What Are Anxiety Disorders? How Can I Make Living With Sleep Anxiety Easier? Update 10/2022

Anxiety is often linked to sleep issues, and vice versa. Fear and anxiety can keep you awake at night, making it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep all night. Anxiety can be exacerbated by sleep loss, leading to a vicious cycle of insomnia and anxiety problems.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to a wide range of health problems, including anxiety disorders, which are the most common mental health issues in the United States. When it comes to overall health, it’s important to grasp the link between anxiety and sleep.

What Is Anxiety? What Are Anxiety Disorders?

When you’re anxious, you’re feeling nervous and uneasy. It’s very normal to feel anxious when confronted with a frightening or stressful scenario.

Anxiety disorders can lead to an overabundance of distress. Fears are out of proportion to the situation, and worrying has a negative impact on daily living. For the next six months or so, these sentiments will be present on a daily basis.

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

Anxiety disorders can have both emotional and physical effects on their sufferers.

Anxiety can cause people to become agitated and tense. They may become agitated and restless as a result of these symptoms. Fear or a sense of impending doom can be overwhelming and out of control for those who suffer from it.

Anxiety disorders can cause physical symptoms such as tense muscles, rapid breathing and heartbeat, perspiration, shaking, nausea, and exhaustion.

There is no cure for anxiety disorders, and avoiding stressful situations just makes matters worse, as it can cause problems in one’s work and personal life. An individual suffering from an anxiety condition may grow accustomed to feeling distressed or afraid over time.

Anxiety disorders can co-occur with other mental health issues, such as depression. Approximately 50 percent of patients with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

What Are the Types of Anxiety Disorders?

Even while not all diseases are classified as anxiety disorders, anxiety is an important component in many of them.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): With GAD, people worry about a wide range of topics, which can lead to a general sensation of anxiety.
  • Panic Disorder: One of the hallmarks of Panic Disorder is a recurrence of brief but intense bouts of fear, known as panic attacks.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: This disease is characterized by an intense apprehension of social situations and the possibility of public humiliation.
  • Specific Phobias: Specific phobias are phobias that are triggered by specific stimuli. Specific phobias such as agoraphobia (fear of open or enclosed environments, crowds, or being outside alone) and separation anxiety are among the most frequently seen.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): It is common for OCD sufferers to obsess about a subject in such a way as to induce anxiety, and this compulsion is the person’s attempt to regulate or eliminate this discomfort. Compulsions are reoccurring rituals that have a direct effect on daily life.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This condition can arise after a person is exposed to a painful or disturbing situation. People with PTSD may relive the stressful event, feel on edge, and have potentially debilitating anxiety.

How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?

Approximately 20% of American adults and 25% of American teenagers suffer from anxiety problems on a yearly basis.

[table responsive=”no” alternate=”yes” fixed=”no”]
Adults Affected in the U.S. Percentage of U.S. Adult Population
Generalized Anxiety Disorder 6.8 million 3.1%
Panic Disorder 6 million 2.7%
Social Anxiety Disorder 15 million 6.8%
Specific Phobias 2.2 million 1%
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder 7.7 million 3.5%
[/table]

People with anxiety disorders don’t all experience the same symptoms or have the same influence on their daily lives. Around 43% of respondents in a major survey reported experiencing some degree of anxiety-related impairment in their daily lives. 33% of those polled thought it was moderate, while 23% said it was severe;

What causes sleep anxiety?

We all experience anxiety at some point in our lives. Dangerous situations are designed to arouse fear in us. Stress and worry cause our bodies to release hormones that allow us to react rapidly in the event of a dangerous situation.. If you suffer from chronic anxiety, on the other hand, you may experience stress and concern all of the time. Driving to work or simply falling asleep may cause you to feel apprehensive.

These hormones, especially just before going to bed, can make it difficult for your body to wind down. Sleep deprivation can be a problem for you. Even if you do manage to get some shut-eye, you may find yourself unable to get back to sleep after a night of worrying or stress.

Anxiety and insomnia can also be caused by a lack of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream, which slows down the metabolism (hypothyroidism).

Anxiety has been linked to a decrease in REM sleep, according to studies. In this period of sleep, you are more likely to experience vivid dreams. If you suffer from anxiety, your dreams may be frightening or even cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.

As worry affects sleep, so too does sleep affect anxiety… Sleep anxiety is a common symptom of insomnia, in which the person begins to worry about their sleep during the day and at night, which can lead to more sleepless nights.

What are the symptoms of sleep anxiety?

