Sleeping problems are often linked to anxiety. It is difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep at night when one is anxious and afraid. Furthermore, a lack of sleep can worsen anxiety, resulting in an anxiety-driven vicious cycle.
The most common mental health problem in the United States is anxiety, and inadequate sleep is known to have severe implications for overall health. Therefore, understanding the relationship between anxiety and sleep can be fundamental to both physical and emotional health.
How does anxiety work? And what are anxiety disorders?
The feeling of anxiety is one of worry and unease. Anxiety is common in response to stressful or fearful situations. However, it becomes excessive in anxiety disorders. Here, too many fears are out of proportion to the problem, and worrying interferes with daily life. It also occurs persistently for an extended period.
The effects of anxiety on sleep
Severe sleep disturbances, including insomnia, often characterise anxiety disorders. Anxiety can prevent people from falling asleep at night when they ruminate on their worries. In fact, mental hyper-arousal, often accompanied by worry, has been shown to lead to insomnia.
In anxiety-prone people, sleep reactivity is higher, meaning they are more likely to suffer from difficulty sleeping under stress. Some anxiety disorders, such as generalised anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, cause difficulty sleeping.
According to several studies, over 90% of patients with PTSD associated with military combat have reported experiencing insomnia.
A sense of dread and preoccupation can compound matters when a person is anxious about falling asleep. Having negative thoughts about going to bed, which is like anticipatory anxiety, can make having a good night's sleep difficult. Many people wake up with anxiety after falling asleep. It can be difficult for them to sleep again if their mind starts racing with worry.
As a result, they may experience sleep fragmentation, reducing both their sleep quantity and quality.
In addition, there is a connection between anxiety disorders and sleep patterns. Studies suggest that anxiety and rumination before bed may impair rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is associated with the most vivid dreams.
The presence of anxiety can then lead to more disturbing dreams and disrupted sleep, and a nightmare may reinforce anxiety and fear associated with sleep.
Effects of sleep on anxiety
There is strong evidence that sleeping problems aren't just symptoms of anxiety. Sleep deprivation can also exacerbate anxiety disorders. Studies have shown that people prone to anxiety are susceptible to the effects of insufficient sleep, which may lead to anxiety symptoms.
Furthermore, lack of sleep is known to affect mood and emotions, making anxiety disorders even more challenging. Due to the relationship between anxiety and sleep deprivation, both can reinforce each other; worrying leads to poor sleep, contributing to more significant anxiety and insomnia.
Finally, studies have shown that people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder characterised by frequent pauses in breathing and interrupted sleep, have a greater risk of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and panic disorder.
Tips to treat anxiety and get better sleep
Despite their extensive impacts, anxiety disorders are one of the most treatable mental health disorders. Treatments are available that can reduce anxiety. The following tips can assist you in dealing with anxiety and sleep:
1. See a doctor!
If you suffer from severe anxiety or sleeping problems, you should consult a physician so they can evaluate your situation and the potential benefits and downsides of their treatment options.
2. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
This is a common treatment for anxiety disorders. This type of therapy helps reduce anxiety by reorienting the mind to a more positive perspective. Many studies have shown that CBT can reduce anxiety in people who have insomnia as well.
Although anxiety treatment can improve sleep, severe cases of insomnia may persist after anxiety treatment. The next step in these cases may be CBT-I (CBT for insomnia).
3. Take some medication (after consulting a doctor!)
A variety of medications are available to treat anxiety disorders, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. However, these medications are intended to alleviate symptoms rather than treat anxiety itself.
4. Try relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques can help eliminate anxiety and make falling asleep easier. Relaxation exercises are often an integral part of CBT and can end the cycle of worry and rumination.
5. Healthy Sleep Hygiene
As anxiety and sleep have a multifaceted relationship, getting better sleep may alleviate anxiety symptoms. In addition, by developing healthy sleep habits, you can make going to bed more enjoyable and establish a consistent routine that enhances your sleep quality. Some sleep hygiene tips include:
- Have a Bedtime Routine: How well you sleep depends on your bedtime routine. There is no 'standard' routine. Do what works for you.
- Embrace a Consistent Routine: By putting on pyjamas and brushing your teeth at the same time each night, you'll remind your body it's bedtime. As a result, it will make it easier for you to sleep.
- Turn off the lights: Lights that are bright interfere with the production of the hormone melatonin, which is essential to sleep.
- Before going to bed, set aside 30-60 minutes for device-free time. Laptops, tablets, and phones emit blue light, which disrupts sleep and may reduce melatonin production. The light may also cause mental stimulation that can be difficult to turn off.
- Drink less alcohol: With alcohol, you may fall asleep faster initially, but the effect wears off during the night, disrupting your sleep. So, it's a good idea to reduce alcohol consumption and avoid it toward the end of the evening.
One More Tip
Another way to incorporate good sleep hygiene that helps deal with anxiety is to get bedding and comfortable blankets that enhance a blissful sleep. A perfect example of such is our Cooling Bamboo Bedding Set, designed to deliver comfort and bliss.