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Waking Up With Anxiety: 6 Potential Causes

Waking Up With Anxiety: 6 Potential Causes

If you’re familiar with anxiety, you know the sensations of impending panic, restlessness, a thumping heart, and rapid breathing all too well.

When you wake up in a panic every morning or find yourself waking up with anxiety in the middle of the night, it becomes even more troubling. 

Taking control of morning anxiety requires identifying and understanding the potential causes so that you can wake up feeling serene, relaxed, and calm. 

So what causes morning anxiety? Some of it is biological, and the stress hormone cortisol is often the culprit. 

#1: Everyday Stress

When we’re faced with something unpleasant, the body releases cortisol. 

Anytime you feel worried or stressed, you can assume that your levels of this stress hormone are on the rise. 

Our bodies can’t tell the difference between facing a tiger and giving a presentation at work. The signal is the same: fear!


During stressful situations, fight-or-flight hormones like adrenaline activate. Afterward, cortisol remains elevated to help keep you on high alert to fight or flee from a perceived threat. 

Cortisol also helps to control your sleep-wake cycle by initiating wakefulness. Therefore, cortisol levels are typically at their lowest in the evening and at their highest right before you wake up.

This is known as the cortisol awakening response (CAR). 

If you’re under a ton of daily stress, the body may release even more cortisol than usual in an attempt to keep you vigilant and awake. 

This explains why you may find yourself repeatedly waking up with anxiety in the middle of the night. 

Reduce daily stress levels with stress management techniques like breathwork, light exercise, or meditation. In turn, cortisol levels (and CAR) should return to normal. 

If you feel a burst of anxiety upon waking, it could be because you’re skipping breakfast. 

#2: Low Blood Sugar in The Morning 

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day!

Low blood sugar in the morning isn’t uncommon after not eating all night. Symptoms of low blood sugar can mimic or worsen anxiety, so it’s essential to break your overnight fast. 

Before you opt for sugary cereal, consider eating a magnesium-rich breakfast to help ease symptoms of anxiety. 

Include almonds, cashews, or whole-grain oatmeal in your first meal of the day to keep magnesium levels high. 

For the most balanced approach, avoid simple carbs and consume complex carbs instead. Keep your breakfast low in sugar and include moderate amounts of protein. 

This combination is scientifically proven to give you the boost of energy you need to start your day. 


@somnifix Do you skip breakfast? 🍳 It really is the most important meal of the day! Eating in the morning helps bring #bloodsugar up from your overnight fast, & researchers say that the best combo for boosted #energy is a meal low in sugar and simple carbs but rich in #complexcarbs & protein! #ucberkeley #sleep #didyouknow ♬ Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee

With boosted energy levels from your meal, you can cut back on morning caffeine known to worsen symptoms of anxiety.

Another unexpected cause of waking up with anxiety in the middle of the night: your evening glass of wine. 

#3: Your Evening Nightcap

The relaxing effect you feel after drinking your evening cocktail, a glass of wine, or other alcoholic beverage is deceiving. 

If you’ve heard the term “hangxiety,” it’s more than just a popular internet buzzword to describe feelings of anxiety the morning after drinking. 

Alcohol floods the brain with dopamine, a feel-good chemical. This rush of positive emotions only lasts temporarily. When dopamine levels dip back down, anxiety rises. 

What’s more, drinking has a direct effect on brain chemistry by causing an influx of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid. This chemical has a relaxing effect. 

Over time, your body becomes dependent on alcohol to feel calm and begins to rely on boosted GABA from alcohol consumption. 

However, consistent drinking depletes GABA levels over time, leading to enhanced feelings of panic and anxiety caused by withdrawal. 

Keep alcohol consumption low, especially in the evenings, to prevent GABA depletion. 

Add in interrupted sleep, which is worse with alcohol consumption, and it’s the perfect recipe for waking up with anxiety in the middle of the night. 

#4: Lack of Quality Sleep 

As you may know, anxiety is notorious for disrupting sleep. 

However, sleep deprivation also leads to anxiety, leading to a vicious cycle that both enhances symptoms of anxiety and leads to even more fragmented sleep.


A group of studies found that even just one night of lousy sleep influences anxiety levels due to the changes in brain activity associated with emotional regulation, like the amygdala. 

In fact, sleep deprivation leads to a 60 percent increase in amygdala activity in response to emotional stimuli in comparison to participants who were well-rested. 

