15 'Red Flags' That Might Mean Anxiety Is Affecting Your Sleep


We often hear about how important it is to get a good night’s rest. But when you’re struggling with anxiety, every part of your life can be affected — even your ability to sleep. Anxiety doesn’t just turn off when it’s time to go to bed.

That’s why we asked our mental health community to share how they know when anxiety is affecting their sleep. Because while we often talk about how anxiety works its way into our daytime functioning, it’s also important to address the anxiety that might be affecting us at night.

Here is what our community had to say:

1. Nightmares

“The dreams are the first thing effected by anxiety for me. I have nightmares about the potential situations that can happen. Eventually it gets to a point where it’s difficult to get to sleep because I am anxious about having anxiety dreams.” — Liv W.

“When I’m having nightmares about the current situation I’m in. Or something that has happened in the past. It’s usually a different outcome from the one that had happened in real life.” — Janet B.

“Nightmares. I personally don’t dream a whole lot, but when I do they are horrid. Anxiety manifesting itself in a dream you can’t escape. For instance, the one I had last night consisted of all the teeth in my mouth falling out… everybody looking at me just stared like nothing was wrong.” — Anastasia H.

2. Crying Yourself to Sleep

“I am super tired and bedtime finally hits, but I lie wide awake for two to three hours with my brain running nonstop. [I] can’t find a comfortable position, and I usually cry until I can’t keep my eyes open.” — Brittany P.

3. Waking Up Panicked

“I am constantly waking up in a panic every couple of hours.” — Alyssa K.

“When I wake up several times a night, and when I wake up already in an anxiety attack. I usually take prescribed sleep meds if I notice I’m consistently not sleeping well.” — Kerri M.

4. Racing Thoughts Before Bed

“When my anxiety is high, my thoughts spin around my mind like a racetrack. I cannot stop them and because my thoughts are so jumbled I cannot sleep.” — Maggie S.

“When I lie there for hours thinking/worrying about things that could happen in a certain situation, thinking through scenarios of something that happened in the past to see if it could have ended differently. Worrying about things that aren’t even close to happening yet (future kids, aging, etc). Basically hours of torturing myself with ‘what-ifs.’” — Larissa P.

“When I lie there with my eyes closed but can only think about everything and anything going on in my life. Before I know it I roll over to look at the clock and two hours have passed, and all I have done is thought about every possible outcome of a situation.” — Jessica R.

5. Tossing and Turning

“[I] lie in bed itching, feeling like I can’t breath, tossing and turning. My anxiety seems to be at the highest while trying to fall asleep.” — Amanda P.

“The nights I toss and turn and I’m up and down all night because I get no sleep at all. My brain won’t shut off and I have restless energy in my body. Then there are times when I sleep for short periods of time and wake up throughout the night. Sometimes, once I finally do fall asleep, there are pretty bad and vivid nightmares. Many times these have some link to whatever I am worrying about or anxious about. It’s as if there is no escape.” — Sheri B.

“If it takes more than two hours for me to fall asleep, and if I toss and turn more than normal it’s probably my anxiety. If I somehow do manage to fall asleep, I have fever dream type nightmares and I wake up in a cold sweat. It’s not fun.” — Beau M.

6. Waking Up in the Morning Exhausted

“I never fall asleep — or at least into a deep, nice sleep. I’m very restless and I’ll be groggy the next day and irritable.” — Payton M

“When you sleep for 10 hours but you get up exhausted feeling as if you slept for 10 minutes.” — Zeina S.

“When I wake up feeling like a truck ran over me.” — Luciana H.

7. Paranoia

“I need to stay occupied completely until I pass out. I usually scroll through memes on my phone until I literally fall asleep. If not, I over think so much I can’t sleep. I’m thinking if I locked the door, turned off the stove, is my dog still breathing. I’ll freak out at every sound.” — Alicia E.

8. Strange Dreams

“I have strange dreams (sometimes nightmares) about work stuff or money, and when I wake up at 3 a.m. I usually can’t get back to sleep. If I do, I wake up again every 10 minutes. The other day I had a dream where my coworkers served me with papers; they were filing a class action lawsuit against me for ‘being unpleasant.’ The paperwork said something like everyone who works there hates me and cited ‘multiple unpleasant interactions with various colleagues.’ My bosses wouldn’t back me up that they can’t do this. They’re attorneys.” — Laura G.

9. Waking Up Multiple Times During the Night

“I know my anxiety messes with my sleep when I can’t sleep, or when my sleep is very broken. I’ll wake up often and struggle to get back to sleep. In severe episodes, even sleep aides like lavender spray, white noise generators or melatonin don’t help much.” — Kristy H.

“I can never stay asleep past two hours even though I’m always exhausted. It takes me a couple hours or more to even fall asleep. I’m exhausted 24/7. It always keeps me up. My mind never shuts off.” — Breann W.

10. Heavy Sleeping

“I slept so heavily after a panic attack last night that my boyfriend couldn’t wake me up — he thought I was dead until he checked my pulse. I’ve never in my life had this issue before, but then again, my panic attacks have gotten worse.” — Morgan M.

11. Insomnia

“My mind has a party when I want to sleep. I’ve had insomnia since my ex attacked me while I was asleep. It’s been five years and I still don’t sleep more than a few hours a night.” — Vicky S.

“I don’t really sleep, just fitfully try to rest as best I can.” — Josh C.

12. Difficulty Relaxing

“When I am so exhausted mentally, but my body can’t stop shaking and it feels like electricity is flowing in my veins. Breathing is difficult because there is such a heaviness on my chest.” — Abby S.

13. Using Your Phone in Bed

“I either try to sleep and spend hours thinking about everything instead, or I play on my phone for hours waiting until I feel tired.” — Hunter M.

“When you keep reading Facebook at 1 a.m.” — Kathleen S.

14. Waking Suddenly

“As I’m nearing sleep, my nervous system jolts me awake — literally a jolt. Awful.” — Mark V.

15. Napping During the Day

“Anxiety messing with my sleep also makes me tired during the day, so [I] nap more if it allows me to.” — Leesha K.

What helps you sleep when you’re dealing with anxiety? Tell us in the comments below, or check out the following pieces for some inspiration:

Unsplash image via MMPR


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