Is Sleep Anxiety The Same As Insomnia
While the two conditions can be rooted in anxiety, sleep anxiety is not the same thing as insomnia. Sleep anxiety is rooted in fears and worries tied to falling asleep, while insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it challenging to fall asleep or stay asleep.
The two conditions can overlap, with sleep anxiety worsening insomnia and the sleep deprivation from insomnia worsening sleep anxiety.
Ways To Fall Asleep With Severe Anxiety
When you struggle to fall asleep night after night due to severe anxiety, you may find your symptoms getting worse lack of sleep is one of the main causes of stress. But when beating your insomnia seems nearly impossible, the need for sleep and the lack of it can cause a vicious, anxiety-ridden cycle. Regardless of what’s keeping you up in the middle of the night, there are tricks and techniques to get back to sleep.
1. Get in a Pattern
Having a schedule of when to wake up and go to bed every day is the best way to regulate your body and get the appropriate amount of sleep. Design a plan that fits your lifestyle and sticks to it, even on weekends.
2. Reduce Caffeine Intake
As a general rule, don’t have coffee or any other caffeinated drink after 4pm. Adjust this time accordingly your personal bedtime may call for an earlier or later cut off. Gradually reducing your 3 a day soda habit can also improve your sleep anxiety.
3. Turn off Electronics
At least an hour before you plan to go to bed, turn off all your electronics. This means computer, TV, and phone the light from these devices increase chemicals in the body that signal it’s time to wake up, not fall asleep. If you find your anxiety increases when you’re not able to check these portals, make time first thing in the morning to read emails and respond to phone calls.
4. Watch Your Health
Put Yourself In A Better Emotional State
Sleep relies on the connection between your body and mind. And there are simple ways to put your mind in a better emotional state to help yourself fall asleep faster.
Avoid catastrophizing. Our thoughts and worries play a major role in our ability to sleep, Dautovich said. “You cannot force yourself to sleep, so try to avoid putting pressure on yourself to sleep or catastrophizing if you don’t sleep,” she added. That means avoiding the anxious spiral of what will happen the next day if you don’t fall asleep soon.
Challenge those thoughts and worries, and try to replace them with more helpful ones like, “I didn’t sleep well last night, but I’ll be OK today” to relieve some of that anxiety, Datovich said.
Try out different exercises like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to help you fall asleep.
Another trick is to sing the ABCs in your head, over and over. That will keep your brain from thinking about anything else, and eventually wear it out like a muscle to help you fall asleep, Butler said.
And remember: humans can function fine even when we’re tired. Think of new parents who’ve been up all night with their baby, or emergency room doctors who have been on call for days. It may not be comfortable, but it’s not impossible.
Read more: How to be happy, according to science
Control your breathing. Focusing on your breathing can slow your breath , and can also redirect your attention from thoughts like “why haven’t I fallen asleep yet?”
Read Also: How Do I Stop An Anxiety Attack
How To Calm Anxiety And Get Better Sleep
Although the impacts of anxiety disorders can be substantial, they are one of the most treatable mental health disorders. This doesnt mean that reducing anxiety is always simple, but there are treatments that can help.
Any person who has persistent or significant anxiety and/or sleeping problems should talk with a doctor who can best assess their situation and discuss the benefits and downsides of the potential treatment options in their case.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common treatment for anxiety disorders. It is a type of talk therapy that works to reorient negative thinking, and it has had success in decreasing anxiety. Studies have found that CBT can often reduce anxiety even in people who have insomnia. Addressing anxiety can pave the way for better sleep, but severe cases of insomnia may persist after CBT for anxiety. CBT for insomnia may be a useful next step in these cases.
Several different types of medications are approved to treat anxiety disorders including anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. These medications are intended to mitigate symptoms rather than cure the underlying anxiety.
Because of the multifaceted relationship between anxiety and sleep, getting better rest may help combat feelings of anxiety. Building healthy sleep habits can make going to bed a more pleasant experience and facilitate a consistent routine to enhance sleep.
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Stress Relief Techniques To The Rescue
Activities that switch on the bodys natural relaxation response feel great, Buenaver says. And they have been proven by research to improve sleep. They help by reducing the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and by slowing your heart rate and breathing. Your body and mind calm down.
Yoga, tai chi and meditation are helpful stress relief techniques. So are these two simple exercises that Buenaver recommends to patients who are struggling with sleepless nights.
- In a quiet place, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. It may help to close your eyes.
- Breathe slowly in and out for about five minutes. As you inhale, breathe down into your belly. Focus on your breath.
- If youd like, repeat to yourself, Breathing in I am calm, breathing out I am coping.
Progressive muscle relaxation:
- In a quiet place, sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Take a few gentle breaths, in and out.
- Begin tensing groups of muscles one at a time as you breathe. Hold the tension as you inhale, then release it as you exhale. Take a few breaths as you notice how relaxed each muscle group feels.
- Start with the muscles in your head, neck and face. Move down to your shoulders, hands and arms, back, stomach, buttocks, thighs, calves and feet.
- Repeat for any areas that are still tense.
As you go through this exercise, feel the presence and absence of tension so you can spot lingering tension and do something about it, Buenaver says.
Also Check: Can Anxiety Cause Memory Loss
Go To Bed Only When Youre Actually Sleepy
Oftentimes people try to force themselves to go to bed at a certain time, which can lead to sleep anxiety in the process of being unable to fall asleep in a timely manner. Dr. Blair says that waiting to go to bed until youre actually tired can help with this, as you’re listening to your body’s natural rhythm.
How To Sleep When You’re Stressed And Anxious
Most of us have been there before.