Anxiety-related insomnia can cause a variety of behavioral changes, such as:

  • An overwhelming sense of helplessness.
  • The inability to focus.
  • Irritability.
  • Nervousness.
  • Restlessness.
  • a feeling of impending catastrophe or peril.

Anxiety before going to bed can have the following physical effects:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • The heart is pounding.
  • Breathing too quickly.
  • Sweating.
  • Muscles contract in a tense position.
  • Trembling.

Those who suffer from panic attacks at night are not alone. It’s a rapid and strong flash of fear that causes panic attacks. When you have a nocturnal panic attack, it usually wakes you up.

How is sleep anxiety diagnosed?

During a visit with your doctor, he or she will conduct a physical examination, go over your medical history, and assess your current symptoms. Among the questions they might ask you are:

  • Do you have anything to eat or drink before you go to bed?
  • Is it always before you go to sleep that you feel anxious?
  • How long does it take you to get to sleep each night?
  • During the night, how many times do you wake up?
  • What do you do before going to sleep?

What tests help confirm a sleep anxiety diagnosis?

When the asleep disturbance is suspected, your doctor may perform a sleep study. The asleep study, which is also known as polysomnography, involves spending the night in a sleep lab. Your healthcare professional examines how your body functions while you sleep by assessing your:

  • Oxygen levels in the blood.
  • How you’re standing and sitting.
  • Breathing.
  • Your brain is buzzing with electrical activity.
  • Movements of the eye.
  • Rhythms and beats of the heart.
  • Leg jerks and twitches.
  • Stages of slumber.
  • Snoring and other sleep-related noises.

Who gets sleep anxiety?

People of all ages are susceptible to sleep anxiety. If you suffer from one of the following sleep disorders, you may be more prone to experiencing anxiety at night:

  • Insomnia.
  • Narcolepsy.
  • Syndrome of the limbs restless (RLS).
  • A condition is known as sleep apnea.
  • Sleepwalking.

People with the following mental health disorders may also develop nighttime anxiety:

  • Asthma and panic attacks.
  • It’s a mental illness.
  • Depression.
  • Addictions to drugs or alcohol.
  • Irritability.
  • Psychosomatic illness caused by a stressful event (PTSD).
  • Schizophrenia.

How common is sleep anxiety?

Approximately 40 million people in the United States are affected by anxiety. People with mental health issues, such as anxiety, are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances, according to research.

How can medication treat sleep anxiety?

Anxiety or other mental health issues may necessitate medication from your doctor. It’s also possible to treat sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome or insomnia with medication.

When you initially start taking a drug, you may have an increase in anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Consult your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Many over-the-counter sleep medications can lead to addiction. Don’t begin taking any medicine for anxiety or insomnia without consulting your doctor first.

What Is the Relationship Between Anxiety and Sleep?

Anxiety problems have long been associated with sleep abnormalities, such as insomnia. If you’re constantly fretting about anything, you’re more likely to have trouble sleeping at night.

Insomnia has been linked to a condition of mental hyperarousal, often characterized by concern. As a result, people with anxiety disorders are more prone to experience sleep disturbances as a result of stress.

People with a variety of forms of anxiety, such as GAD, OCD, and PTSD, have reported difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night. In a number of studies, more than 90% of persons with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have experienced sleeplessness symptoms.

Worrying about not being able to sleep can exacerbate one’s feelings of anxiety and preoccupation, making it even more difficult to get some shuteye. Anticipatory anxiety, or worrying about going to bed, can make it difficult to maintain regular sleep schedules and routines.

In the middle of the night, some people may wake up with anxiousness. It can be difficult to get back to sleep if their mind is racing with anxiety. Insufficient sleep quality and quantity can result as a result of this.

Anxiety problems have been linked to alterations in a person’s sleep patterns. Pre-sleep rumination and worry may interfere with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is associated with vivid dreaming, according to new research. Insomnia can be exacerbated by anxiety, which can lead to unsettling nightmares and disrupted sleep. As a result, nightmares can serve to further instill apprehension and anxiety about going to bed.

Strong data shows that sleep issues are not just a sign of anxiety. This is contrary to popular belief. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can cause or increase anxiety. People who are more susceptible to anxiety are more susceptible to the effects of sleep deprivation, which can lead to anxiety symptoms.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to have negative effects on one’s mood and mental well-being, which could make anxiety disorders even more difficult to manage. Anxiety and sleep deprivation can have a self-reinforcing effect; worrying leads to poor sleep, which in turn creates more anxiety and sleep problems.

The combination of melancholy and anxiety can make it even more difficult for people to have a good night’s sleep, as the two conditions are known to interfere with sleep quality.

