Anxiety can cause ongoing worry and stress that can affect a person’s sleep. Many people have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. About 50 to 70 million people in the United States experience some form of sleep loss. In Brazil, the problem affects 73 million people, according to the Brazilian Sleep Association (ABS).
A person can make lifestyle changes or try other treatments that can help them feel calmer at night and allow them to get restful sleep. Next, learn more about anxiety, including how it affects sleep. Also see tips for falling asleep and answers to common questions about the relationship between anxiety and sleep.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural emotion that people feel when they are stressed or under pressure. It acts as an alarm for something wrong and makes a person feel nervous or worried. In moderate amounts, anxiety can help you cope with stressful and difficult situations. However, when someone experiences anxiety frequently, or disproportionately, and it interferes with their daily life, it could indicate an anxiety disorder, which is considered a group of mental health conditions that include: generalized and social anxiety disorder and specific phobias. .
Anxiety disorders can affect each person differently, but common symptoms include:
-shortness of breathe;
-feelings of dread;
-avoid certain situations;
-difficulty enjoying free time.
How does anxiety affect sleep?
Sleep is essential for the body to function properly. Doctors refer to an ongoing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep as insomnia. Research suggests that there is a strong link between insomnia and anxiety, with 70% to 90% of people with anxiety reporting insomnia. A person with anxiety is more susceptible to worrying, having intrusive thoughts and reflecting on them. When a person is lying in bed trying to sleep, he should have few distractions from these troubling thoughts.
These feelings of anxiety can stimulate the brain and body into a state of hyperarousal, as if facing a threat, making it difficult to sleep. In fact, research suggests that this state of hyperarousal is a major contributor to insomnia. Not only can anxiety make it difficult for a person to sleep, but poor sleep can make a person’s anxiety worse, creating a negative cycle.
A 2019 study claims that there is a link between lack of sleep and elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as decreased levels of testosterone. Both hormones are also associated with mental health conditions such as anxiety, which may explain why poor sleep can lead to a person’s mental health worsening. Additionally, chronic sleep deprivation connects to increased inflammation in the body, which can also influence mental health.
Tips for getting to sleep even with anxiety
One way a person can aim to improve their sleep is to focus on reducing their stress levels throughout the day. Methods for doing this include:
– Regular exercises: research suggests that regular aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety levels.
– Relaxation exercises: meditation, breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation exercises can help reduce stress.
-Talking to trusted people: Discussing problems with loved ones can help to calm a person’s mind.
People can also make gradual changes to their nighttime routine to help calm their bodies and make their environment more suitable for a good night’s sleep. Some sleep hygiene changes a person may want to make include:
– with the aim of waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends or when they believe they have not had an ideal sleep;
– avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and sugary snacks for at least four hours before bed;
-don’t look at TV, computer and phone screens before trying to fall asleep;
-make the room as comfortable as possible, trying to keep it dark, cool and quiet;
-use an eye mask and earplug to block out background noise if necessary;
-avoid checking the time, as this can make a person feel stressed about the amount of sleep they will get and will become more anxious;
-Wait until your body feels tired before trying to sleep whenever possible, as trying to force sleep can start to be stressful and make a person’s anxiety worse.
– avoid napping;
-get out of bed if you can’t sleep;
-20 to 30 minutes before going to bed, do a silent or boring activity until you feel tired enough to sleep.
It can also be helpful to keep a journal to track sleep patterns and help highlight things that seem to improve or negatively impact sleep.
treatments for anxiety
Treatment varies from person to person, depending on the type of anxiety they experience and their preferences. This may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. A mental health professional will discuss a person’s history and symptoms to find the best option for them.
Common types of therapy for anxiety include:
– cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT);
– acceptance and commitment therapy;
-exposure therapy and virtual reality exposure therapy.
There is also a form of CBT specifically for insomnia that can help a person manage anxiety and sleep issues.
Some medications a doctor may prescribe to treat anxiety include: antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines, and beta blockers.
Below are answers to some of the most common questions about falling asleep with anxiety.
Why does anxiety get worse at night?
People can become anxious at night due to the same causes that make them anxious during the day. However, at night there may be fewer distractions and a person may feel more alone with their thoughts. They may also start to worry about the day ahead or become anxious about how much sleep they will get. Research suggests that excessive cognitive activity before bed, such as overthinking and worrying, contributes to trouble sleeping.
How can an anxious person calm down quickly at night?
If a person is experiencing intrusive thoughts at night, it may be helpful to get out of bed and do a calming activity, such as reading a book, taking a hot shower, having a hot drink, and listening to calming music. It may seem counterintuitive to get out of bed, but trying to force yourself to sleep while feeling very anxious can cause more anxiety and contribute to the cycle of stress and insomnia.
What can make anxiety worse?
Triggers vary from person to person, but certain factors are more likely to make anxiety worse, including: caffeine and sugar; certain medications; ongoing conflict or stress in areas of a person’s life, such as relationships, work, health, or finances; specific situations, such as public speaking or attending important social events.
Source: Medical News Today
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