Sleep anxiety can adversely impact health. But there are treatment options and simple steps to minimize symptoms.
Sometimes, you experience times of high anxiety. Throughout the day, you may face stressful situations that lead to feelings of worry, fear, or nervousness. These are anxiety symptoms and can negatively impact your life when they become severe or difficult to manage.
Anxiety becomes that much more troublesome when it affects sleep. Sleep is vital to our mental and physical health. Without a good night’s sleep, you may find yourself struggling with:
The part of the brain controlling your sleep cycle is different from the region where anxiety originates. However, there appears to be a link between the two areas that lead to sleep anxiety.
You can find more information about sleep anxiety below.
- cardiovascular disease
But defining sleep anxiety is tricky because the term embodies different experiences.
Trouble falling and staying asleep is a symptom of anxiety. Your mind keeps you awake and rushing thoughts and worries go through your mind, which makes you unable to relax and fall asleep.
These same thoughts can prevent you from entering deep sleep and cause you to wake up throughout the night.
Sometimes anxiety leads to panic disorders (PD). PD is a persistent mental health condition where you experience severe anxiety symptoms suddenly.
When they occur while you’re asleep or trying to sleep, the attacks are known as nocturnal panic attacks and are a type of sleep anxiety.
Another form of sleep anxiety exists when you experience sleep disturbances due to trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A recent study showed that sleep disturbances and recurring nightmares occur up to
With PTSD, you may have anxiety around falling asleep, which causes fear and symptoms in many. The dread you feel is another way you can experience a form of sleep anxiety.
Symptoms of sleep anxiety can vary from person to person, but the common thread is experiencing anxiety at night. These symptoms may include the following and occur at or during bedtime or when you anticipate going to sleep:
- physical: fast heart rate, palpitations, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest pain, dizziness, sweating, nausea, shaking
- cognitive: fear of losing control, physical injury, or negative evaluation from others; frightening thoughts, altered sense of reality, confusion, poor concentration
- behavioral: bedtime avoidance, pursuing safety reassurance, agitation, pacing, freezing
- affective: nervousness, tension, feeling frightened, edginess, impatient, frustrated
- sleep: trouble falling or staying asleep, tossing and turning, inability to get comfortable, avoiding sleep
When you lie awake at night, it is prime time for thoughts of worry to enter your mind since distractions are minimal. During this time, poor sleepers are
People need sleep to function and live healthy lives. So, when sleep anxiety keeps you from getting the things you need, you will start to see critical parts of your life affected.
When you don’t rest, the body and mind start to experience challenges in functioning. The effects on the mind can lead to more severe mental health conditions.
As previously mentioned, a lack of sleep can affect the body. However, the way the condition worsens when left untreated is critical to understand so you can learn how to manage and avoid any triggers.
For example, when you feel unable to fall asleep, feelings of helplessness can occur, feeding your worrying thoughts and keeping you awake. Essentially, you’re experiencing more anxiety from your anxiety.
This can snowball into even more severe effects, such as an increased vulnerability to stress.
If you experience anxiety symptoms consistently, you may want to visit your doctor for a formal diagnosis. Anxiety can damage your body physically and mentally, so it’s best not to ignore the signs.
When you speak with your doctor, they will ask you about your symptoms, how long they’ve been going on, and any current medications or supplements you’re taking.
It may be a combination of anxiety and other factors keeping you awake. For example, certain supplements and drugs can cause insomnia. The doctor will want to rule out all possible causes to ensure that they create the right treatment plan for your needs.
Luckily, there are many ways to manage your sleep anxiety. For example, you can try to treat the anxiety alone in the hopes that your sleep quality will improve, or you can look at treatment methods for both anxiety and insomnia.
Treatment options are available that may or may not include medication and depend upon your condition’s severity. These include:
- medicines for acute anxiety: benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax)
- drugs for long-term anxiety: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), buspirone, beta-blockers
- therapy: cognitive behavioral or exposure therapy
- education: learning about your diagnosis, its triggers, and how it works
- supplements: some
studiesshow specific supplements like lavender oil may relieve anxiety symptoms, but further research is needed to find if it is as effective as standard treatments
- exercise: exercising during the day calms the mind and promotes sleep
- complementary remedies: hypnosis, acupuncture, and meditation can ease symptoms of anxiety (but research is limited in how much of an impact it may have)
- enhanced support: support groups and education for loved ones
To access any of these options, reach out to a doctor or other mental health professional. If they can’t provide support themselves, they can probably connect you with someone who can.
Practicing good sleep hygiene may help ease symptoms of sleep anxiety. You can do this by:
- avoiding naps: Naps can throw off your sleep schedule.
- avoiding late-night dinners: Especially if they contain spicy or acidic foods, which can upset your stomach.
- limiting caffeine intake, especially in the evening/nighttime: Caffeine is a stimulant that can stay in your system for several hours.
- stopping smoking: Studies
suggestthat smoking can cause sleep disturbances.
- adopting a well-balanced diet: Research suggests that diets heavy on carbs or certain vitamins can affect sleep.
- exercising regularly: Studies,
like this one from 2017, have routinely suggested that physical activity during the day helps people sleep better.
- maintaining a regular sleep and wake schedule: Putting yourself to bed at a certain time helps support your circadian rhythm.
Other ways to fight insomnia include:
- restricting the number of hours you sleep: Reducing your sleep time might increase your drive to sleep the following night, but it should never fall below 7 hours per night.
- turning off nighttime stimulation: For example, avoid eating or reading in bed and using your phone or tablet at night. Keep the bed strictly for sleeping.
- practicing relaxation techniques: When you lie down at night, practice breathing exercises or meditate.
- speaking to your doctor about supplements or medications: Melatonin and other drugs can help you fall and stay asleep.
Sleep anxiety occurs when you experience symptoms of worry, fear, or loss of control when the time comes to sleep. You may also have panic attacks at night or fear falling asleep.
The combination of lack of sleep and heightened anxiety symptoms can cause adverse effects, both physically and mentally. However, other conditions like depression or PTSD may be causing your sleep anxiety and may require treatment.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 1 in 10 Americans call sleep their top priority over other things like fitness, work, and hobbies.
However, our overall health can depend on the amount of sleep we get, so you may want to take steps to improve your sleep quality. Today can be the first day you start prioritizing your sleep and leading a healthier life.