Today I wanted to take a deep dive into a specific aspect of night-time anxiety: the dreaded 3 AM wake-up. Many of us have experienced it, myself included – it’s where we wake up in the wee hours, our minds racing with worry and self-criticism. This phenomenon, sometimes called “barbed-wire thinking,” is not only common but also deeply rooted in our neurobiology and psychology. So, if you experience this situation, you are not alone – and best of all, there are lots of natural health strategies that really do work! As always, everything I bring you is fully rooted in robust scientific research so that you know that my recommendations really do work – but as always, use your common sense and ensure that anything you try is right for you. If in doubt, contact your trusted health professional – and remember, you can find a huge database of the world’s leading natural health professionals from all over the world over on The Complementary Medical Association website (The-CMA.org.uk).
The 3 AM Phenomenon: Understanding What Happens in Your Body
Around 3 or 4 AM, our bodies undergo significant changes. Our core body temperature starts to rise, melatonin production peaks, and cortisol levels increase in preparation for the day. These shifts can trigger awakenings, especially in light sleep phases. If stress is in the mix, as it often is in our fast-paced lives, these awakenings become more pronounced and self-aware.
The Psychology of 3 AM Thinking
At this hour, we’re at a low point both physically and cognitively. Isolated from our usual social connections and coping strategies, we’re left alone with our thoughts, which can spiral into catastrophising. This isn’t problem-solving; it’s worry in its most unproductive form.
Combatting Night-time Anxiety with Natural Strategies: These are easy and sustainable strategies that you can integrate into your life – right away!
1. Herbal Remedies:
– Easy Integration: Keep a selection of calming herbal teas like chamomile or valerian root in your kitchen. Make it a relaxing bedtime ritual to brew a cup.
– Sustainability Tip: Grow your own herbs like lavender or lemon balm in a small kitchen garden or on a windowsill for a fresh and easily available supply. For an extra health bonus, research shows that caring for house plants improves health in every way – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I talk about this at some length in my latest book, “Rewind Your Body Clock: The complete natural guide to a happier, healthier, younger you”. (Available in all formats – UK, USA, Australia, Canada)
2. Exercise for Better Sleep:
– Incorporating into Daily Life: Schedule regular exercise sessions in your planner. Morning or early afternoon workouts can be especially effective. If you are like me, you’ll find that life takes over and exercise can get edged out of your life before you know it! Schedule it into your diary as non-negotiable time. This has worked wonders for me – I view exercise as being non-negotiable – I have to do it in order to perform at my peek and it gives me the strength and energy I need to care for others too.
– Sustainability: Choose activities you enjoy. Whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga, or cycling, the key is consistency and enjoyment.
3. Mindfulness and Meditation:
– Practical Application: Start with just five minutes of meditation before bed or during quiet moments of your day. Use apps or guided sessions to ease into the practice.
– Making it a Habit: Set a daily reminder for your meditation practice. Consistency is crucial for reaping the long-term benefits.
4. Cognitive Behavioural Training (CBT):
– Practical Steps: Keep a comforting book or a journal by your bedside. If you wake up anxious, read or write for a few minutes to shift your mind away from worry.
– Long-term Approach: Consider joining a CBT workshop or online course to better understand and apply these techniques in various aspects of life.
5. Reframing Night-time Thoughts:
– Daytime Practice: Dedicate a few minutes each day to reflect on and write down any recurring anxious thoughts and how they’re proven unfounded in daylight. This can help in recognizing the pattern.
– Sustainable Mindset Shift: Gradually, try to internalize the understanding that 3 AM thoughts are not reflective of your reality.
Additional Sustainable Strategies
– Diet and Routine: Incorporate a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid heavy meals and stimulants like caffeine close to bedtime.
– Creating a Restful Environment: Ensure your sleeping area is conducive to rest. This might mean investing in blackout curtains, comfortable bedding, or sound machines.
While these strategies are effective, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you find your anxiety persistent or overwhelming.
Adopting these natural strategies into your daily life can significantly reduce the impact of night-time anxiety. Remember, the goal is not just to combat these challenges but to do so in a way that is easy and sustainable for long-term well-being.
Wishing you peaceful nights and empowering days,