Sleep and Anxiety: Tips On Getting Better Sleep


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Stress can affect your sleep, making it difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep. Anxiety over life and everyday problems will likely keep your brain from settling down; disrupting your sleep and making you feel on edge the next day.

Anxiety disorder is no exception when it comes to your sleep being interrupted. Stress and worry can affect your sleep patterns even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder. 

In the United States, over 40 million people suffer from a long-term sleep disorder, while many others suffer occasional sleep disruptions. The majority of adults report feeling daily stress, so it makes sense that Americans report less sleep on average than during previous decades.

Continue reading to learn more about the connection between sleep and anxiety.  

What Does Anxiety Feel Like? 

Anxiety is characterized by feelings of worry and unease.  Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their life.  It is the body and mind’s normal response to stressful or fearful experiences.

Anxiety is considered a disorder when it overwhelmingly disrupts day-to-day tasks.  The fear or stress is not proportional to the actual situation or event, thus making it difficult to live everyday life.  

These feelings of worrying and fearfulness will continue for around six months or longer, occurring most days. 

Most of the time, people with anxiety tend to avoid what triggers it the most.  For example, a person with social anxiety might avoid a conversation with someone in fear that they might do something odd or not know what to talk about.  

While it might be a way to cope in the short run, this does not resolve the long-term issue. People with anxiety disorders may become used to being anxious to the point that distress or fear seems normal to them.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety encompasses a variety of disorders The types of anxiety disorders include: 

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): An individual with GAD will experience significant worry about several things that cause a widespread sense of anxiety. 
  • Panic Disorder: This type of anxiety involves panic attacks where the individual will experience episodes of intense fear and physical symptoms such as irregular heartbeat, dizziness, chest pain, and more.  
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD): Social anxiety disorder involves fear or phobia of everyday social situations or a feeling of extreme self-consciousness in those social situations.  Social situations where individuals might experience social anxiety include small talk with coworkers, eating in front of others, or public speaking. 
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): While not explicitly in the name, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a form of anxiety where the individual engages in  repetitive thoughts or behaviors. Repetitive behaviors could include behaviors  such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning.  
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by a terrifying or traumatic event where the individual might have felt in danger or threatened.  Events include ones such as a car accident, personal assault, or military combat.   

What Is the Relationship Between Anxiety and Sleep?

It’s difficult to say which one of the following comes first, anxiety or difficulty sleeping.  Sleep disturbances like insomnia have been known to be a common symptom of anxiety disorder.  

Researchers and scientists have found that the correlation between anxiety and insomnia goes both ways.  This means that both have been seen to cause one another. 

There are times where individuals get stuck thinking about their ruminating thoughts, causing them to stay up all night.

Studies have also concluded that a state of hyperarousal, known as worry, plays a role in insomnia. 

Not only can sleep anxiety and stress prevent you from falling asleep, but the act itself can bring discomfort.  Some individuals develop negative thoughts and feelings about falling asleep, known as anticipatory anxiety, which can produce more sleeping problems and mental health problems.  

Connections have also been found between a person’s sleep cycle and anxiety disorders.  Research has discovered that anxiety and pre-sleep rumination can affect rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. 

Having anxiety and poor sleep may be linked to disturbing dreams or nightmares, causing more sleep deprivation and disturbances. 

Treatment Options for Anxiety and Better Sleep

Talking to your primary care physician or a healthcare professional is the first step in treating anxiety or sleep problems.  Professionals in mental health can also offer sleep education and help you develop a plan for getting a better night’s sleep.  

In its simplest form, getting more sleep, practicing relaxation techniques, exercising, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine can help get better sleep and reduce anxiety. 

Individuals who have more severe symptoms might benefit more from medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. 

Talk to Steps For Change Today

Something as simple as a lack of sleep can cause many health issues like sleep apnea, chronic insomnia, anxiety, and depression

Our expert staff is prepared to lead you to a place of wellness. If you or a loved one want to learn more about improving anxiety and sleep, contact us today to learn more.