Anxiety and Sleep: Why Do Racing Thoughts Keep Me Up at Night?

By Lisa Smalls

Living with persistent anxiety disrupts how productive you are with your daily activities, your relationships, and even how well you sleep at night. In turn, consequences of sleep deprivation exacerbate symptoms associated with anxiety, such as increased heart rate, irritability, and racing thoughts. These worsening symptoms then make it even harder to sleep, and the vicious cycle continues.

This complex connection between lack of sleep and anxiety is not only frustrating for the person experiencing both, but it is perplexing to scientists and mental health professionals, as well.

Why Me?

If you suffer from consistently high levels of anxiety daily, you may feel quite alone in your struggle. The truth is, you are not alone. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults aged 18 and over, making up 18.1% of the population. And these are only the people who have been medically diagnosed. Still others don’t have the means to seek medical help.

How Does Anxiety Keep Me Up at Night?

There are many factors that could be contributing to why anxiety is keeping you up at night. If you had anxiety before you began to have trouble sleeping, rather than insomnia before you had anxiety, your high levels of stress could be due to past trauma or an unhealthy personal or work relationship, among numerous other causes. You may never know exactly where your anxiety originated, but the science behind how it affects your sleep is essentially the same, regardless of cause.

Stress and anxiety are closely connected to adrenal function. In the face of real danger, in other words, your body has a surge of adrenaline to kick in your fight-or-flight response. When you are overwhelmed with stress and anxiety without the presence of impending danger, your body is constantly being bombarded with a sense of panic due to overproduction of one stress hormone specifically - cortisol.

This imbalance of cortisol secretion affects your natural circadian rhythm, negatively affecting your ability to fall asleep when your body should be winding down at night. Cortisol’s normal pattern of rising and falling throughout a 24-day, gradually declining near bedtime, and being lowest between midnight to 4am is highly disrupted in anxiety disorders.

The good news is that there are ways to work with your body to get your circadian rhythm back on track.

How Can I Work with My Circadian Rhythm to Get Better Sleep?

Each of these practices need to be followed daily in order for your body to rewire and adjust to your new healthy sleep practices.

Wind-Down Routine

Set aside around 30 minutes before bed to engage in a calming ritual, such as soaking in a warm bath or other relaxation techniques.


If you’re new to meditation, begin with just five minutes of silence in a designated quiet place in your home and build up to around 30 minutes a day, if possible. In the morning before work or at night before bed are both optimal times to practice meditation.


Exercise releases endorphins that elevate your mood, and when practiced regularly, will provide your body with these feel-good chemicals consistently, helping you wind down at night.

Anxiety can be difficult to deal with, but it doesn’t have to rule your life. Reclaim your sleep by following some of the tips above.

Dr. Bridget Cantrell new Chief Clinical Officer at the Invictus Foundation

Invictus Foundation names Dr. Bridget Cantrell as new Chief Clinical Officer

SEATTLE, Aug. 15, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Invictus Foundation™, a national nonprofit organization providing individual and family behavioral health counseling services with licensed behavioral health practitioners to uniformed service members, veterans and their families, announces the appointment of Dr. Bridget C. Cantrell as its Chief Clinical Officer.

“This is a major milestone in the growth and maturation of our Organization," states Peter J. Whalen, the Founder and CEO of the Invictus Foundation. "Dr. Cantrell has superb clinical credentials, is an author of six books on behavioral health issues within the military and veteran communities and is a noted researcher and lecturer, the sponsor of numerous military/veterans workshops as well as being a consultant to the U.S. military for behavioral health issues affecting our men and women in uniform.”

“Dr. Cantrell has tremendous credibility with our military and veterans. She has spent a lifetime working with them. She will be leading the clinical execution of our efforts to expand community outreach for behavioral health services to our military, veterans and their families that are struggling to create a 'new normal' in their lives after experiencing the crucible of war," states Mr. Whalen.

“I was so pleased when Peter approached me and asked me to take the helm of the clinical leadership for the Invictus Foundation," states Dr. Cantrell. "He and I have had a long-term collaboration around his dream of improving access and service levels to uniformed services personnel, veterans and their families that stretch back to his founding of the Invictus Foundation eight years ago. I have always believed that he had the leadership skills, competency, credibility and character to one day have this request made of me by him."

"I'm excited to be involved with the Invictus Foundation in the continued development of its Welcome Home Networks (WHN) as well as the total quality management and continuous quality improvement of them. I will also be working on strengthening our telemedicine platform focused on expanding behavioral health services to uniformed services personnel, veterans and their families through this portal, developing an internet call-in radio show, creating podcasts and video cloud offerings as well as expanding seminar and conferences capabilities through the Invictus Foundation. The long term goal remains to build out eight regional TBI and Psychological Health Centers across the Country to which our regional Welcome Home Networks will be able to make referrals," states Dr. Cantrell.