Anxiety And Insomnia

How Anxiety Can Affect Sleep

Lack of sleep can lead to increased chances of anxiety, but anxiety can also cause lack of sleep. Unfortunately, the two can intertwine quite a bit, causing one to exacerbate the other.

Anxiety can have a negative effect on your body’s ability to fall asleep as your brain is in “fight or flight” mode, thinking of all potential outcomes for whatever is causing the anxiety. Furthermore, anticipatory anxiety and specific anxiety about sleep can lead to sleep disturbance and insomnia, which then creates a feedback loop that can make both conditions worsen. Insomnia can also make you more irritable and more worried, as your brain is not getting all the sleep it needs in order to function at normal levels.

However, it’s not uncommon to experience anxiety related to sleep. As Winnie Yu, a writer for WebMD noted in her article “Scared to Sleep,” sleep anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. Many people may stress about not getting enough sleep to function, but the stress alone of trying to sleep can cause people to sit awake for hours. Additionally, other fears such as recurring nightmares, fear of sleep apnea (not breathing while being asleep), and more can all lead to disturbed sleep.

Does Anxiety Go Away?

For those people that are diagnosed with a legitimate anxiety disorder, the condition is unlikely to go away. Some people may be able to better control their anxiety disorder with the help and guidance of a therapist or psychologist, and medications may help further control the condition. There may also be specific coping mechanisms to help manage anxiety disorders, however, a permanent “cure” for anxiety does not currently exist.

For those that do not suffer from an anxiety disorder, but only have occasional or intermittent anxiety from time-to-time, this is normal and healthy behavior for many people. Temporary anxiety is likely to diminish over time, and if it is related to a specific place or person, removing yourself from those situations may help the anxiety go away after some time.

How to Get Rid of Anxiety So You Can Sleep Better

If you’re struggling to fall asleep due to anxiety, it could be that treating the anxiety will help solve your insomnia and lack of sleep as well. Anxiety disorders should only be diagnosed by a licensed therapist or medical professional, and these professionals can also help you find treatment regimens as well as, potentially, medications to control the condition. You should not try to self-medicate for anxiety disorders, and should only medicate per the medical advice and supervision of a psychiatrist.

Therapy

One of the most common and effective treatments for anxiety disorders is continued and guided therapy with a professional counselor or therapist.

The branch of therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be effective for many people, as it helps patients suffering from anxiety disorders create new, positive thought pathways that can help when they’re in anxious situations. There are three different types of CBT, each with an individualized approach in treatment, including interpersonal therapy, thought records, and modern exposure therapy.

Another form of therapy is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT. This form of therapy is more focused on mindfulness training and taking action based on personal values, and is unique in that it is not focused on symptom reduction.

Mindfulness

Another useful tactic to combat anxiety is the act of mindfulness when faced with certain situations. As PsychCentral discusses in “Mindfulness: the Art of Cultivating Resilience”, acting mindfully can help individuals make radical shifts in how they think and perceive situations by looking at them without judgment.

For example, if you’ve just been fired, you may think “I should have seen this coming” or “I deserve this and I’m a failure.” Mindfulness, however, allows you to look at this same situation, take time to focus on your body, and approach it with increased kindness, creativity, openness, and acceptance. Instead of thinking negatively about the situation, you may start to feel calmer instead, accepting the situation as an unfortunate one, but not one that will set you back.

It is important to keep in mind that mindfulness can take years to develop. It can be tricky to start, and it may help to have the guidance of a trained healthcare professional, but mindfulness can provide a new perspective that allows you to re-evaluate your anxieties and develop healthy coping mechanism to rethink situations in which they arise. For sleep, mindfulness can help your body naturally fall into unconsciousness as you focus solely on your breath.

Shifting Your Perspective

If you suffer from sleep anxiety, Winnie Yu also suggests in her WebMD article “Scared to Sleep”, that shifting your perspective can help some people gain more sleep. It’s completely normal to have bad nights of sleep, and sometimes it’s unavoidable, but when you can tell yourself that you expect it to happen, your body may be more likely to relax and naturally fall into sleep.

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