Anxiety and Sleep Problems
Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors.
Recently, researchers have begun to think about insomnia as a problem of your brain being unable to stop being awake (your brain has a sleep cycle and a wake cycle—when one is turned on the other is turned off—insomnia can be a problem with either part of this cycle: too much wake drive or too little sleep drive). It’s important to first understand what could be causing your sleep difficulties.
Insomnia and Anxiety
Many people have difficulty sleeping from time to time because they are worried about something. However, for some it’s an enduring pattern that is so serious it requires insomnia and anxiety treatment. For these people, their anxiety can do more than interfere with sleep, it often disrupts their sleep on a nightly basis. Research has indicated that the following anxiety symptoms are associated with sleep problems and insomnia.
- Stress and overwhelm
- Unresolved tension
- Worrying about the past
- Obsessing about the future
- Feeling pressured by personal and professional responsibilities
- Not being able to relax and let go
It is easy to see how these thoughts and behaviors could interfere with someone’s sleep. Studies have found that anxiety is consistently linked with trouble falling asleep as well as difficulty staying asleep. In either situation, the silence of the night tends to trigger worry and fear strong enough to keep a person awake.
If this situation becomes chronic, that is it occurs more nights than not over several months, people tend to become even more anxious over not being able to sleep well. In this manner, anxiety and insomnia can compound and a pattern develops. Fortunately, there are therapy techniques that can help people with insomnia and anxiety to relax so they can sleep.
Insomnia, Anxiety and Lifestyle
Many of the same things that help to quell anxiety also help with sleep problems. Both anxiety and insomnia can be triggered by certain behaviors as well as sleep patterns. In particular, unhealthy lifestyles and poor sleep habits can actually instigate insomnia and anxiety. Here are some examples of how bad habits can trigger anxiety and insomnia:
- People who work night shifts or work late evenings often find it difficult to unwind.
- Many people try to fall asleep with television, but the light can actually make your brain more alert
People who nap often report having problems sleeping at night.
- Sleeping in later to try and catch up on sleep backfires because it confuses your body and makes it hard to sleep the following night.
- Food allergies can actually affect a person’s anxiety and ability to fall and stay asleep.
- Certain food and drink, such as alcohol, can disturb sleep.
It’s important to address sleep problems before it becomes you new normal. If lifestyle and unhealthy sleep habits are the cause of anxiety and insomnia, there are therapies and habits that can help. If you have tried to change your sleep behaviors and it hasn’t worked, it’s important to talk to a therapist who is an anxiety specialist.