Depression, anxiety, and panic disorder have been reported to be more common among people who suffer from OSA, a sleep condition that causes pauses in breathing and disrupted sleep.

How to Calm Anxiety and Get Better Sleep

Anxiety disorders can have significant consequences, yet they are also one of the most curable conditions in mental health. Even though treating anxiety isn’t always straightforward, there are approaches that can be helpful.

The best course of action for anyone suffering from chronic or major anxiety and/or sleep issues is to consult with a physician who can assess their particular situation and explain the advantages and disadvantages of various therapy choices.

Anxiety problems are commonly treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It’s a form of talk therapy that’s been shown to reduce anxiety by reorienting negative thinking. Even insomniacs can benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Some sleeplessness may remain even after treatment for anxiety with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT-I, or cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, maybe a good next step in these circumstances.

Anti-anxiety medicines, antidepressants, and beta-blockers are among the approved pharmaceuticals for treating anxiety disorders. Rather than treating the underlying anxiety, these drugs are designed to alleviate symptoms.

Because of the complex interaction between anxiety and sleep, improved sleep may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. As a result of developing healthy sleeping habits, going to bed can be a more enjoyable experience and a consistent routine can be established to improve sleep.

Sleep hygiene includes both your own sleep patterns and the environment in which you sleep. You may enhance your sleep hygiene by making your bed more comfortable, reducing causes of disruption like light and noise, as well as abstaining from caffeine and alcohol in the late afternoon and night.

In order to get rid of anxiousness and fall asleep quietly, it’s a good idea to practice relaxation techniques.

Exercises like deep breathing and meditation can help break the cycle of anxiety and rumination. Scheduling periods when you actively worry may also help you avoid worrying right before going to bed. There are a variety of relaxation techniques that can help you relax before going to bed or if you wake up in the middle of the night.

Tips for Improving Sleep and Managing Anxiety

Move your body – Both anxiety and sleep are improved by regular exercise. Avoid exercising right before bedtime because it can keep you awake. Morning or afternoon exercise can help you get your sleep and waking cycles back on track and also treat insomnia or sleep apnoea.

Tailor your environment – Getting a good night’s sleep can be made easier by adjusting your bedroom’s lighting, music, and temperature. The better your chances of relaxing and sleeping are, the darker, quieter, and colder your bedroom is. Preparing for bed by taking a shower or bath before going to sleep can also help you fall asleep faster.

Limit caffeine and alcohol – Overconsumption of coffee, especially late in the day, has been shown to raise anxiety and interfere with restful sleep. In addition to keeping you awake at night, drinking alcohol close to bedtime might raise your heart rate. 4 Be careful not to drink too much water before going to sleep, as this can keep you awake and agitated.

Calm your mind – There are a plethora of relaxation methods available to help you unwind and sleep better at any time of day or night. Calm can be achieved through practices such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises, but it can also be achieved by just going for a brief stroll during your lunch break at work. Practicing relaxation techniques during the day will make it easier for you to relax at night.

Limit screen time – Try to restrict the use of your phone, tablet, and television an hour before going to sleep. When you’re trying to wind down for the night, it can be difficult to do so if you’re constantly checking your email or working on anything else. Consider using an alarm clock to remind you to turn off your screens before you go to sleep. Instead, try relaxing with some music or a book to help you clear your head.

Ask for help – In certain cases, controlling your anxiety and enhancing your quality of sleep is more involved than simply shutting off your phone or exercising enough. Asking for help from a doctor or a therapist is never a sign of weakness. Sleep disorders and anxiety are manageable, so think about who you can hire to help you relax now.

A mental health expert should be sought out by anyone who suspects they or someone they care about may be suffering from anxiety or any other mental health disorder. PsyCom strongly encourages this. To assist you further, we’ve collected a list of resources (some of which provide free or low-cost assistance) at https://www.psycom.net/get-help-mental-health

How can I make living with sleep anxiety easier?

Every part of your life, from your career to your relationships, can be impacted by issues with anxiety or sleep deprivation. A therapist, co-workers, friends, or loved ones may be able to help you deal with your sleep anxiety. In addition, support groups can help you connect with others who are going through the same thing you are.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

The term “sleep apnea” refers to the concern or stress that one feels about falling or staying asleep. Anxiety and sleep disturbances are linked, as is the relationship between the two. It can feel like a never-ending loop because one can often worsen the other. The good news is that anxiety and sleep issues may both be treated. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor and work together to come up with the best treatment plan for you. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), proper sleep habits, and medication are among the most common therapies.

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