What Is Anxiety and How Is It Connected to Sleep?

What Is Anxiety and How Is It Connected to Sleep?

Did you know that anxiety and sleeping issues usually go hand in hand? The truth is that excess worry makes it harder to fall and stay asleep throughout the night. As a result, lack of sleep worsens anxiety making this a never-ending cycle. So, understanding and managing the relationship between anxiety and sleep is of utmost importance for optimal physical and emotional wellness.

Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

The feeling of worry and unease is called anxiety. Although it is normal to be anxious in fearful or stressful situations, experiencing persistent excessive stress and worrying in everyday life points out to a more serious problem – an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety symptoms can have a negative effect on both physical and emotional health. People with anxiety disorder experience extreme nervousness and constantly feel on edge. Eventually, their concentration reduces and their mood worsens, leading to restlessness and irritability.

In addition to emotional distress, anxiety disorders can harm patients’ physical health as well. Precisely speaking, anxiety may lead to rapid breathing and heartbeat, sweating, tense muscles, trembling, fatigue, and gastrointestinal distress.

The Link Between Anxiety and Sleep

Several serious sleep disorders, including insomnia, have been identified as common symptoms of anxiety disorders. In general, people who suffer from anxiety tend to ruminate about their worries and issues in bed which keeps them from falling asleep.

Namely, one of the key factors behind insomnia is mental hyperarousal, a state commonly marked by worry. Also, a higher sleep reactivity has been noted in people with anxiety disorders meaning that their sleep problems get worse when experiencing stress.

Furthermore, studies show that people with numerous types of anxiety such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are at a remarkably higher risk of suffering from sleep issues too.

What’s more, worrying about not being able to fall asleep further complicates the issue. It creates sleep anxiety that adds to a person’s sense of dread and preoccupation. As a result, going to bed becomes extremely distressing and challenges healthy sleep schedules and habits.

Research has also shown a link between a person’s sleep cycles and anxiety disorders. Anxiety and pre-sleep worrying affect REM (rapid eye movement) sleep when the most vivid dreams occur. Hence, nightmares become more common in people with anxiety disorders.

However, sleeping issues aren’t only a symptom of anxiety but can also worsen anxiety disorders. According to research, people who are at a higher risk for anxiety are also extremely sensitive to the negative effects of insufficient sleep, provoking anxiety symptoms.

Finally, people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a type of sleep disorder characterized by breathing interruptions during sleep, are more prone to suffering from mental health problems, such as anxiety, panic disorder, and depression.

Falling Asleep with Anxiety

In the end, it all comes down to how to fall asleep with anxiety. Luckily, anxiety disorders, regardless of their remarkable impact, are quite easy to treat if your doctor recommends the right treatment option.

In general, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven to be one of the most successful treatments for anxiety disorders. It is a type of talk therapy that aims to redirect your negative thoughts and thus reduce anxiety and improve your sleep.

And, if CBT isn’t enough, you can always talk to your doctor about other treatment options which include medications such as anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. Last but not least, ensure you practice healthy sleep hygiene practices and try some relaxation techniques to get rid of anxiety and enhance sleep.