Anxiety and Sleep
People who have had trouble falling asleep know the feeling of watching a clock, worrying about sleeping, dreading being sleep-deprived for the following day, or being bombarded by countless thoughts and worries.
As you may have guessed, anxiety and sleep are connected in a different ways. There is a tiring cycle going on here, sleep problems can cause anxiety, and anxiety issues can cause sleep problems.
That’s why it’s so important to learn about and understand anxiety, how it affects your sleep, and know the methods to lessen and/or eliminate the effects of anxiety on your sleep habits and quality.
A good night's sleep is truly important for your health, if not just as important as healthy eating and exercising.
How Does Anxiety Affect Sleep?
There is a 2009 research study of 4,181 German adults, which suggests that anxiety can reek havoc on your sleep.
The conclusion: “Most anxiety disorders are moderately associated with reduced sleep quality. Individuals with anxiety disorders and poor sleep experience significantly worse mental health-related quality of life and increased disability relative to those with anxiety disorders alone.”
It implies that in many cases, anxiety and sleep issues will go hand in hand and one can affect the other.
Excessive thoughts and worries at night can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. It seems like it is becoming more commonplace now.
Medication prescribed by doctors is so prevalent now as a solution to sleep disorders. In Facebook's insomnia and sleep tips group forum, one user wrote, "I got prescribed 25mg of Amitriptyline. Any experiences with this one?"
There are some extreme cases of not sleeping as well. Another user writes, "What the longest anyone has been without any sleep? Mine was 8 days."
People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well.
Consequences of Anxiety Affecting Sleep
What exactly happens when we wake up or can't fall asleep due to anxiety? Research suggests that sleep deprivation can cause the following and these are very serious:
Making mistakes at work
Falling asleep behind the wheel
Having trouble focusing, or making timely or proper decisions
Delayed reaction times and lack of coordination
Lack of motivation
The physical side effects associated with sleep deprivation are the increased risk of developing:
High blood pressure
A weaker immune system
Strategies to Manage Anxiety in Order to Have Better Sleep
Keep physically active, as exercise can help reduce stress and make one tired enough at the end of the day to sleep.
Use relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga, which can help ease your mind and body and prepare it to rest.
Eat healthy, focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish
Avoid drinking alcohol and using recreational drugs, as these substances can worsen anxiety and interfere with your body's normal functions such as sleeping.
Quit smoking and reduce caffeine intake, as both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety
3. Good sleep can improve concentration and productivity
Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation. A study on medical interns provides a good example. Interns on a traditional schedule with extended work hours of more than 24 hours made 36% more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed more sleep.
Another study found that short sleep can negatively impact some aspects of brain function to a similar degree as alcohol intoxication. On the other hand, good sleep has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance of both children and adults.
SUMMARY: Good sleep can maximize problem-solving skills and enhance memory. Poor sleep has been shown to impair brain function.
How to Soothe Anxiety so You Can Sleep Better
Medication can help calm anxiety. But this option is not the healthiest nor is it the most desirable for most people. If you have mild anxiety or stress that might be contributing to sleep issues, it’s possible that some lifestyle changes could help relieve your anxiety, making it easier for you to sleep. These lifestyle choices may also assist in the management of more severe anxiety. For instance:
Regular exercise or yoga may help ease anxiety, stress, and depression. Regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by: Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.
Meditation for anxiety can help reduce anxiety and eliminate it altogether. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress, but did you know there is a method to eliminate stress altogether?
The Root of Anxiety and Stress
Here is a great explanation of the root of our anxiety and stress:
Free Meditation Before Bed
A Method to Get a Better Night's Sleep
Better sleep, better days. So many struggle to “turn off” at night and sleep in a way that is truly restorative. We have designed a special nighttime meditation series to melt away tension and invite a restful night’s sleep. Elizabeth Cockrell, of Brooklyn Meditation, is an experienced meditation guide who also happens to have a wonderfully soothing voice. She will guide us through a progressive relaxation technique and guided night meditation to gently release the thoughts of the day. Naturally, your body and mind will quiet down, allowing for a comfortable, rejuvenating night’s sleep.
Every Tuesday and Thursday night, the sessions will begin at 10pm, and close quietly at 10:45 - but hopefully our “goodnight” will go unheard. :) This is intended to be the last thing you do before falling asleep, so come ready to drift off to dreamland. We’ll see you there! Completely free and all are welcome. Please share this with anyone who could benefit from sounder sleep and sweeter dreams.