Why Do I Keep Waking Up with Anxieties?

Updated October 7, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Nearly everyone is familiar with those occasional restless nights when the thoughts are rushing through our brains so fast that we can't shut them down. We follow these racing thoughts into the worst-case scenarios of our anxieties and wake in the morning feeling as exhausted as the night before. But why is it such a struggle to calm those anxious feelings and prevent waking up with anxiety? This article will help you understand and manage morning anxiety.

Life's Challenges Can Be Hard To Face Alone

What Is Anxiety?

First, let’s discuss what anxiety is. Anxiety is the feeling of intense and persistent worry about everyday situations. Some anxiety is occasional and normal, 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. Some of them include social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias.

People with anxiety disorders all display a different set of symptoms, both physical and mental, but there are common symptoms that these conditions have in common. 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

Causes Of Morning Anxiety

Consistently waking with anxieties can have a very debilitating impact on a person's well-being. Our hours of sleep are used by both our bodies and our brains to heal illnesses, mend injuries, resolve emotional conflict, gain inspiration, and even solve problems!

Our sleep is the reset button for our day. If we wake with anxieties, we're running the same program we ran yesterday and compounding it with the worries of today. There is no pause to refresh, only the building momentum of our anxious thoughts.

So why do so many people keep waking up with anxiety? Well, there are a few factors that trigger anxiety in the morning.

First of all, it’s important to know that 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 probably what’s causing you anxiety in the early hours of your day.

If you don’t have an anxiety disorder, there is always the potential that pre-existing health conditions are causing your morning anxiety. A serious medical condition 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.

If you aren’t waking up with anxiety but experience it soon after, you should observe your morning routine to see if it is affecting your mental health. For example, listening to chaotic music or eating an unhealthy breakfast (or consuming caffeine) may be making your anxiety symptoms worse. Therefore, you may be able to ease anxiety in the morning by eating a healthy breakfast or listening to calm music (such as classical music).

And of course, if you are feeling anxious about particular stressful events in your daily life, those are bound to be causing you 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 trigger anxiety throughout the day will also affect your morning stress levels.

But no matter the external cause, you can still thank your cortisol levels for the reason you feel anxious. 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 waking up with anxiety seem to have higher cortisol levels than average.

Taking Control

When you’re experiencing excessive anxiety in the morning, it’s understandable that you would want to take control of the situation. Luckily there are a few self-care strategies you can do to reduce your symptoms of morning anxiety.

Change Your Lifestyle

Your physical health is tied to your mental health. Therefore, it’s essential to take care of your body in order to care for your mind. This means eating healthy food, getting regular exercise, and sleeping well are crucial to maintain great mental health. Physical activity in particular is a great option for people experiencing an excessive amount of anxiety and need to release it in a healthy way.

People with anxiety often experience sleeping problems and disorders that keep them from getting the rest they need. If this is the case for you, then talk with your doctor about some professional treatment options that will promote you staying asleep the whole night.

Change The Environment

Our surroundings affect our moods. If you tend to listen to loud music, watch dramatic and stressful shows, and have a disorganized environment, you are more likely to experience anxiety and negative thoughts. This kind of environment can also cause difficulty concentrating, which prevents you from doing anything to tackle the causes of your anxiety.

Therefore, you need to ensure that your environment promotes calm and happiness and that you have a relaxing evening and/or morning routine. For example, you can fill your home with relaxing music and calming colors, or you can take a nice relaxing bath before heading to bed.


People all around the world experience relief from their anxiety by practicing mindfulness meditation. Over 200 peer-reviewed studies have shown the effectiveness of meditation for various mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. So if morning anxiety is beginning to feel overwhelming, incorporate a guided meditation or deep breathing session into your routine.

Talk To A Professional

While the self-care strategies listed above are great ways to reduce your anxiety symptoms, it is best to combine professional treatment with them to experience the best results. 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 you are experiencing painful physical symptoms. They can provide you with treatments that will help the physical symptoms and may even be able to prescribe you anxiety medication. However, not all anxiety drugs are equal, and some are dangerous for people with particular conditions. Therefore, talk to your doctor about the most up to date information on anxiety medication to pick the right option for you.

But if you’re a person feeling a bit overwhelmed and don’t have physical conditions that are complicating your anxiety, then you may want to talk with a therapist. A therapist can figure out and help explain the causes of your morning anxiety and stress, and work with you to find treatment options and self-care strategies that will bring you relief.

Life's Challenges Can Be Hard To Face Alone

Our emotions are so complex. Keeping them harmonized is like trying to fine-tune an extremely complicated musical instrument. It can be difficult to place a determining line between normal and abnormal, but if you are waking with stress or anxieties in the morning, something profound is happening internally, if not externally.

Help is always available at BetterHelp.com, where you can depend on a team of therapists to help you through periods of anxiety and related symptoms. All counselors are licensed and experienced and have dealt with cases similar to yours before. At BetterHelp, you will learn to confront your anxieties, resolve problems and find closure with past issues. Contact us to start today.

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