What Is The Relationship Between Anxiety And Sleep
Serious sleep disturbances, including insomnia, have long been recognized as a common symptom of anxiety disorders. People who are plagued with worry often ruminate about their concerns in bed, and this anxiety at night can keep them from falling asleep.
In fact, a state of mental hyperarousal, frequently marked by worry, has been identified as a key factor behind insomnia. People with anxiety disorders are inclined to have higher sleep reactivity, which means they are much more likely to have sleeping problems when facing stress.
Sleeping difficulties have been found for people with various types of anxiety including generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, and PTSD. In several studies, over 90% of people with PTSD associated with military combat have reported symptoms of insomnia.
Distress about falling asleep can itself complicate matters, creating a sleep anxiety that reinforces a persons sense of dread and preoccupation. These negative thoughts about going to bed, a type of anticipatory anxiety, can create challenges to healthy sleep schedules and routines.
At the same time, strong evidence indicates that sleeping problems are not only a symptom of anxiety. Instead, sleep deprivation can instigate or worsen anxiety disorders. Researchers have found that people who are prone to anxiety are especially sensitive to the effects of insufficient sleep, which can provoke symptoms of anxiety.
Sleep Anxiety Tips: How To Calm Anxiety At Night
*This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended as medical or other professional advice. Visit the links within the text for sources. Casper has not independently verified the sources. While some of us may toss and turn some nights, every night can be a restless night for others. If youve ever struggled with sleep anxiety, you know the feeling of anxiously watching the clock as you worry about not being able to fall asleep and waking up sleep-deprived the next day. There are many statistics that reveal Americans struggle to sleep on a regular basis. As it turns out, anxiety and sleep are connected in a number of ways. Fifty percent of those who are sleep-deprived say that their anxiety impacts their ability to sleep at night. Its important to understand how anxiety can affect your ability to get a good nights rest. This guide covers what sleep anxiety is, the effects of anxiety-induced sleep deprivation, and science-backed tips for decreasing anxious thoughts, as well as how to set yourself up for better sleep.
How To Calm Anxiety At Night
The relationship between sleep and mental health is cyclical. If you have poor sleep, youre likely to feel tired the next day, which can make things even more difficult and stressful, which can make anxiety worse and result in another night of disturbed sleep. If you are struggling with anxiety at night and have trouble falling asleep, though, there are steps you can take.
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Reason #: Poor Sleep Cycle
According to Lawson, insomnia and anxiety share a strong relationship, meaning sleep problems or insomnia can cause anxiety and vice versa.
If youve always been anxious or struggled to fall asleep, you may have developed a pattern of poor or interrupted sleep. This makes your body most susceptible to stress and insomnia. Types of Anxiety Disorders
Research also shows that sleep disorders occur in almost all psychiatric and anxiety disorders. Some of these include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder: Worry over everyday events, making it difficult to relax.
- Social anxiety disorder: The anticipation of social situations can often prevent sleep at night.
- Compulsive-obsessive disorder: Research suggests that intrusive thoughts and fears can keep people up when theyre trying to fall asleep.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: The constant re-experiencing of traumatic events can induce nightmares and rob people of sleep.
Put Your Phone To Bed
Just say no to doomscrolling before bed the practice of taking in a barrage of bad news online. Give your phone a bedtime before your own, Dr. Albers advises.
And if anxiety keeps you awake or wakes you up, resist the temptation to break this rule and start using your phone. Your phones blue light signals your brain to turn back on, ultimately making it even harder to get to sleep.
This is a No. 1 no-no for helping you fall back to sleep, Dr. Albers warns.
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Make Plans For Tomorrow
Worrying about the next day can often increase anxiety and keep people up at night. If this is whats causing your nighttime anxiety, try addressing the problem directly by planning out the next day.
You might find it helpful to use a planner or a to-do list to prepare yourself for what you need to do tomorrow. That way, you can go to bed feeling confident there are no unpleasant surprises youd forgotten about waiting for you the next day.
Make sure youre mindful about how you feel if you decide to practice this for some people, thinking about the next day might make anxiety even worse.
Correlation Between Anxiety And Sleep
Anxiety may play a major role in how well you sleep, according to a 2013 review of research. If youre prone to anxiety, you may find it hard to sleep at night. If youre having a hard time sleeping, you may start to get anxiety.
The research acknowledged that various studies found a bidirectional relationship between sleep and anxiety, which means either disorder can come first. However, more research is needed to verify this.
