Anxiety – it is a condition that all human beings have. It is something that we cannot avoid no matter how hard we try. Anxiety usually comes right after we experience stress. However, much like physical pain, it is, to some extent, temporary, and some might even consider it healthy. Anxiety gives us a signal that something is wrong and that there are situations and events in our life that need to be fixed or dealt with accordingly. Anxiety, if left untreated, can lead to various mental disorders that can affect various factors in a person’s life – primarily, their sleep.
Anxiety and sleep (or the lack thereof) go hand-in-hand. Lack of sleep can lead to an increase in anxiety, and anxiety can cause sleep disorders.
And this is especially true in this day and age of an unprecedented pandemic. According to recent surveys, more and more people are having a rough time catching a full night’s sleep. You may be one of themHave you been worrying about anxiety recently? Do not worry. Today, we will be walking you through the delicate relationship of anxiety and sleep and how we can avoid any disorders. We’ll also be talking about when you might need to see a specialist to help ease your mind.
- Anxiety disorders are highly common in the US. It affects around 40 million adults in the US alone. 18.1% of Americans suffer from anxiety.
- Disorders regarding anxiety are very treatable, however, only 36.9% receive treatment.
- Individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders are 3 to 5 times more likely to seek professional help and 6 times more likely to be put in hospitals for psychiatric disorders than those people without anxiety.
- 7% of children who are in the 3-17 age group are diagnosed with anxiety. That is roughly 4.4 million anxious children doing their best to sleep at night
The Chaotic Relationship Between Anxiety and Sleep
Sleep serves a vital role in our mental health. This is due to the fact that sleep gives the brain time to get rid of toxins that are found in the neural tissue. Think of it like it is a complicated garbage system. And that same garbage system relies heavily on sleep to function properly. If not, plenty of disorders can lead up to it.
One such disorder is called insomnia.
Having anxiety at night will lead to insomnia or other sleep disorders. According to health experts from Harvard say that sleeping problems increases the risk of having mental illnesses.
At times, when an individual worries about not being able to sleep, it becomes something like a chore, which will turn into a cycle after a few nights. Anxiety causes sleep loss, that increases anxiety even more. That phenomenon is what experts call anticipatory anxiety.
What is anticipatory anxiety?
Anticipatory anxiety happens when a person who is experiencing a lack of sleep, starts to worry about not being able to sleep. The worry that the person is experiencing wakes up the brain’s insular cortex and amygdala. It leads to the brain doing the same neural activity as with other anxiety disorders. Ultimately, anticipatory leads to sleep deprivation.
Can social media cause anxiety that leads to sleep disorders?
The dependence on social media applications is also linked to people having poor sleeping habits. On top of that, social media also causes more serious mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Experts have found that people who use social media platforms tend to experience bad sleeping habits. Additionally, those people are also more likely to have increased anxiety levels, low self-esteem, and depression.
Why do people sometimes wake up with anxiety?
Let’s also talk about the issue of waking up with anxiety. Morning anxiety, although not really a medical term, is the act of waking up with feelings of stress and worry. If you are already experiencing these things at the moment you wake up in the morning, that may be a clear sign that you have a generalized anxiety disorder or GAD.
However, there is always good news: Like all sickness, there is a cure or treatment. And when it comes to anxiety there are two common treatments. You can take a doctor-prescribed drug or through behavioral therapy. We will tackle both later on in the article.
When trying to counter the effects of anxiety when it comes to sleep behavior, all we need to do is to look at the opposite. The true and tested way of lowering anxiety levels is by looking for ways to get a good’s night sleep. According to Dr. Allison Harvey of, “By restoring good quality sleep in people suffering from anxiety, we may be able to help ameliorate their excessive worry and disabling fearful expectations”.
Defining General Anxiety(GAD)
According to the American Psychology Association or APA, Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat, APA says.
What are the Signs & Symptoms?
As with all disorders, they all come with warning signs signaling that something is wrong and it needs to be checked out. Anxiety is no different. Here are a major tell-tale signs that you might be experiencing an Anxiety disorder:
- Excessive worrying – It is a hallmark of anxiety and is commonly experienced by lots of people, regardless of demographics or medical background
- Restlessness – Not quite enough to diagnose a person with anxiety, but it is still considered a symptom, especially if it frequently occurs.
- Irritability – People will feel highly irritable when anxiety levels peak.
- Sleeping problems – It not uncommon for people to experience problems with their sleeping behavior when they experience anxiety
- Maintaining focus is a challenge – Difficulty maintaining focus is reported as a big sign in the majority of people who have been diagnosed with anxiety.
- Highly irrational fears – A phobia is defined as having an extremely high amount of anxiety towards a certain object or situation.
When Does Anxiety Become A Medical Diagnosis?
Finding out if a person has an anxiety disorder is challenging enough. Some symptoms of anxiety could also lead to other mental disorders, including depression, post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, and phobias. Although one significant trait of having anxiety disorder is the consistent and excessive worrying without being able to control it for a few days over a six-month period. Another distinguishing factor is when the patient does not have any trauma or trigger points.
When does sleep come into the picture?
A person can benefit a lot from having a good night’s sleep when they are experiencing anxiety. Experts from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America or ADAA say that having an adequate amount of sleep can help improve your mood, focus, and concentration. Thus, lowering a person’s anxiety levels.
When anxiety is treated, it can lead to sleeping better. This is due to the fact that the treatment used helps the patient regain control of their worries and eradicates the feeling of being restless.
How Is Anxiety Treated?
