Ask the Experts

ADHD-Fueled Anxiety Is Keeping Me Up at Night

“I fall asleep fine, but I wake up at 2 or 3 o’clock with all kinds of thoughts and fears that get magnified in the middle of the night. How I can relax my mind once I wake up so that I can fall back asleep?”

Waking up in the middle of the night is so frustrating! You know you need to sleep. You want to sleep. But your mind just won’t cooperate.
Here are some things you can do to prevent these R.E.M.-busting awakenings:

  • Address the source of anxiety that are likely to come up. Try to make peace with unresolved issues before bedtime. Either hash them out with someone, or write in your journal.
  • Send positive messages to your subconscious before you go to sleep. Think about what you’re grateful, or what’s going well in your life, as you’re falling asleep.
  • Have a Reiki session. The calming effects of Reiki (a form of energy healing) last long after the session is over.
  • Avoid alcohol late in the evening. It might make it easier to get to sleep, but it makes it hard to stay asleep. Similarly, avoid caffeine, nicotine and strenuous exercise at night.
  • Keep the room dark. Light inhibits the secretion of melatonin in the brain, which is a hormone that enables the body to stay asleep.
  • Don’t do anything in your bedroom that causes anxiety — no fighting, confrontations, or watching scary movies.
  • Don’t take naps. Napping during the day can throw off your sleep cycle.

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Here are some ideas for relaxing your mind if prevention doesn’t do the trick:

  • Reiki self-treatment. This is my personal favorite method for getting back to sleep. Unlike massage, Reiki can just as easily be done on yourself as it can be done by another person. Take a Level 1 Reiki course from your local Reiki Master to learn how to do it.
  • Keep a tablet by your bed. If you find yourself reviewing your To-Do list or rehashing some drama, write it down. That way your subconscious mind knows it’ll be there in the morning and can let go.
  • Don’t fight it. Sometimes lying in bed, insisting that your mind must be calm and you must go to sleep immediately, can be counterproductive. Get up and walk around. Make some warm milk. Look at the stars. Don’t look at the TV or electronics, though — the light can make it harder to sleep. Just stay up long enough to ease the anxiety, and try again.
  • Breathing exercises. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Visualize the fresh, clean air filling your lungs from top to bottom. Feel your stomach rise as you do so. Then exhale slowly, picturing the tension escaping with the stale air. “In with the butterflies, out with the bees!”
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. Tense the muscles in your face for five seconds, then relax for ten seconds. Then tense the muscles in your neck and throat for five seconds and relax for a count of ten. Continue this pattern with your shoulders, arms, hands, chest, etc., working your way down to your toes.
  • Go to your happy place. Think of a place that makes you feel calm, safe, and at peace. Imagine you’re there. Visualize all the details, really feel the ambience. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? How do you feel?

Everyone experiences sleeplessness from time to time. The ideas presented above should help. But if it’s happening regularly, and nothing works, you might want to look into other causes with the help of a doctor, therapist, or sleep clinic.

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