Tips for Taming COVID-19 Anxiety at Night

Relaxation techniques for a better night’s sleep

Woman sleeping peacefully with a pleasant expression on her face.

Relaxation techniques for a better night’s sleep

We have all had a bad night, and for some perhaps more frequently than others. The current coronavirus pandemic has most of us worried and anxious, and given the circumstances, most of this anxiety we feel is appropriate. While being occupied and staying busy during lockdown may keep our minds from these anxious feelings during the day, anxiety before bed is not helpful for our well-being, nor is fighting and struggling to fall asleep.

Set yourself up to fall sleep fast 

Here are some suggestions regarding how you might constructively work with this anxiety before bed.

First, understand that some anxiety is a normal part of life for everyone. “We’ve all experienced anxiety when test-taking, facing a problem at work or home, or being challenged by a decision you need to make,”says Nathanael Altmeyer, PhD, a psychologist with Scripps Health. "Some anxiety is secondary and temporary while others may experience more consistent anxiety disorders. Bottom line, it’s very common."

Next, set up your evening for optimal sleep: 

  • Avoid watching or reading the news prior to going to sleep. Stay informed at a different time of day. 
  • It’s best to avoid big meals, caffeine and/or alcohol close to bedtime. 
  • Turn off your electronics – wind down computers, TVs, iPads, iPhones, video games, etc. Also, see if you’re following screen time limits for grownups.
  • In your bedroom, try to keep the temperature cool and eliminate lights. You can also try using a weighted blanket. 
  • Try a meditation app. There are many guided meditations to help lead your mind and body into a more relaxed state.
  • If you are having difficulty falling asleep, try getting out of bed and moving to another room to write down your thoughts or drink a glass of water.

Good try, but it didn’t work

You still woke up at 3 am with that “scared” feeling in the pit of your stomach. Take a few deep breaths, but don’t reach for your phone. Remember, the middle of the night is not usually the best time for reliving the stressors of your day and trying to problem solve, so taking care of yourself is the best you can do.

The following are a few things that you might try:

  • Spend some time reflecting on the day’s positive events and find a sense of gratitude for all that you have, even during difficult times. This may help you relieve stress from your mind.
  • Try a meditation app again. Your body may just need another trigger to induce relaxation.
  • Noise cancelling devices, or “white noise” machines, offer a variety of sounds that you may find very soothing.
  • Relaxation and breathing techniques that use breathing control, muscle tension and relaxation are easy to learn and practice. They can help release stress within your body.

“Each of us is helped, soothed or comforted in different ways,” says Altmeyer. “If one stress management technique doesn’t work for you, give a different one a try.”