When it comes to treating anxiety, it all boils down to how significantly it affects a person’s day-to-day life. Although the two most common treatments for anxiety are drugs and psychotherapy, it may take a specific period of time to test out the best treatment for each individual. Some experts even recommend doing both at once. It is important to note, however, that both can do alterations to the brain.
There are several medications used to treat anxiety. However, we will be telling you about the three most common.
First, you have your Benzodiazepines, which are sedatives that can relax your mind and muscles.
Second, is called Buspirone, which is a drug that is used for treating short-term and long-term anxiety.
And third is Tricyclics, which is another type of medication, however it does not treat OCD.
The common ones are antidepressants, specifically SSRIs. After a definite time, the antidepressants may start to work by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitters inside the brain. Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine – these are what maintains our mood by keeping it level, so that people can rationalize their worries. When using medication, note that it may not work instantly. It might take a couple of weeks before an individual feels them taking effect.
Mindfulness therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are both a form of psychotherapy, which helps people with anxiety learn new things or skills. Some of the skills involve cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, learning how to escape from negative thinking, and distraction. All of these skills may stop them from excessive worrying.
Healthy Tips for Sleeping with Anxiety
People with anxiety suffer from sleep deprivation and are in dire need of sleep. Having a good night’s sleep can help improve one’s mood, increase cognitive function in areas of the brain that deal with memory and learning, and brings back rational thinking that a person needs to properly scale their worries and fears.
Here are a couple of tricks that you can do to help you sleep through anxiety:
Keep a sleep journal
Whenever you can successfully sleep through your worries, write it down on your notebook or type it on your computer, so that you can see and track your progress. Once you have seen that there is progress, it’ll be easier for you to sleep at night.
Write your worries down
In addition to having a sleep journal, whenever you are worried about something, write it down. Then leave it there. Think of it as a form of release. When you wake up the next day, set up a schedule for when you can tackle your worries and fears.
Take sleeping pills
Of course you need to seek out professional medical help for this one. Go ask your doctor about them and only stick to the prescribed dosage.
Sweat it out
Having a daily exercise routine of at least 30 minutes per day for five days in a week can do wonders for your body and your mind. Exercise has always been known to elevate a person’s mood. Although make sure to exercise around 6 hours before bedtime to make sure it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.
It is okay these days to ask for help from a professional. Go seek a doctor or a therapist so that both of you can accurately find the source of your anxiety.
A weighted blanket is highly comfortable and is known for helping people sleep better. Also, having a weighted blanket can feel like being in a nice warm hug all through the night
Practice healthy routines before sleeping
- Make sure that the bedroom is ideal for sleeping. It needs to be cool, dark, and quiet. Overall, it should be a place that promotes peace. That is why if there are things that can distract you from sleeping, get it out of the bedroom. Also, sleeping on a comfortable bed can really help.
- Go to bed and wake up at exactly the same time, no matter what your schedule is.
- Create a bedtime routine, such as taking a hot bath, disconnecting from social media, and listening to calming music.
- Keep count of your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a well-known drug that can help humans stay awake for a longer period of time. We’re not only talking about coffee. You can find caffeine in energy drinks and in sodas.
- Limit your nap time to 20 minutes.
When an individual meditates, it releases a calming effect. People with anxiety can use meditation as a way to clear their minds and get ready for sleep. On top of that, meditation can also help people who are suffering from insomnia.
Other Types of Anxiety Disorders
Social Anxiety Disorder
It is the intense and constant fear of being judged, humiliated, and rejected in a public form or area. People who suffer from this tend to be conscious about whether they’re acting anxious in public.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD
It is an anxiety disorder. A person who has OCD have recurring unwanted thoughts, sensations, or ideas that they feel the need to do it repeatedly. Yes, it is more than just fixing stuff in an organized way or how things need to be placed.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD
PTSD is a very exhausting disorder. It’s a result of a terrifying, shocking, or dangerous event that happened in a person’s life. People who have this disorder have a hard time trying to recover from it.
A panic disorder or what is mostly known as panic attack, is a mental illness that usually results from a sudden attack of severe anxiety. When a person has a panic attack, they can experience stomach pain, chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Yes, it does. In fact, anxiety and tiredness have an ongoing partnership. It’s a result of mental exhaustion from worrying excessively about different matters. It can also be a sign of depression. Go seek out medical help if you are suffering from fatigue for a few days.
Nocturnal or nighttime panic happens is an anxiety disorder that can happen anytime, without any warnings or triggers, in the night while you are sleeping.
Free floating anxiety is a medical phenomenon because it cannot be linked to any issue. Although people who have a generalized anxiety disorder experience this frequently. It is the coming and the passing of anxiety without any causes.
Currently, there are no concrete reasons why panic attacks happen out-of-the-blue. However, some experts believe that it is because of a variety of factors, including high stress levels and genetics.
In general, panic attacks can be frightening, but it is not enough to kill a person. However, panic attacks should not be taken lightly. If you are experiencing panic attacks frequently, go seek help
What it all boils down to is that sleep and anxiety is like an unhealthy cycle. You can’t sleep because of anxiety and you can’t lower your anxiety because you can’t sleep. However, the proper thing to do is to make sure you take all the precautionary measures before your anxiety leads to more serious sleep-related mental health disorders. As stated earlier, anxiety can lead to multiple complications in both our physical and emotional well-being We need to start taking care of ourselves better. If it means getting help, then by all means, do it. The day we start to truly live, is the day we start taking care of our ourselves
Disclaimer: If you believe you have difficulty sleeping, have an anxiety disorder or other similar conditions, it is best to personally consult a medical or psychological health professional. This article will only provide general information and should not be used for self-diagnosis and self-treatment.