Home Stress & Anxiety Expert Q&A Hub My stress or anxiety symptoms & solutions

Waking up at 3 am every single night

Is difficulty sleeping a side effect of anxiety? I was diagnosed with GAD a couple of months ago and never had problems with sleeping up until about 2 weeks ago. I keep waking up between 3-4am every single night, without any reason. Then I'm not able to fall back asleep until 6am. It's so frustrating and makes me exhausted...


  • LouiseJLouiseJ Posts: 863 ✭✭✭✭✭


    Hi Flooooo,

    I am so sorry to hear you are having disturbed nights which are affecting your quality of life.

    To help answer your question I would say that difficulty in sleeping can definitely be a symptom of anxiety.

    Our sleep patterns can be affected in different ways, whether it is lack of sleep, disturbed sleep or excessive sleep.

    That dreaded 2-3 am waking up is very hard to deal with, especially if you are finding it almost impossible to get back to sleep. I have had many a night waking up, then 'those' thoughts invade my mind, causing anxiety levels to rise, and I know sleep is going to evade me unless I do something about it.

    If you find yourself tossing and turning in an effort to return to sleep, perhaps getting up for a little while may help to reset your mind and body.

    I was chatting with another member on the cancer forum recently about this, as we both find ourselves up in the small hours often. My friend spends a little time doing a crossword or puzzle until she feels tiredness take over again. I usually sit in the dark for a while, if that does not help I do put the tv on. I know they say watching tv etc at night doesn't necessarily help sleep, but I find in these moments it quietens my mind and brain and my eyes become heavy enabling me to return to bed.

    Are you on any new medication that maybe affecting you?

    Lou x

  • Blanka_CBlanka_C Posts: 406 Community Admin

    Hi @Flooooo,

    Thank you for your question and I'm sorry to hear you're going through this! I can see Lou has given you some excellent advice already.

    I'm unfortunately in a similar situation, I don't wake up in the middle of the night every day, but definitely 3-4 times a week. I'm not an expert myself but I found that it can be linked to caffeine intake - interestingly, whenever I have a tea after 4pm (or even chocolate), I struggle with sleep. Caffeine can increase anxiety, so I make sure not to have anything caffeinated in the late afternoon / evening.

    Medication can also affect sleep patterns, for example mine has a side effect like this unfortunately.

    A couple things that helped me are reducing tech time before bed (not using my phone / laptop at all) and having a cup of lavender tea (decaf).

    Now, in terms of getting back to sleep... I wish I had an answer! I think Lou's advice on possibly getting up a little might help. I like to draw at night for example. I have a pad and pencil on my bedside table ready.:)

    We actually have an expert on board @Shanley Lewis who I'm sure will be able to give some good advice! Shanley, I hope you don't mind me tagging you - any sleep tips would be much appreciated, it looks many of us experience the same thing!

    In the meantime Flo, please have a read at the following resource from Mind, it's excellent:

    You might also find breathing exercises helpful:

    Hope this helps, please don't hesitate to get back with more questions!

    Take care,


  • Hi @Flooooo

    Yes, Sleep difficulties and disruption can be symptoms of anxiety. It can also be helpful to create a wind down routine 1 hour to 30 mins before you go to bed for the next few weeks, and follow some good sleep hygiene, here are some tips:

    • Start to go to bed and to wake up at a regular time.

    • Have a bedtime or wind down routine that you use before bed.

    • Do your best to avoid drinking tea, coffee and alcohol in the evenings.

    • Don’t take naps during the day – even if you are feeling super tired. It will interfere with your body clock.

    • Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you’re hungry before bedtime have a light snack.

    • Try to exercise during the day, and not close to your bedtime

    • Only use your bed for sleep and sex.

    • Don’t go to bed until you feel sleepy

    If you find that you wake up in the night. Leave your bed and do something relaxing and or dull until you feel tired then go back into your bed. Do not lie in bed trying to get back to sleep. This can interfere with the bed- sleep connection.

    Try not to take naps in the day, and as the other ladies have mentioned; no caffeine before bed. Try to do activities that are going to help you to go to feel tired and stay asleep at night like, exercising- Going for a walk, dancing around etc.

    Hope this helps. Any more questions please do ask.

    Always happy to help,


  • Blanka_CBlanka_C Posts: 406 Community Admin

    Oh thank you @Shanley Lewis, that's extremely helpful! I had no idea I should get out of bed when I wake up in the middle of the night. Similar to taking naps during the day! I regularly find myself taking a 10-15 minute nap at lunch and always feel more tired after...I guess I should stop doing it. 😁

Sign In or Register to comment.