How Improving Sleep Reduces Morning Anxiety

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated October 1, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Do you often wake up feeling as if you haven’t slept at all or experiencing overtones of anxiety, worry, or stress? If so, you may be experiencing morning anxiety. Developing good sleep hygiene and getting high-quality sleep can reduce the chances of experiencing morning anxiety. Practicing self-care and living a healthy lifestyle can be helpful in promoting restful sleep. Therapy and medication may also be beneficial, so you may wish to consult a licensed professional regarding potential treatment options.

What Is Morning Anxiety?

Though it is not necessarily a separate anxiety disorder or diagnosable condition, the term “morning anxiety” generally refers to waking up feeling worried or stressed before you’ve had a chance to encounter any cause for such emotions. This can be troubling because you may be battling anxiety before you’re awake enough to engage your coping mechanisms

Persistent anxiety and feelings of dread first thing in the morning may be an indicator of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It may be helpful to ask your doctor or mental healthcare provider about assessment options to diagnose anxiety. 

Do You Often Wake Up In The Morning Feeling Anxious?

What Morning Anxiety Looks Like

While the symptoms of morning anxiety can present differently from one person to another, medical health professionals generally agree on several common symptoms you may experience, such as the following:

  • Overwhelming feelings of impending doom, fear, or worry

  • Unwanted, intrusive, and uncontrollable racing thoughts

  • Trouble concentrating or your mind going blank

  • Restlessness 

  • Irritability

  • Trouble calming yourself down

  • Physical symptoms, such as lightheadedness, sweating, dizziness, trembling, shortness of breath, racing pulse, headache, muscle tension, and flashes of hot and cold

Why Is Sleep So Important?

There’s often a close link between your mood and the quality of your sleep. People who experience chronic insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, and difficulty staying asleep tend to be more likely to develop mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Research shows that even a short disruption to your typical sleep schedule can trigger intense negative mood swings and shifts in personality or outlook. 

Many people who have trouble controlling their stress and anxiety reactions, such as those with GAD, may find that they wake up during the night due to anxiety or wake up in the morning feeling anxious, irritable, and unrested. Sleep can be thought of as your body’s natural reset switch, and it can often enable your mind to file away the previous day’s experiences so you can prepare for the new day. In fact, adequate sleep may even decrease the risk of health concerns like heart disease and inflammation.

How Improving Your Sleep Habits Can Reduce Morning Anxiety

According to research from the US Department of Health and Human Services, most adults need at least seven hours of sound sleep per day on a regular schedule to allow the body to complete its resting functions so you wake up feeling refreshed. 

When you consistently get a full night of good-quality sleep at roughly the same time each day, research shows you may get sick less often, find it easier to maintain your weight, reduce the risk for health problems like diabetes and heart disease, lower stress, improve mood, boost focus and concentration, make social interaction more manageable, and increase your decision-making and risk-aversion abilities. If you get regular, healthy sleep, you may be less likely to experience morning anxiety symptoms. 

Develop Good Sleep Hygiene

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control often emphasize the importance of good sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene. Just as your habits of caring for your teeth and body can influence your physical and dental health, your sleep hygiene may affect your physical and emotional well-being. Here are some tips for developing good sleep hygiene:

  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity during the day usually makes it easier to sleep at night. 

  • Create a consistent sleep routine. Going to sleep and waking up at roughly the same time each day can help your body adjust to a set sleep schedule. 

  • Create an atmosphere that promotes sleep. You will likely sleep better if your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. 

  • Think about what you eat before bed. Large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bed may prevent good-quality sleep.

  • Avoid using your phone or other electronics for at least one hour before bed. The blue light can suppress melatonin production.

Self-Care Habits To Reduce Morning Anxiety

In addition to seeking treatment from a mental health professional, you may reduce morning anxiety through self-care habits and lifestyle changes. 

  • Establish healthy sleep hygiene practices to make sleeping easier.

  • Start your morning with meditation or intentional mindfulness practices to help you face the day with a clear mind. 

  • Eat a balanced breakfast to fuel your body for the day. Try to reduce caffeine and sugar intake. 

  • Develop a positive morning routine that energizes you and sets the tone for your day. 

  • Make time for physical activity, such as yoga, a morning walk, or a short exercise routine. The release of endorphins can wake your body up and boost your mood. 

  • Focus on what you are grateful for to shift your mindset away from the things that cause anxiety. 

  • Shift your attention to the things you’re looking forward to that day instead of possible reasons for concern. 

Treatments For Morning Anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), American adults usually experience anxiety disorders more than any other mental health condition. As many as 40 million American adults, or 19.1% of the population, may live with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders tend to be highly treatable, and 43.2% of those 40 million Americans are receiving treatment. Seeking professional help and treatment can greatly improve your mental well-being.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is generally the most common treatment for anxiety disorders. This therapeutic approach normally focuses on helping you identify and replace negative thought patterns and behaviors. Reframing anxious thoughts and developing practical coping strategies can help you manage morning anxiety. 


Medication cannot necessarily cure anxiety disorders, but it can be used to effectively treat symptoms, potentially making it easier to live with the condition. Be sure to consult your doctor or psychiatrist before starting or stopping any form of medication. 

Do You Often Wake Up In The Morning Feeling Anxious?

Know When To Reach Out For Professional Help

While some anxiety can be an expected part of life, if your morning anxiety interferes with your sleep patterns, shapes your whole day and all your interactions, or causes functional impairment in one or more areas of your life, you may be living with an anxiety disorder. It can be important to reach out to your doctor or a licensed mental health professional if you believe this may be the case.

Benefits Of Online Therapy

If you notice that you wake up feeling anxious and have a hard time shaking off the tone it sets for your day, you may want to consider speaking to a licensed therapist through an online therapy provider like BetterHelp. Attending appointments from the comfort of your home or another preferred location may reduce anxiety related to starting therapy. If some of your anxiety stems from feeling busy and overwhelmed, online therapy may be a convenient avenue to pursue professional help because you can work it into your existing schedule. 

Effectiveness Of Online Therapy

A recent study shows that online CBT can be effective in treating and preventing stress-related disorders like anxiety, often with lower costs and shorter wait times. Medical professionals usually agree that you’ll likely see increased and more effective results from CBT as you attend more sessions, so it can be helpful to commit to sticking to treatment for a certain period of time. 


Morning anxiety can shape your attitude and demeanor for the whole day—and often not in a positive way. Understanding the causes of morning anxiety and how healthy sleep habits can reduce its influence on your mood can help you address this challenge. Along with good sleep hygiene, self-care habits, and other practical coping strategies, online therapy can be a convenient and effective tool to help you overcome morning anxiety.

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