An older indicates that anxiety and sleep problems both contribute to one another, which in turn produces anxiety symptoms as well as sleep loss.
A more recent
- Try to focus your mental energy.
- Create a comfortable environment.
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The Connection Between Anxiety And Sleep
Anxiety can make it difficult for someone to fall and stay asleep. But the reverse is also possibledifficulty falling asleep can lead to anxiety.
This is because getting enough sleep can reduce stress, improve your mood, and restore your ability to think and remember things. Your sleep schedule also factors into your overall health. Sleeping at night and waking in the morning helps maintain your natural biological clock for when your body should be asleep or awakeor, your circadian rhythm.² When your internal clock is off or you can’t get enough sleep, that can lead to a buildup of stress, negative emotions, and anxiety.³
Turn Down The Noise In Your Head For A More Restful Night
As you tuck into bed at night, do the thoughts in your brain refuse to slow down when you turn off the lights? Instead of winding down, its a wave of worries about everything from paying your credit card bill on time to an upcoming meeting with your boss. That non-stop chatter about what might occur tomorrow is a sign of anxiety and, for many, its a serious roadblock to getting a good nights sleep.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the number of people struggling with anxiety is staggering. Anxiety has become the number one mental health issue in North America, affecting approximately 40 million Americans . Some estimates put this number higher at around 30% since many people with anxiety dont know they have it or dont seek treatment.
Simply put, its a national epidemic.
When it comes to sleep, anxiety is a key part of a toxic cycle because it makes getting to sleep and staying asleep difficult. Whats more, it becomes a source of worry itself, worsening the original anxiety a chicken-and-egg problem. Did the anxiety cause poor sleep or did poor sleep cause anxiety? One feeds the other, experts say.
The bad news is that even as you manage to nod off, your anxiety is still active. While we sleep, our mind is still active and maybe processing information, she says. If we dont take time throughout the day to process information and to unwind, then stress/anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
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How To Reduce Anxiety At Night: Our Familys Personal Experience
Needless to say we have tried many, many things in our attempt to get more sleep in our household, and I want to take the time to lay it all out and share what weve learned: the good, the bad, and in-between.
The good news? There are definitely some excellent, non-pharmaceutical options that often help. It often takes trial and error, but if you find the thing that works for you, its so worth it!
For each of the tools that I list below Ill explain what they are and how they are theorized to work, followed by my personal take and experience.
Youll notice as you read through them that some of these are more potent as an in-the-moment trick while others are more powerful when used over time to nudge the bodys natural mechanisms back to functionality.
Ill be honest with you its difficult to break out of the modern pill for every ill mindset where we expect instant results after popping a pill . Nevertheless, its worth checking ourselves in this regard, and being open-minded about a synergistic, slow, long-term approach that supports the intricate functioning of the human body.
What Is Panic Disorder
If youre having lots of panic attacks at unpredictable times and there doesnt seem to be a particular trigger or cause, you might be given a diagnosis of panic disorder. Its common to experience panic disorder and certain types of phobia together. People who experience panic disorder may have some periods with few or no panic attacks, but have lots at other times.
Panic disorder and high sensitivity
Some research suggests that people who have panic disorder might be very sensitive to sensory experiences , but theres not enough evidence yet to say for sure.
Also its not clear whether having a high level of sensitivity to these sorts of things is something that might cause you to develop panic disorder, or whether it may be an effect of having it.
Never knowing when I was going to have a panic attack was the worst feeling in the world.
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The Conventional Approach Falls Short With Insomnia & Anxiety At Night
As a layperson with a passion for health, one of my biggest frustrations with the conventional philosophy in Western medicine is their unwillingness to look at the big picture. In general most health & wellness complaints are treated as single, isolated problems.
This leads our healthcare to be both reactive and surface level .
Im really thankful that I decided to start digging in and asking questions over a decade ago, which continues to this day.
In my experience, most conventional doctors offer just two options for a patient with anxiety at night and sleep trouble:
- 1) Do nothing, or tell you to try relaxing
- 2) Pharmaceutical medications
In reality, there are SO many other options to try.
Keep The Bedroom Chilled And Completely Dark
We may want to consider keeping our bedroom just a tad cooler than we like, and leaving any nightstand lights off.
