I have GAD as well and I get this too, especially during more stressful times. Though a lot of it is due to frequent bad dreams; I hate falling asleep because I don't want to be "running around" in my head all night. I distract myself with daydreams and fantasies. Instead of thinking of all the stuff that gives me anxiety, as I'm prone to do, I typically have a detailed scenario for a storyline or fantasy running in my head -- the more detailed the better because then it pushes out all the negative thoughts. And I just keep going over it, refining it and adding more detail, until I fall asleep.
I don't usually have bad dreams (or dreams period, that I remember at least) but yea when I'm stressed in general my body and mind are primed to be more anxious at night and thus ensues this ****ty self-fulfilling prophecy where I think I'll be anxious so then of course I expect it then become anxious. When I'm under the most pressure in my life and need the most sleep is when I'll get the least.
I often panic if my phones battery is dead and I'm too tired to get the charger, because I'm in this weird dichotomy: Do I risk trying to sleep sans distractions? Or do I risk getting up and losing the little tiredness I've gathered?
I do something similar actually. I usually need something to try to distract me from my thoughts before bed like a book or podcast or meditation but sometimes I'm really too tired for it. So if I'm feeling especially exhausted, do I try to take advantage of that and just try sleep without distracting myself first? Or do I wake myself up a bit to try to get my head in a better place which could potentially make me more alert. Kind of a catch 22.
Originally Posted by CoolLilChickadee
I can relate to this. I have major problems with insomnia, so going to bed feels like gearing up for battle. On top of that, as soon as I try to sleep my brain starts going over every stupid, embarrassing thing I've ever done. If it was five, ten, twenty years ago, it doesn't matter. I remember it. It's in there somewhere and my brain will continue to remind me.
I understand exactly what you mean when you say that turning out the lights opens the door for the anxious thoughts. That's exactly why I never turn the light all the way out. I have a dimming bulb and I turn the brightness down but I never put it completely out because that's when the thoughts get overwhelming.
During the day I try to get a lot of exercise. Sometimes that helps, sometimes it doesn't. I can be totally exhausted in body and still going a million miles an hour in my brain. I also take an amount of sleeping pills that would earn me a scolding from my doctor; I probably need some type of prescription sleep aid, but I hate going to the doctor. I try to put away all screens and read for at least an hour before sleeping, which is helpful in gearing my brain down. But many nights nothing works and I just have to be exhausted the next day.
I hear ya about the bedtime as time for battle thing. My mind anticipates the anxiety I'll have so it reacts with anxiety to prepare me for it. It doesn't get that it's battling itself lol. Maybe I should try a nightlight or something as I think the dark triggers my racing thoughts. But I usually need complete darkness or I start feeling kind of awake. I try to get a lot of exercise too but honestly it doesn't seem to really help. I have like 3 or 4 scripts for sleep meds but try not to take them because I always feel like total **** the next day. Ambien hangovers are the worst.
Originally Posted by SunshineSam218
I can relate to this on so many levels, I have PTSD, but I also deal with insomnia, sleep paralysis, and night terrors, so I get lots of anxiety when I'm about to go to sleep or drifting off to sleep. I'm not sure what I'm scared of but I'm on high alert sometimes and if I hear one small sound, my body will jerk itself awake and I will listen silently. Eventually, I will get to sleep, but sometimes I have a hard time. Now I listen to meditation music or people who narrate stories online, it always helps me sleep better, I can't sleep in silence, it causes me too much anxiety.
I sometimes have sleep paralysis and night terrors though rarely. But its really weird when I do, I'll be stuck in a half awake half asleep state and its like I'm dreaming but my eyes are open and I know I'm sort of awake but I can't move and I am half stuck in a dream. It's so freaky. And some nights I will wake up in the middle of the night completely terrified and thinking someone is in my bedroom trying to kill me. Sometimes I am literally scared stiff in my bed and can't move. Thank god neither happens too often.
I'll admit this may not specifically be GAD-specific, but have you thought of going through a period of purposely minimising your sleep over a period of time (e.g. by waking up super-early, refusing to nap etc), until you get tired to the point of just crashing out?
Other than this, the comments by fellow-commentators thus far seem wise, and you may also want to pay attention to your diet.
I've tried this and it does work to a degree but after a while it stops working. Like I will stay awake until like 2 AM or later until I'm completely exhausted and then go to bed and I will fall asleep. And I'll do that for a couple days and slowly inch my way back earlier and earlier. But eventually I'll reach a tipping point where the anxiety is more intense than the exhaustion and I'll end up wide awake all night. I never seem to be able to really establishing a normal pattern this way.
I sometimes have trouble getting to sleep, switching my brain off, once I'm asleep it's usually fine, my sleep pattern gets screwed up easily, cause I'm naturally a night owl anyway.
I found exercise really helped to make me more tired, but I haven't did it since gyms closed in first lockdown, other than that a good sized nightcap, though that can be habit forming.
The nightcap can help but alcohol is usually kind of activating for me and when I have a couple of beers or shots it usually just makes me want to listen to music or go for a walk or something. Maybe instead of a couple shots I need like 9 lol. Then I'll just pass the F out.
Try listening to things like a podcast or an audiobook? Where you have to spend more focus and effort to listen to, verses listening to music.
I've tried podcasts and sleep stories etc but they don't seem to work though sometimes they do help to distract me from my thoughts. Part of the problem is the bed itself. My body has associated the bed with anxiety. So now its a trigger. Maybe I need to try sleeping on the floor lol. Seriously though maybe one of those Japanese futons would be helpful.