If you’ve ever wondered about the cause of your morning anxiety, you’re definitely not alone. I had only guessed at the reasons I feel anxious when I get up in the wee hours of the morning. But recently someone asked me for insight into why she feels anxious in the morning going to her workouts. I did a little digging and I want to share some factors that may cause morning anxiety.
Biological Factors That Can Cause Morning Anxiety
There are biological happenings that occur in all of our bodies as we sleep and awaken. But the level of anxiety one might feel can largely depend on how these factors are magnified by environmental stressors. Here’s what happens:
- Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR): When we transition from rest to a wakeful state, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, one of the body’s stress hormones. CAR increases cortisol levels by an average of 50 percent. Cortisol levels peak at around 35-45 minutes after waking up.
- Low blood sugar: When you sleep, your blood sugar level drops due to not eating. Low blood sugar leads to a stress response as well as the body wonders from where its fuel to operate will come.
- Dehydration: This could be considered an environmental factor. But let’s face it, even if you take a sip of water in the night, our sleep cycle itself limits our ability to adequately hydrate. Dehydration can increase your heartbeat and lead to lightheadedness.
Environmental Factors That Can Cause Morning Anxiety
There are environmental factors that can cause your body to feel more stressed in the morning.
- If you’re already under stress, Cortisol levels may shoot up higher as you worry about the day ahead of you. For example, I tend to wake up more anxious when I have a workshop to teach.
- Depending on what you’re getting up to do, there may be underlying fear affecting how you feel. For example, if you’re anxious before an early morning flight, is it the morning, fear of flying, or the stress of the trip? Likewise, it’s common for people to have anxiety about working out. Every time I’m away from a yoga studio or gym for too long, I feel anxious about returning.
- Disrupted sleep makes morning anxiety worse. If my sleep schedule gets erratic, morning anxiety increases.
- Diets high in sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and artificial ingredients can increase anxiety.
What to Do When You Have Morning Anxiety
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. Whenever possible, go to bed and wake up at the same time routinely. Avoid television, cell phones, or other stimulation before bed.
- Practice relaxation techniques before bed and when you get up in the morning. One of my yoga teachers says that you should practice meditation before getting into bed and then go to sleep after you’ve relaxed.
- Keep your cell phone out of your bedroom. I notice a huge difference between waking up to my phone alarm and getting political Facebook notifications versus going straight to my yoga mat to meditate. Get a simple alarm clock with a soft tone.
- Eat a healthy diet. Limit foods that can exacerbate anxiety.
- Hydrate throughout the day. Drink water when you get up and eat a small snack if you’re prone to low blood sugar.
- Have a soft light in your room to gradually awaken rather than harsh, bright lighting.
- Practice the coping skills that work for you if you’re experiencing ongoing anxiety and stress.
As always, if you’re experiencing stress and anxiety that is impairing your daily living, seek professional support from a licensed therapist (What Is an Anxiety Disorder? Anxiety Disorder Definition).