A stressful day at work, an argument with a partner, or an event during the day can leave your head spinning. Learning how to sleep when stressed and anxious is important for a variety of reasons.
It doesnt take long before sleep quality drops and you start to develop a sleep problem. This stops you from getting a good night’s rest because youre too stressed to sleep.
With anxiety driving your mind into overdrive, it can be hard to stop ruminating and relax at the end of the day. Your mind loops around the same track, keeps going over the same conversation, or worries the same unanswerable questions. Often, sleep becomes unattainable.
So what comes first, lack of sleep or anxiety?
Its not so clear cut, one might bring about the other.
Lets break down both to gain some more insight into how these two issues are related.
Also Check: How Long Can Anxiety Last
How Can Medication Treat Sleep Anxiety
Your healthcare provider may recommend medication to treat anxiety or other mental health disorders. Medication can also help improve the symptoms of sleep-related disorders such as restless legs syndrome or insomnia.
But some medications might actually increase your anxiety or make sleeping harder when you first start taking them. If you experience these side effects, talk to your healthcare provider. Many over-the-counter sleep aids can also be habit-forming. Dont start any medication for anxiety or sleep without your healthcare providers supervision.
Try A White Noise Machine To Help You Fall Asleep
A low level of constant noise can be useful for distracting your anxious mind, shifting the focus away from troubling thoughts to the constant noise produced from a white noise machine. A simple fan also does the trick as does a sleep app on your phone. Just make sure that the volume is quite low barely audible to keep sound in the background.
Read Also: How To Manage High Functioning Anxiety
Identify The Root Of The Anxiety Out Loud And Fight It With Positivity
Once you’re in the grips of anxious thinking, you have to work at clearing your mind by venting the nervous thoughts and replacing them with positive ones.
First, decide what it is specifically that you are focused on that is causing you anxiety, says Dr. Cummins. Is it something that you have control over? Is it something in your future that has not yet occurred for you? If so, state the negative thoughts or anxious concerns out loud and then follow them up with alternative and positive thoughts or solutions for your problems.
You have to be able to soothe yourself out of the uncontrollable and irrational black or white thinking by combating it with alternative thinking or it is impossible to avoid, adds Cummins.
Seeking Professional Support For Sleep Anxiety
If you are experiencing sleep anxiety, and it is continuing to have a dramatic impact on your life despite all attempts to improve it, it is highly recommended that you seek professional support to get access to specific coping mechanisms to help you manage your symptoms.
Firstly, you may want to go to your GP to talk through your problem. They will be able to listen and offer advice on the next steps available to you, which may include accessing a private healthcare service like Priory Group for an assessment, diagnosis and specialist treatment. You can also come directly to the Priory Group team, where our psychiatrists and therapists regularly work with people with anxiety disorders as well as sleep disorders such as insomnia.
Read Also: How To Journal To Help Anxiety
Dietary Supplements For Insomnia
There are many dietary and herbal supplements marketed for their sleep-promoting effects. Although they may be described as natural, be aware that sleep remedies can still have side effects and interfere with other medications or vitamins youre taking. For more information, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
What Can You Do To Help You Get To Sleep Quicker
The first thing to do is seek help from a medical professional. There may be underlying causes for the anxiety which they can help you with. If the anxiety is not caused by an underlying health condition, they may be able to give you a referral to a councillor or mental health professional who can discuss what options are available to you.
Read Also: What Can I Take For Stress And Anxiety
When To Seek Professional Help
Again, it’s not uncommon to experience occasional difficulty sleeping, especially considering all the factors that contribute to healthy or unhealthy sleep. But difficulty sleeping becomes problematic when it occurs several nights per week, and lasts for more than a month, Butler said. It’s also an issue if the persistent lack of sleep interferes with your daily activities , and has led to problems with your memory and concentration.
At that point, you should make an appointment to see your primary care physician. That professional should be your first point of contact when it comes to anything related to stress because they can look at your health comprehensively, and can refer you to the specialists you may need, Butler said. Lack of sleep can be a disorder in and of itself, but it can also be a symptom of many other medical conditions, including anxiety, depression and hypothyroidism.
Whether your sleep troubles are caused by a temporary stressor or a more persistent anxiety, “it’s important to recognize that there is an increased amount of anxiety during the pandemic, and that’s an appropriate response to something that is very scary,” Snow said. “Be gentle with yourself when you notice you’re having anxiety, rather than beating yourself up. And reach out and ask for help if you do need it.”
Anxiety And Insomnia Basics
If you struggle to fall asleep due to anxiety, youre certainly not alone. An estimated 19.1 percent of American adults dealt with anxiety disorders in the past year, and more than 35 percent of all adults have been affected by short sleep duration .
Anxiety can vary in severity. Types of anxiety and anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and specific phobias, such as intense fears that are linked to specific objects or situations.
While its normal to feel anxious from time to time, chronic, severe anxiety that occurs during the night can take a major toll on your ability to relax and sleep properly.
The exact symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person. You might feel overly worried about the future, for example, which prevents you from relaxing.
Some people may experience physical anxiety symptoms such as an elevated heart rate and a spike in blood pressure.
anxiety causes you to experience insomnia, you may experience the following symptoms:
Spending much of the night awake
Lying in bed for a long time before youre able to fall asleep
Sleep disturbances that cause you to wake up at night or early in the morning
Feeling tired and as if you havent slept right after you wake up
This guide on the symptoms of anxiety has more details about the mental and physical experiences you may incur if youre prone to anxiety.
Read Also: How To Check Your Anxiety Level
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.