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Sleep Anxiety

Have you ever awakened at 3:00 am and found your mind racing? You might dwell on making sure you don’t forget some important work issue or start organizing your day to be sure you have time to finish everything you need to.

Or then again, your mind might start focusing on thoughts about how horrible it would be to have a lousy night’s sleep. Such thoughts include:

  1. Tomorrow’s an important day and if I don’t sleep, I’ll perform at a subpar level. That just isn’t acceptable.
  2. I hate it when I sleep poorly.
  3. I don’t know how I’ll get through the day.
  4. There’s nothing worse than having to go through a whole work day after sleeping miserably the night before.
  5. I’ll be a wreck tomorrow without a good night’s sleep.

Frankly, I agree; having a bad night’s sleep seriously simply sucks! But on the other hand, it isn’t a catastrophe like those thoughts suggest. Fact is, when you have catastrophic thoughts about not sleeping, you’re almost bound to remain awake because of the hyper-arousal such thoughts cause.

So instead, consider de-catastrophizing by:

  • Reminding yourself that each and every time you have had a lousy night’s sleep, somehow, someway you still managed to trudge through the next day. Yes, you might not have felt great, but you got through it.
  • Realize that few people on this planet have a great night’s sleep every single night. Poor sleep happens to almost everyone here and there. Worrying and catastrophizing just makes things worse.
  • Try getting up if you can’t sleep and do some mindless chore. Doing a chore will take your mind off your catastrophic thinking and may even give you a sense of satisfaction from accomplishing at least one small item.
  • Try concentrating solely on your breathing. Notice how the air feels as it comes through your nostrils, down your throat and into your lungs. In and out. In and out. This strategy takes a little practice, but you can gradually learn to clear your head of negative thinking if you focus on something else like the act of breathing.

Here are just a few other sleep tips for you to consider:

Make sure your room is dark. Put up blackout curtains if you need to. Darkness can help your brain set its clock and start releasing melatonin, a hormone that helps bring sleep on.

Make sure your room is a bit cool. Most people sleep better when the temperature is cool.

Make your room quiet if you can. If you live in a noisy area, try getting a fan or white noise generator to block out noxious noises.

Mattresses matter. If your mattress isn’t especially comfortable, splurge and get a good, comfortable one.

Finally, if your sleep problems are chronic in nature, consider seeing your physician. It could be that you’re suffering from depression which often disrupts sleep and that should be evaluated. You could also suffer from some other ailment such as sleep apnea that could be causing you problems. In other words, don’t continue to suffer from poor sleep one night after another. Do something about it and you’ll feel a whole lot better.

Sleepless woman photo available from Shutterstock.

Sleep Anxiety

Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D.

Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and a Founding Fellow in the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. He is also a member of the faculty at Fielding Graduate University. He specializes in the treatment of adolescents and adults with obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, anger, depression, and personality disorders. Dr. Elliott is coauthor of: Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies (2nd Ed), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies, Seasonal Affective Disorder For Dummies, Anxiety and Depression Workbook For Dummies, Depression For Dummies, Why Can't I Get What I Want?, Why Can’t I Be the Parent I Want to Be?, and Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth. His website is:

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APA Reference
Elliott, C. (2012). Sleep Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Mar 2012
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