I’ve mentioned a few times that my anxiety attacks hit predominantly at night. I may get a few small ones throughout the day if I’m pressured or startled, but those are becoming easier to handle and rarer. That’s because I have more to distracted myself with and enough time to work through the attack. The situation feels more dire when you’re trying to fall asleep and know you have to get up in a few hours.
This tends to cause a domino effect as well. I’ll have a night where the anxiety makes it very difficult to sleep and I end up with only 2-3 hours. This leaves me tired and more susceptible to attacks during the day. I have to continue trudging through until night hits and then I start panicking that it’s going to happen again. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy type of thing. Usually, it continues for a few days until I have one night where I’m too exhausted to think and I don’t have to wake up before 8 the next day. It’s not the best level of sleep, but it gives me enough of a recharge to get a few days and nights of low anxiety.
Getting these attacks at night is one of the things that led me to thinking this is an anxiety issue. It was strange that I’d only have these happen at the end of the day instead of the periods where I was the most active. At first, I thought it was my body releasing all of the tension, but then it came with odd ideas. The most common was this fear that I was about to relax to the point of death because I’d pushed myself too far and it was only adrenaline that was keeping me alive. You’d think this would be a clue that I wasn’t dealing with an entirely physical issue, but I’m an author whose imagination has always run away from him. I actually thought this was logical without being realistic. Too me a few months to admit that this was probably stemming from something other than me wanted to come up with a unique reasoning. Still took a little longer to wrap my head entirely around the issue and that required a really bad attack.
I’ve wondered why nighttime is worse for anxiety and I’m betting it stems a lot from how we drop our guard when going to bed. It isn’t only a reduction in physical alertness, but we allow our minds to wander. We expect dreams to appear and focusing on what happened during the day or in the future causes us to stay up. So, we try to go blank or create a soothing dream that puts us under. It also opens up the doorway for any anxiety that has been looking for an entrance. This isn’t an immediate shot too. You start thinking about something negative (can even be an errand you missed) and it gets the ball rolling. Next thing you know, you’re having trouble breathing and wondering if you’re having a heart attack.
Perhaps the thing I hate most about the nighttime attacks is that they’re a lot harder to stop. I can’t put on the TV or music without waking my wife. Most of my friends are already asleep, so I can’t chat with them. I have an app with small games, but you can only do so many Word Searches and Sudoku before they lose their appeal. Wandering the Internet on my phone while sitting in the bathroom isn’t much better. There’s a lot of negativity out there, which compacts the situation. I try to find funny web comics like ‘Fowl Language’, but you eventually have to crawl back into bed. Otherwise, you hit that cycle. Half the time, the anxiety comes back once I try to sleep again and I’m too worn down at that point. It becomes just me staring at the ceiling and trying to zone out until I pass out.
Thankfully, things are getting better with the night attacks. Small steps in the right direction are all I can do.