How Does Anxiety Affect Sleep?

Anxiety is an alarmingly common mental health issue in the United States; 18% of adults are afflicted with anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Everyone experiences anxiousness from time to time, however, this can cause a litany of physical and psychological ailments such as insomnia if not treated properly.

Anxiety and sleep are closely linked. Research shows that people with anxiety are more likely to have trouble sleeping than those without anxiety. 

If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep because of anxiety, you’re not alone. 

Here are some tips for how to manage your anxiety and get better sleep.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotional state that can range from mild apprehension to intense fear or panic. It generally results from the anticipation of a situation or event that has the potential to cause harm to one’s physical, emotional, or mental well-being.

Anxiety can greatly impact sleep, making it difficult to get to and stay asleep. 

Stress hormones such as cortisol can be released during times of anxiety, increased heart rate, and alertness which make sleeping much more difficult. 

Ongoing anxieties can also lead to insomnia, nightmares, restlessness, and fatigue which can reduce productivity levels and general life satisfaction.

How Common is Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions, affecting millions of people worldwide. 

They can manifest in various forms, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

These disorders can cause feelings of worry, fear, and nervousness that can be overwhelming and interfere with daily activities.

Anxiety disorders are the most frequent type of mental illness in American adults and teenagers alike. 

Social Anxiety Disorder is by far the most impactful among American adults, affecting nearly 7% of the population.

What Causes Anxiety Disorders?

The exact cause of anxiety is not fully understood, but research suggests that it is likely the result of an interplay among several factors. 

Genetics and family history can play a role, as individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders are more likely to develop one themselves. 

Exposure to negative life events, such as trauma, can also contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.

Certain health problems and medications can also contribute to symptoms of anxiety.

For example, individuals with chronic illnesses may experience anxiety as a result of their condition or the treatments they are receiving.

Certain medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure or asthma, can also cause anxiety as a side effect. 

Also, certain substances such as caffeine, alcohol and drugs can worsen anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety can have multiple causes and it’s not always clear which factors are responsible for a person’s symptoms. Therefore, getting a proper diagnosis and treatment plan can be challenging, but a mental health professional can help identify the underlying causes and provide appropriate care.

Anxiety and Sleep

Sleep and psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, are often closely linked. People with anxiety disorders may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, which can lead to insomnia or other sleep disorders. 

Similarly, those with sleep disorders may experience anxiety or fear before bedtime, leading to difficulty sleeping. This can create a vicious cycle, where one condition exacerbates the other, making it difficult to break free from the symptoms.

Effective treatment for anxiety disorders typically includes a combination of therapy and medication.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment for anxiety disorders.

This type of talk therapy works to reorient negative thinking and has been successful in reducing anxiety.

Studies have also found that CBT can often improve insomnia in people with anxiety disorders. Additionally, addressing sleep problems with good sleep hygiene and/or medication may help improve symptoms of anxiety as well.

Sleep hygiene is an effective, non-medicinal treatment for sleep-related anxiety. It involves making your bed more comfortable, eliminating sources of sleep disruption, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon and evening.

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and guided imagery can also help put your mind at ease before bed and break the cycle of worry and rumination. Scheduling times to actively worry may also be helpful, as it can eliminate worrying time as you lay down for sleep.

Jonas Hill Hospital & Clinic, a division of Caldwell Memorial Hospital provides our community with safe, dignified and integrated care for adult patients experiencing an acute mental health need. We provide hope, treatment, and healing through a holistic program of evidence-based psychiatric treatment, team-based medical care, and education provided by engaging and dedicated professionals in a safe and healing environment. Contact us today for more information. A safe space to heal.