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Can Not Enough Sleep Cause Anxiety

A Trigger For Mental Illness

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In addition, since many mental illnesses first show up in the teenage years, doctors worry that severe sleep deprivation could trigger a serious depression in kids who are already predisposed to it.

Last year Ben Freedman, a 17-year-old junior at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, suffered what his dad, Jonathan, a professor at the University of Michigan, describes as a pretty bad clinical depression. Ben says the combination of chronic sleep deprivation and stress from an overwhelming academic workload triggered a severe mix of depression and anxiety. I was way tired out, he says. And less sleep put me in a really, really depressed state. I was suffering really badly. Ben says he was getting 5-6 hours of sleep at the time but his dad says it was less. Ben took on too many AP courses last year, says Jonathan. He and his friends were pulling all-nighters and I as a dad intervened as much as I possibly could. Sleep deprivation and depression go hand-in-hand, and Bens kind of a melancholy guy.

Medication, therapy and changing his sleep habits have all helped Ben feel better, but his dad says convincing Ben that he had to make changes wasnt easy. There was a lot of resistance at first. It took a while but eventually he came around and hes committed to more regular consistent sleep.

Causes Of Sleep Deprivation

In a nutshell, sleep deprivation is caused by consistent lack of sleep or reduced quality of sleep. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis can eventually lead to health consequences that affect your entire body. This may also be caused by an underlying sleep disorder.

Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new thought connections and helps memory retention.

Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems wont function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life.

A found that sleeping too little at night increases the risk of early death.

Noticeable signs of sleep deprivation include:

Stimulants, such as caffeine, arent enough to override your bodys profound need for sleep. In fact, these can make sleep deprivation worse by making it harder to fall asleep at night.

This, in turn, may lead to a cycle of nighttime insomnia followed by daytime caffeine consumption to combat the tiredness caused by the lost hours of shut-eye.

Behind the scenes, chronic sleep deprivation can interfere with your bodys internal systems and cause more than just the initial signs and symptoms listed above.

Sleep And Its Impact On Anxiety And Depression

Usually, sleep is a restorative state, it helps us to handle the cleatiousemanyallenges of life. However, inadequate or disrupted sleep leads to increased tension and irritability. Sleep problems and insomnia can potentially increase the risk of developing depression in the first place. For instance, a study into 1,000 adults found that people who reported insomnia were four times more likely to experience issues of major depression by the time they had a second interview 3 years later.

Insomnia and sleep deprivation also affects the outcomes of clients with depression. Studies show that people who have issues with insomnia are less likely to respond to treatment for depression. Whats more, depressed clients who also cant sleep are more likely to think about suicide than people who sleep normally.

Sleep deprivation also has a significant impact on people with anxiety. Currently, sleeping problems affect a huge number of adults with generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD. While insomnia might not cause you to develop an anxiety disorder, it can make your issue a lot worse. Some people develop issues with anxiety that are linked to the process of going to sleep. A disorder called sleep anxiety refers to feelings of panic that people get whenever they go to bed and attempt to fall asleep.

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Weight Gain & Obesity

The effects of continual sleep problems include rapid weight gain. A lack of sleep is related to higher amounts of cortisol, a stress hormone the resulting anxiety, stress and frustration often contribute to emotional eating and poor nutritional habits. Another hormone, called ghrelin, is produced in the stomach and has been associated with sleep long-term deprivation an excess of ghrelin can actually make people feel more hungry.

Over time, sleep deprivation negatively impacts the bodys metabolism and eating habits. Tiredness often leads to unhealthy cravings and overindulgence, accompanied by a decrease in stamina and physical activity. Research has shown that people who feel unrested are more likely to choose foods that are rich in carbohydrates and sugar.

Mathematics tells us that a decrease in exercise, combined with an increase in the amount eaten plus an increase in the caloric value of the food ingested, equals weight gain. Obesity is a known risk factor for insomniacs.

Diagram of the main 10 effects of long-term sleep deprivation on the human mind and body.

