How Does Anxiety Affect Sleep?

It is no secret that symptoms of anxiety can significantly impact your sleep. However, many people may not know that it is anxiety that is affecting their rest. Many individuals that have sleep problems typically think physical health is the culprit, but anxiety is one of the most common causes of sleep disturbance. By learning how anxiety affects sleep and vice-versa, you can begin to notice if this disorder is to blame for your sleep problems. From there, you can start to take steps towards managing in in a healthy manner that will not only help you sleep better but improve your anxiety in general. 

What is Anxiety? What Does It Feel Like?

First and foremost, it is essential to outline anxiety and its symptoms. This way, you can begin to notice if they are currently present in your own life. Anxiety is a part of life, with many people feeling anxious from time to time due to external life circumstances. These can come from work, school, or significant life changes. However, anxiety can become a problem when it is persistently present and seemingly has no cause. When this happens, it is classified as an anxiety disorder and can affect your daily life from professional performance, grades, and interpersonal relationships. 

There are various kinds of anxiety disorders characterized by different symptoms. Common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, phobia-related disorders, and separation anxiety disorder. 

Common symptoms of these various disorders include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Feeling on-edge or restless
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Constant feelings of worry
  • Sleep problems
  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Problems in interpersonal relationships

Effects of Anxiety on Sleep

One of the most common symptoms of anxiety is sleep problems. This problem can range from being unable to fall asleep, feeling fatigued when awake, waking in the middle of the night due to anxious thoughts, and unsatisfying sleep. These stem from anxiety, causing you to ruminate or think about the same negative thoughts with no solution or end. As you fall asleep, you most likely continue thinking about all of the things you are anxious about. You worry about the smallest things and blow them out of proportion because of your anxiety, resulting in insomnia. 

You may also have disturbing dreams as a result of anxiety. The disorder can impact rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is what allows you to have vivid dreams. Anxiety can cause you to have vivid dreams that are more disturbing, which can cause further sleep disruptions. You may begin to become fearful of falling asleep, causing more problems in your sleep schedule and routine.

Some people even develop what is called sleep anxiety because of their difficulties falling asleep. Due to the difficulty of falling and staying asleep, you may dread going to bed at night -- you know it will most likely be endless torment by your anxious thoughts. This type of anticipatory anxiety can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule even further.

Lack of Sleep on Anxiety

It should be noted that anxiety not only affects sleep, but sleep can also affect anxiety. Lack of sleep can significantly impact your mental and emotional health, which can exacerbate your anxiety problem. Sleep deprivation can cause you to feel more anxious, affecting your sleep schedule even more, leaving you locked in a cycle of sleep problems and anxiety. The best option at this point is to seek treatment for your anxiety to get better sleep at night.

Managing Anxiety For A Good Night’s Sleep

To get better sleep at night, you need to take steps to address your anxiety. There are a variety of treatment methods and coping strategies to help you get better sleep. One such method you should consider is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is commonly used to treat anxiety because it enables you to address negative thoughts and decrease the anxiety that stems from them. It can help you get better sleep after just a few sessions; just talk to your therapist about the problems you have been experiencing.

Things you can do on your own at home to help your anxiety and sleep are meditating, de-stressing exercises, breathwork, and creating a stable sleep routine. These methods will help you learn to calm your nerves and get into the right headspace before sleep. Look up some strategies online or talk to your therapist to determine which strategies will work best for you.

Sleep and anxiety are known to affect one another in a variety of ways. Many people who struggle with both often try to solve the problem on their own through self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. When you are struggling with these issues, the best course of action is to educate yourself on how the two affect one another and what steps you can take to manage them properly. There are things you can do on your own at home; however, you should also look into professional help. This can ensure you are healing properly and managing your symptoms in a healthy way that does not worsen the situation through addiction and other potential risks. If you are currently struggling, NorthStar Transitions is here to help. Our programs help those with mental health disorders and addiction, meaning we can address the problems you are struggling with and help you find healing. To learn more about our wide range of treatment modalities, call us today at (303) 558-6400.

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