Ensure your bedroom is quiet, comfortable, ventilated, dark and cool, says Elaine Slater, a psychologist and psychotherapeutic counselor. Even a small amount of light in your bedroom can disrupt the production of melatonin and overall sleep.
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Escaping The Vicious Cycle Of Anxiety And Sleep Loss
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that some form of sleep disruption is present in nearly all psychiatric disorders. And people with chronic insomnia are at high risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Because these problems can become a particularly difficult knot to untangle, the ADAA recommends seeking medical advice to address potential mental health conditions, sleep disorders, and other medical conditions.
A qualified mental health professional can help you investigate and address the underlying cause of your anxiety and may offer treatment options such as cognitive behavioral therapy , medication, and relaxation techniques.
You can also approach the problem of nighttime anxiety by taking steps to improve your sleep. Adopting good sleep hygiene habits is the best place to start.
Sleep hygiene refers to the upkeep of behaviors that influence the way you sleep. At Rise, we recommend following these guidelines to keep your sleep debt low so that youâll have the energy you need during the day:
Using data from your phone and proprietary, sleep science-based models to map your unique circadian rhythm, the RISE app can tell you exactly how to time these sleep hygiene habits.
Next, weâll go over additional sleep hygiene habits and bedtime routines aimed specifically at helping you unwind at the end of the day, and suggest relaxation techniques and other tactics that can help counteract nighttime anxiety.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Dr. Nikki Lacherza-Drew, licensed psychologist and owner of Vici Psychological Care, suggests engaging in proper sleep hygiene to help get better sleep. Lacherza-Drew says, If you have a routine and engage in appropriate sleep hygiene on a consistent basis, your mind will be less likely to go down the rabbit hole of anxious thoughts.
Sleep hygiene refers to various habits that are necessary for good sleep quality. To practice good sleep hygiene, Lacherza-Drew suggests:
- No major physical activity or heavy meals close to bedtime
- No caffeine or alcohol near bedtime or after a certain time in the afternoon
Other easy ways to practice good sleep hygiene include:
- Soaking up the morning sun
- Limiting power naps to 20 minutes
- Keeping your bedroom dark and cool
- Following a consistent bedtime routine
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What Are The Symptoms Of Nighttime Anxiety
Symptoms of nighttime anxiety take on many forms, as it is experienced differently by everyone. Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, pediatrician and medical consultant for Mom Loves Best, says, Before bedtime is no different than anxiety during the day. The difference is that you may be more aware of anxiety at night as fewer other stimuli are co-occurring.
While sleep anxiety is individual to each person, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Nightmares and night terrors
- Hypnic jerk
Another symptom of sleep anxiety is panic attacks. This involves an episode of extreme fear thats characterized by a sense of doom, increased heart rate, sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, and a feeling of detachment that could occur before or during sleep. After experiencing a nighttime panic attack, there can be anxiety about getting another attack, making it harder to fall asleep.
How To Overcome Panic Attacks At Night
If youre having a nocturnal panic attack, try the following:
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Take A Bath Or Shower
Taking a hot bath or shower before bed is an effective way to shed the stresses of the day and curb anxiety at night:
Take a bath with some Epsom salt dissolved into itthis will help relax all the muscles in your body, which signals to your brain that it’s time for rest.
Lie back in a bath with your eyes closed for 15 minutes, focusing on each breath that you take. This should slow down your heart rate and help you feel more relaxed.
Create your very own safe space in the bathroom: light a candle, play your favourite album, listen to a podcast, or just soak up the steam in silencewhatever makes you feel relaxed.
How To Get Rid Of Anxiety So You Can Sleep Better
If youre struggling to fall asleep due to anxiety, it could be that treating the anxiety will help solve your insomnia and lack of sleep as well. Anxiety disorders should only be diagnosed by a licensed therapist or medical professional, and these professionals can also help you find treatment regimens as well as, potentially, medications to control the condition. You should not try to self-medicate for anxiety disorders, and should only medicate per the medical advice and supervision of a psychiatrist.
One of the most common and effective treatments for anxiety disorders is continued and guided therapy with a professional counselor or therapist.
The branch of therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be effective for many people, as it helps patients suffering from anxiety disorders create new, positive thought pathways that can help when in anxious situations. There are three different types of CBT, each with an individualized approach in treatment, including interpersonal therapy, thought records, and modern exposure therapy.
Another form of therapy is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT. This form of therapy is more focused on mindfulness training and taking action based on personal values, and is unique in that it is not focused on symptom reduction.
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