Why Anxiety Causes Sleep Problems

How Not Getting Enough Sleep Damages Your Health

Anxiety can affect sleep in a variety of ways. Nearly every symptom of anxiety has the potential to disrupt your ability to sleep since sleep is only possible when your body and mind are relaxed.

Sleep problems may be caused by any number of factors. These include:

Often those with severe anxiety also have negative thoughts which may make relaxation, a key part of falling asleep, difficult to attain.

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How To Manage Anxiety And Get A Good Nights Sleep

Stress and anxiety are some of the most common reasons people toss and turn at night. Surveys estimate that about 24% to 36%of people with insomnia have an anxiety disorder, and these 2 problems can feed off each other.

If your anxiety is interfering with your sleep, it can seem like a waking nightmare. But there are a number of treatments to help you get some shuteye again.

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Can Lack Of Sleep Cause Anxiety

The average adult needs about seven hours of sleep a night to feel fully rested and functional. Teenagers need to get an additional two hours of sleep to maintain their normal function during the day. Unfortunately, if you fail to get enough sleep, you may experience significant feelings of anxiety. At the same time, people with anxiety-related problems may find themselves having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

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Tired And Edgy Sleep Deprivation Boosts Anticipatory Anxiety

University of California – Berkeley
Researchers have found that a lack of sleep, which is common in anxiety disorders, may play a key role in ramping up the brain regions that contribute to excessive worrying. The results suggest that people suffering from such maladies as generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, may benefit substantially from sleep therapy.

UC Berkeley researchers have found that a lack of sleep, which is common in anxiety disorders, may play a key role in ramping up the brain regions that contribute to excessive worrying.

Neuroscientists have found that sleep deprivation amplifies anticipatory anxiety by firing up the brain’s amygdala and insular cortex, regions associated with emotional processing. The resulting pattern mimics the abnormal neural activity seen in anxiety disorders. Furthermore, their research suggests that innate worriers — those who are naturally more anxious and therefore more likely to develop a full-blown anxiety disorder — are acutely vulnerable to the impact of insufficient sleep.

“These findings help us realize that those people who are anxious by nature are the same people who will suffer the greatest harm from sleep deprivation,” said Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and senior author of the paper, published June 26 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Sleep Problems And Sleep Disorders

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The National Institutes of Health estimates that about 20 million Americans sometimes experience disruptions in their normal sleeping patterns. More than twice that number of people have ongoing or chronic sleep disturbances serious enough to meet the definition of a diagnosable sleep disorder. A sleep problem becomes a sleep disorder when it repeatedly interferes with your ability to maintain a sense of mental/emotional or physical well-being during waking hours.

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Sleep Loss Impairs Judgment Especially About Sleep

Lack of sleep can affect our interpretation of events. This hurts our ability to make sound judgments because we may not assess situations accurately and act on them wisely.

Sleep-deprived people seem to be especially prone to poor judgment when it comes to assessing what lack of sleep is doing to them. In our increasingly fast-paced world, functioning on less sleep has become a kind of badge of honor. But sleep specialists say if you think youââ¬â¢re doing fine on less sleep, youââ¬â¢re probably wrong. And if you work in a profession where itââ¬â¢s important to be able to judge your level of functioning, this can be a big problem.

ââ¬ÅStudies show that over time, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, begin to feel that theyââ¬â¢ve adapted to that sleep deprivation — theyââ¬â¢ve gotten used to it,ââ¬ï¿½ Gehrman says. ââ¬ÅBut if you look at how they actually do on tests of mental alertness and performance, they continue to go downhill. So thereââ¬â¢s a point in sleep deprivation when we lose touch with how impaired we are.ââ¬ï¿½

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Stalked By Chronic Nightmares

Chronic nightmares are another troublesome sleep disorder that can cause fear, says Shelby Harris, PsyD, CBSM, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Montefiore Medical Centerâs Sleep-Wake Disorders Center in New York City. Children are especially vulnerable, but adults – especially those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder — experience nightmares, too.

