation and sleep disturbances. This interconnection should be sought in our childhood: the neural areas that regulate our emotional sphere are interconnected with those that regulate sleep and … we do not come into the world with an already defined sleep-wake cycle but we learn it from our parents. Such learning occurs just as our nervous system develops! Each parent should teach their child a stable sleep routine or better, a “pre-bed time”.
The period prior to falling asleep should be characterized by predisposing activities: putting the last used objects in order, taking a bath, brushing your teeth, putting your pajamas on … Day after day, having a pre-sleep routine helps our body (and our mind) to recognize the time to sleep. Basically, we get ready for sleep and get to bed more relaxed .
Trying to go to bed and wake up at the same time, establish a pre-sleep routine, are simple practices that pay off in the long run. Those who can learn them from childhood are undoubtedly lucky!
Breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, visualization techniques, mindfulness … are all practices that can assist relaxation and predispose to sleep.
Self-consolation is not at all simple, especially when the emotional volume is high and anxiety seems unmanageable . Try to stop your thoughts for a moment … if you were your best friend, what would you say to console yourself?
Trying to talk to yourself is something very constructive. Thoughts, in moments of anxiety and anguish, are chaotic and foment confusion . You can break the vicious circle of brooding by trying to initiate an inner dialogue for consolation. To do this, you need to put aside your strong (self-critical) sense and practice healthy empathy (self-empathy).
It “works” well during the day
Typically, those who suffer from anxiety or nocturnal depression also encounter similar symptoms during the day. Working on one’s own resources and self-esteem can be a winning weapon to prevent anxiety crisis and night sadness.
Those who do not have good self-esteem generally try to compensate for productivity ; as if his personal worth depended on being able to be diligent throughout the day.
Working on one’s own resources means developing the ability to regulate the whole range of emotional experiences without giving room for anxiety.
To improve your sense of self-efficacy, prepare a to-do list (a realistic list, better if you start with a very simple list) and, the next day, make an effort to complete it.
10 questions to ask yourself every night
To lighten the load of anxiety and improve the sense of self-efficacy, I recommend reading my article: 10 questions to ask yourself every night .
The environment does its part
The environment does its part. If you live with a dysfunctional family, it is clear that “family atmosphere” has an impact on your sleep quality and the emotions you experience. Take care of your relationships and, if necessary, learn to practice healthy emotional detachment. Ties have a lot of impact on anxiety and sleep.
ABC: sleep hygiene
The rules to be followed regarding sleep hygiene are by no means negligible. From late afternoon, avoid smoking or consuming caffeine, be sure to sleep in a quiet room, consuming large quantities of alcohol to stun you is absolutely counterproductive, do not stay in your pajamas all day … etc.
Note: the female gender also applies to the male