Can sleep. Anxiety? What to do?
April 17, 2008 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Can't sleep, think I have anxiety. What can I do?

Normally, I am a good sleeper. I get 7-8 hours a night, wake up refreshed and ready to go. However, the past 2 nights I have gotten horrible (if any) sleep. Last night was the worst. I had a tightness in my chest, my mind was racing with bizarre thoughts (about air traffic control!?), I had occasional shakes, and was tossing and turning. Even after getting up and reading for an hour and a half I went back to be only to experience the same thing. I felt like I had had 10 cups of coffee, even though I hadn't had anything caffeinated yesterday. The tightness feeling in my chest seems to come and go throughout the day, but seems to be the worst when I am trying to fall asleep.

Obviously, I am going to see my doctor about this. I scheduled an appointment, but that is almost two weeks away. Has anyone experienced this before? Is it anxiety? I take care of my diet and exercise, and don't have anything overly stressful going on right now, so I don't understand what the problem could be. Do you have any treatment recommendations while I am waiting to see my doctor?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry you feel so awful. Some people think it's bogus, some people swear by it. Worth a shot if you have 2 weeks to wait - Rescue Remedy.
posted by meerkatty at 9:30 AM on April 17, 2008

(Also, don't be throw off by the woman aspect of it - I have guy friends that use it.)
posted by meerkatty at 9:31 AM on April 17, 2008

try this.
clear your head.
with your eyes closed look left then right then up and down. do this over and over again. in a couple of minutes you will be fast asleep.
posted by dawdle at 9:40 AM on April 17, 2008

It does sound like anxiety... but the sudden onset and lack of reason, coupled with chest pains suggests maybe you should head to the ER and at least have them give you a once-over?
posted by TravellingDen at 9:42 AM on April 17, 2008

1) realize that you're body WILL sleep when it needs to
2) you CAN (and have, and will) function(ed) perfectly well on little or no sleep. A fitful night or two, while unpleasant, is not the end of the world. (Often these things are self-perpetuating - try to nip that in the butt right away).
3) podcasts. I listen as quietly as possible, so that I have to remain perfectly still in order to not miss anything. With still body and brain enjoyably engaged, sleep often happens before I realize it. I can't over-emphasize the stillness-factor - so often when I'm having difficulty sleeping, I realize that I'm virtually ALWAYS moving - twitching, shifting positions, rearranging pillows, blankets, etc. Just set the goal of NOT moving - that's a huge part of the battle right there.

Good luck, and don't sweat it too much.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:55 AM on April 17, 2008

clear your head
way to read the question.
posted by bonaldi at 10:37 AM on April 17, 2008

It sounds like a panic attack to me. Don't look for a rational psychological cause; dwelling on "why???" will only cause you more stress. It's physiological and you need to trick your brain into thinking everything's OK. Don't watch TV right before bed. Do read a book, but not about anything disturbing. Meditate. Practice breathing deeply from your abdomen (put a book on your tummy and make it rise and fall). Obviously, no caffeine, including chocolate. Melatonin has helped a friend of mine. Increase your exercise until you're really, really tired. Above all, don't stress out about stressing out. :)

IANAD but I do have panic disorder. The book The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook is very helpful.
posted by desjardins at 10:39 AM on April 17, 2008

it definitely sounds like anxiety. i suffer from anxiety, and recently experienced very similar things to what you describe (though instead of a tightness in my chest, my heart was racing to the point where i didn't think the rest of my body could keep up). feeling like you had tons of coffee is also a common anxiety feeling.

so. if you have no history of panic/anxiety you should definitely follow up with the doctor in two weeks. until then, call the office back, tell them you're having anxiety attacks, and ask them if they have any advice for what to do until you can see the doctor.

when i get like this, i generally take a xanax or two and zonk out. if that's not an option for whatever reason, i try to just work through it, realizing that the scary feelings will be gone in a few hours or a few days.

it doesn't work this way for everyone thought.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:32 AM on April 17, 2008

I went through much the same thing myself. It sounds an awful lot like my own anxiety disorder (which is now pretty much history).

Tightness in the chest is often a symptom of anxiety, as is the inability to sleep and the 'fight or flight' adrenaline rush that keeps you awake. I used to lie awake checking my pulse and worrying that I was going to have a heart attack.

Firstly, I'm glad you're going to see a doctor. The doctor will be able to reassure you that there's no physical cause for this (e.g. thyroid or heart problem). It's extremely unlikely, and knowing that there's no underlying physical condition will be a useful step in acknowledging that it's 'only anxiety'. Your doctor may also offer to prescribe anti-depressents which can help to alleviate the symptoms while you deal with whatever's causing it.

Rather than just lie in bed tossing and turning, go for a walk. Get some air and reason with yourself that it's just anxiety and that you have no cause for it. Smile and remind yourself of all the positive things in your life; tell yourself that your negative thoughts have no basis in reality, and are silly.

My own anxiety developed over several years, although it took a new home and a new job to really trigger the full effect. Think about how your thoughts have changed in the past year or two; are you a more nervous car/plane passenger? Do you have irrational thoughts about accidents or injuries? (it sounds like maybe you do). Has there been some major change (or several minor changes) in your life that could have tipped you into this state of mind?

And talk about your feelings with someone else; if you have a supportive friend or partner it can really help just to admit that you're feeling panicky. If you're diagnosed with an anxiey disorder, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is also worth considering.

Above all, be aware that something like 1 in 10 people have had panic attacks. It's commonplace and treatable.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:37 AM on April 17, 2008

This is why God created Xanax and its many friends. It may be worth asking your doctor for a short term prescription of an anti-anxiety drug and/or sleep aid. You can (and arguably should) do all of the self-help, mediation and workbooking out there, but sometimes to get on top of things enough to do any of that, you just need some frickin' sleep and a break from the relentless anxiety parrot in your head.

I take .5mg for sleep as needed and .25mg on the mornings when the thought of getting out of bed to face the day is enough to make me want to vomit before my feet even hit the floor.

My use is occasional, I suffer no side effects, and I am in no way addicted to this drug. YMMV.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:37 AM on April 17, 2008

nthing The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
posted by tiburon at 12:21 PM on April 17, 2008

You can (and arguably should) do all of the self-help, mediation and workbooking out there, but sometimes to get on top of things enough to do any of that, you just need some frickin' sleep and a break from the relentless anxiety parrot in your head.

I agree with this, and I want to emphasize my statement that this is physiological. A prescription "shortcut" to feeling physically relaxed is totally valid, IMO. I take Klonopin for panic attacks (haven't had trouble sleeping, with or without it). It gets me past the physical anxiety enough so I can examine whatever mental processes led me to it.

Without medication: "my chest feels tight. why? I'm having trouble breathing. OMG what if I stop breathing? what's going on? did I feel like this yesterday? I can't remember. what if this doesn't go away?? ohmygodwhatifsomethingisreallywrong!"

With medication: "my chest feels tight. I'm probably anxious. [takes pill] OK, that feels better. I'm probably stressed about that presentation at work."
posted by desjardins at 1:34 PM on April 17, 2008

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