Why Do I Keep Waking Up With Anxiety?

Updated January 5, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Do you often wake up and immediately feel intense fear and dread? Does this initial anxiety feel overwhelming and make it difficult to face the day? If you frequently experience high levels of anxiety in the morning, you are not alone, and there are strategies you can try to manage it. In this article, we’ll explore some of the common possible reasons for morning anxiety and a few suggestions for how to cope with it.

Waking Up With Anxiety Can Be Frustrating

What Is Anxiety?

First, let’s discuss what anxiety is. Anxiety is the feeling of intense worry about everyday situations. Experiencing occasional anxiety is common, such as feeling anxious before an interview. However, some people experience more chronic and debilitating forms of anxiety, known as anxiety disorders. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias.

People with different anxiety disorders may display a different set of symptoms, both physical and mental, but there are some common symptoms of these conditions. These symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Feeling weak and fatigued

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Mental confusion and fear

  • Nervousness or a feeling of impending doom

  • Restlessness

  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping

  • Tingling/numbness in the hands/legs

  • Excessive worrying

  • Sweating and chills

  • Tight chest

  • Upset stomach or diarrhea

  • Muscle tension

Possible Reasons For Morning Anxiety

Consistently waking with anxiety can be very uncomfortable and have a range of negative impacts on a person's well-being, as it may affect how a person moves through the day and the quality of sleep they are able to have each night. Sleep is vital for our physical and mental health, and sleep can be a reset button for our day. 

So why do so many people keep waking up with anxiety? There are a variety of possible reasons, a few of which we’ll explore below:

  1. Anxiety Disorders

First of all, any anxiety disorder can contribute to the symptoms of morning anxiety. Whether you have a specific phobia or social anxiety, these can easily contribute to anxiety in the morning. Therefore, if you already are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, then this is likely what’s causing you anxiety in the early hours of your day.

  1. Other Health Conditions

If you don’t have an anxiety disorder, there is also the potential that another health condition could be causing your morning anxiety. Serious medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and thyroid problems have all been known to contribute to anxiety symptoms. Therefore, if you have one of these health conditions or another medical concern, talk to your doctor to determine if they are causing your anxiety.

  1. Negative Morning Habits

If you aren’t waking up with anxiety but experience it soon after, you might observe your morning routine to see if it is affecting your mental health. For example, listening to chaotic music, eating an unhealthy breakfast, or consuming large amounts of caffeine may be making your anxiety symptoms worse. Therefore, you may be able to ease anxiety in the morning by swapping out some of your habits for more positive ones, such as eating a healthy breakfast or listening to calmer music.

  1. Stressful Life Events

If you are feeling anxious about particularly stressful events in your daily life, those may be causing your sleep problems and be the reason you are waking up with anxiety. Whether it be financial stress, job stress, or family stress, life events that prompt anxiety throughout the day can also affect your morning stress levels.

  1. Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is one of the stress hormones in the body that is released by the adrenal glands and helps us detect threats. But since humans don’t typically have to deal with dangerous threats that often, we instead experience an increase in cortisol (i.e., increased stress and anxiety) in normal, everyday situations. People who frequently experience waking up with anxiety experience increased levels of this stress hormone within the first hour of their day, which is called the cortisol awakening response. Though all people have this response, people with anxiety disorders may be particularly susceptible and feel increased morning anxiety. 

Tips For Reducing Morning Anxiety

If you’re experiencing excessive anxiety in the morning, you may be looking for ways to take control of the situation. Below are a few strategies you can try to reduce your symptoms of morning anxiety.

  1. Make Lifestyle Adjustments

Our physical health can affect our mental health, too. Therefore, taking care of your body can be an important piece of taking care of your mind. This means eating healthy food, getting regular exercise, and sleeping well are crucial for maintaining positive mental health. For people experiencing an excessive amount of anxiety, physical activity in particular may be a good option to release anxiety in a healthy way.

People with anxiety often experience sleeping problems that keep them from getting the rest they need. If this is the case for you and you are having trouble managing it on your own, then talk with your doctor about some professional treatment options that can help you to fall and stay asleep. 

  1. Change The Environment

Our surroundings can also affect our moods. If you tend to listen to loud music, watch dramatic and stressful shows, and have a disorganized environment, this may be contributing to your feelings of anxiety and stressful thoughts. Therefore, you might try to ensure that your environment promotes calm and that you have a relaxing evening and/or morning routine. For example, you can try to minimize consuming stressful media before bed, fill your home with relaxing music and calming colors, or you can take a nice relaxing bath before heading to bed.

  1. Meditate

Many people have found practicing mindfulness meditation to be an effective way to relieve anxiety. Over 200 studies have shown the effectiveness of meditation for various mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. If morning anxiety is beginning to feel overwhelming, try incorporating a guided meditation or deep breathing session into your routine.

  1. Talk To A Professional

In addition to these strategies listed above, it can also be helpful to talk to a professional for further support. Professional help can come in the form of a therapist or psychiatrist or in the form of your primary doctor.

You should see your doctor if you have a health condition related to your anxiety or if you are experiencing painful physical symptoms. They can work with you to understand what’s going on and provide you with treatments that can help with the physical symptoms. In some cases, they may suggest certain medications for anxiety. Talk to your doctor about the most up-to-date information on anxiety medication to identify the best option for you.

For further help in working through anxiety, therapy can also be helpful. A therapist can work with you to try to unpack the causes of your morning anxiety and stress, and work with you to find treatment options and strategies that can bring you relief.

For individuals with anxiety, some aspects of seeking help through therapy may feel intimidating, like traveling to a new place, waiting in a busy office, and interacting with strangers. In such cases, online therapy may feel less intimidating, as you can match with a therapist online and then have therapy sessions wherever you feel most comfortable and have an internet connection. 

There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of online therapy for a range of concerns, including anxiety. For instance, one study conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to compare the effectiveness of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) and face-to-face CBT for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Researchers concluded that “ICBT and face-to-face CBT created equivalent overall effects” in the treatment of anxiety disorders. 

Waking Up With Anxiety Can Be Frustrating


There are a number of reasons why you might wake up with high levels of anxiety, such as an anxiety disorder, a health condition, a stressful life event, or negative morning habits, among other things. If this is something you’re experiencing, you might consider trying some of the strategies detailed above to help you find relief. For additional support, consider speaking to your doctor or reaching out to an online therapist for help in managing anxiety. 

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