As anxiety rises, many may feel stress over the fact that they aren’t getting enough sleep. This leads to anticipatory anxiety before going to bed out of fear that achieving sleep will be difficult. 

Instead of resting, you may lay there worrying about all of the consequences of being unable to sleep. The mind remains active as worry grows, leading to issues relaxing. 

To break the cycle of anxiety due to lack of sleep and lack of sleep due to anxiety, quality sleep must become a priority. 

Beating nighttime worry that leads to waking up with anxiety in the middle of the night or morning depends on building a solid evening routine. 

That means winding down as evening falls rather than stimulating your brain with electronics or work. By building a calming nighttime routine, your mind and body will leave the “fight or flight” state and enter a state of “rest and digest.”

#5: You Don’t Have a Bedtime Routine

Routines send a signal to our brains that it’s time to do something. For example, when we eat dinner at around the same time each night, hunger cues kick in to signal that it’s time for food. 

The same applies to sleep. Bedtime routines establish activities and habits that signal to the brain that it’s time to relax, wind down, and sleep. 

By performing the same activities each night, your brain begins to recognize those habits as precursors to sleep. 

As a result, late-night anxiety diminishes as you focus on pre-bedtime tasks and relaxation instead. Therefore, waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety becomes a thing of the past. 

Bedtime routines for children are proven to enhance memory, improve attention span, enhance development, and boost well-being. 

The same applies to adults, but we often forget to prioritize these habits that allow the brain to separate the day from the night as we age.  

So how do you begin building a solid bedtime routine? First, decide on a set bedtime and wake time and try not to deviate from it, even on the weekends. 

Sleeping too much or too little over the weekend leads to circadian rhythm disturbances and sleep debt. 

Once you’ve established consistent sleep and wake times, turn your attention toward other nighttime activities besides scrolling through social media or binging your favorite Netflix show. 

Electronic devices emit blue light that tricks your brain and body into thinking it’s daytime, suppressing the melatonin production you rely on to fall asleep. 

Replace these activities with relaxation techniques like deep breathing or light yoga. 

Once you’re ready to climb into bed, prevent snoring by breathing properly during the night. 

#6: Dysfunctional Breathing During Sleep 

If you’re repeatedly waking up with anxiety in the middle of the night, it could all lead back to the way you breathe. Mouth breathing not only causes to snoring at night – it can also worsen anxiety. 

Mouth breathing usually consists of rapid, shallow breaths that place the body in a stressed state

Nasal breathing, on the other hand, produces nitric oxide known to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to calm the body and mind to prepare for rest. 

Nitric oxide also lowers blood pressure and boosts oxygenation, helping you absorb air more efficiently. 

What’s more, nasal breathing reduces your risk of snoring during sleep. When you nasal breathe, the tongue is placed in the proper position, reducing snoring.

During mouth breathing, however, the tissues in and around the airway fall backward and obstruct the airway. As they vibrate together, snoring ensues – and snoring fragments sleep. 

By changing your breathing patterns and habits, nasal breathing becomes second nature. However, if you want to ensure that you won’t mouth breathe during sleep, mouth tape is your best friend. 

Tape Anxiety Shut With SomniFix 

Our breathing directly reflects our health. 

Waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety may tie back to waking up gasping or choking for air due to mouth breathing and snoring. 

If left untreated, snoring leads to sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Therefore, addressing snoring and dysfunctional breathing during sleep is key to protecting your health. 

Moreover, mouth breathing is known to increase blood pressure, cavities, dry mouth, bad breath, morning headaches, and more.  

@somnifix Morning #badbreath is linked to #mouthbreathing 😷 #nasalbreathing at night via #mouthtaping prevents bad breath, cavities, & more! Dr. #StevinLin explains #dentistsoftiktok 🎥 the @Dhru ♬ original sound - Somnifix

To guarantee that mouth breathing during sleep becomes impossible, use mouth tape at night to maintain a proper lip seal and tongue posture. 

Although it sounds anxiety-provoking, mouth taping promotes nasal breathing known to calm both the body and the mind through nitric oxide production. 

SomniFix offers a gentle seal, free from common skin irritants known to cause rashes. Our Mout Strips are created from recycled and hypoallergenic sources, meaning they’re perfect for any skin type. 

Tape your morning anxiety shut once and for all with SomniFix tonight! 

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