Joni Aldrich, 57, of Winston-Salem, N.C., began to dread sleep after she lost her husband to brain cancer four years ago. After he had a seizure, she had to make the difficult decision to suspend treatment, an experience that traumatized her.

Every night, she had nightmares of him begging her to help him, but she couldnât. She would awaken shaking. Aldrich finally got help from a counselor and began taking an anti-anxiety medication to help her sleep. âI still take the anti-anxiety medication in a very low dose, because I fear the results otherwise,â says Aldrich, CEO of Cancer Lifeline Publications. âEven one of those nightmares wouldn’t be worth it. And, I still go to bed later than I should just to make sure that I’m really tired.â

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Get Rid Of Your Clock

Clocks can be a common trigger for anxiety, especially when youre trying to fall asleep. Instead of having a clock by your bedside where you can glance at it every time you struggle to fall asleep keep a clock outside your room instead. Looking at the clock will only cause your anxiety to get worse, so avoid it altogether.

Increased Risk Of Injuries

Insomnia Causes and Treatment

According to a National Sleep Foundation Study, drowsiness or fatigue is the principle cause of at least 100,000 traffic accidents each year. One North Carolina state study found that 55% of all fall-asleep crashes were caused by drivers under the age of 25. Parents shouldnt let sleep deprived adolescents get behind the wheel anymore than they would if their kid had been drinking.

But while it might pose the most serious risk, driving is not the only danger. After getting between 3 and 4 hours of sleep for several nights in a row, while working on a term paper in his sophomore year of high school, Gabriel Levine went into his kitchen at 3am to get a snack. Instead of slicing through a wedge of cheese he sliced through his thumb clear to the bone, severing a ligament. It ended up requiring a trip to the emergency room and two surgeries to repair it, and I spent 6 weeks in a cast, says Levine, now 19 and a freshman in college. Though he says the injury was absolutely the result of how little sleep Id been getting by on for months, he didnt get any extensions on homework or papers. And because he could only type with one hand, he ended up having to stay up even later to finish his work.

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How Can Healthier Sleep Habits Treat Sleep Anxiety

Sleep habits, or sleep hygiene, are your routines around bedtime that can affect your sleep. Your healthcare provider may ask you to keep a sleep diary for several weeks. This is a daily log of your sleep habits. It can help identify things that might make it harder for you to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Some common ways to improve your sleep hygiene include:

  • Avoid drinking lots of fluids before bed, especially alcohol.
  • Do relaxing activities before bed, such as meditation or listening to soft, peaceful music.
  • Dont consume caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Dont go to bed unless you feel sleepy.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • If you dont fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed.
  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, quiet and softly lit.
  • Only use your bed for sleep and sex. For example, avoid watching television or doing work in bed.
  • Set a goal of getting at least seven hours of sleep every night.
  • Stop using electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Try not to eat right before bedtime. If youre hungry, have a light snack and not a big meal.

How Is Sleep Anxiety Diagnosed

Your healthcare provider performs a physical exam, reviews your medical history and evaluates your symptoms. They may ask you questions like:

  • Do you eat or drink anything before bed?
  • Does your anxiety always occur before bed?
  • How long does it take you to fall asleep?
  • How often do you wake up during the night?
  • What activities do you do before bed?

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How To Catch Up On Lost Sleep

If you don’t get enough sleep, there’s only one way to compensate getting more sleep.

It won’t happen with a single early night. If you’ve had months of restricted sleep, you’ll have built up a significant sleep debt, so expect recovery to take several weeks.

Starting on a weekend, try to add on an extra hour or 2 of sleep a night. The way to do this is to go to bed when you’re tired, and allow your body to wake you in the morning .

You might sleep up to 10 hours a night at first. After a while, the amount of time you sleep will gradually decrease to a normal level.

Don’t rely on caffeine or energy drinks as a short-term pick-me-up. They may boost your energy and concentration in the short term, but can disrupt your sleep patterns even further in the long term.

Page last reviewed: 5 August 2021 Next review due: 5 August 2024

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