The Surprising Link Between Anxiety and Sleep: Understanding Sleep Anxiety

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Sarvika Aggarwal

07 August 2023

8 Mins

Have you ever tried to sleep, but your mind just wouldn't let you?

You have been there, right? I have been too!

Not to sound gloomy, but that makes you feel lonely and scared.

But, to put it simply, this is known as sleep anxiety.

Not aware of it? Don’t worry — let’s dive into the world of what is sleep anxiety!

What is sleep anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal feeling that every human goes through. It is a feeling of fear and uneasiness. Anxiety and stress cause the body to release hormones that help us escape the situation. However, if you suffer from chronic anxiety, that stress can keep you up at night worrying and fearing the worst.

High levels of hormones before going to bed can make it hard for you to sleep. You may find it difficult to relax and sleep. And even if you wish to sleep, it might be hard for you to do that as your mind is clouded with negative thoughts.

A fear of falling asleep, also known as sleep anxiety, is the worry that you won't be able to get a good night's rest or that you will feel uneasy or anxious before bed.

Anxiety and stress can make you afraid to go to bed because you worry that your negative thoughts will keep you awake. When you are exhausted and experience sleep anxiety, it can be challenging to focus on what is right.

Sleep anxiety symptoms

When you have sleep anxiety, it may show up in your behaviour and physically as well. Some sleep anxiety symptoms are:

  • Restlessness
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Attention deficiency
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle twitching
  • Digestive issues
  • Panic attacks
  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • A strong obsession to avoid things that trigger your anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder for an episode that occurred in the past

Why does anxiety hit at night?

Anxiety usually hits worse at night because of inadequate sleep, anxiety about something particular, or if you have an anxiety disorder.

We are typically worn out at night, and if you have the propensity to overthink things or have anxious thoughts, this can cause your mind to be clouded with worries that are difficult for you to ignore at night, which can cause severe sleep anxiety.

Research has shown that a lack of sleep can contribute to anxiety. Additionally, research has shown that people with poor mental health conditions have difficulty sleeping.

This is why treating your nighttime anxiety and dealing with your sleep problems are crucial steps in raising your quality of life.

To get a better understanding of why you are hit by anxiety at night, you can consult therapists at Now&Me to get clarity. A few months back, I was going through an episode of overthinking and it was interrupting my sleep badly. I consulted one of the therapists at Now&Me, and after a few sessions, it made me really self-aware, and I was able to get a hold of my anxiety consciously.

You can give it a try; there is no harm in trying, right?

How to stop sleep anxiety?

There are a few things you can incorporate into your routine to get sound and healthy sleep, which will also help stop your sleep anxiety. These are as follows:

1. Limit caffeine intake before going to bed

The effect of caffeine can last for 3-7 hours after you consume it. It is best to avoid drinks that contain caffeine, as caffeine not only disrupts your sleep pattern but also makes you more anxious. Having coffee right before bed will also slow your body clock. To get a good night's rest, keep your caffeine intake to 200 mg per day.

2. Avoid using electronic devices before going to bed

Using electronic devices right before bed can lower your melatonin levels, which are responsible for the sleep-wake cycle.

Electronic devices emit blue light, which can be harmful to your eyes and REM cycle. To get your sleep schedule right, try to avoid using digital devices before going to bed.

Make a routine to switch it off or keep it somewhere different from where you sleep.

3. Improve the ambience of your bedroom

You may feel like it doesn’t matter, but it matters where you sleep. Subconsciously, our minds do sleep better when the environment is aesthetic and cosy. If your room is messy and dirty, your mind will find it difficult to relax and sleep properly.

If you wish to get your REM cycle back on track, clean your room before going to bed.

4. Maintain a sleep schedule

Keep a consistent sleep schedule where you push yourself to go to sleep at a certain time and wake up at a certain time, even on weekends. This will help you get your REM cycle back on track while also keeping your body clock in check.

Treatment for sleep anxiety

There are many ways to get your REM cycle back on track and get the required treatment for sleep anxiety by consulting a psychologist or physicist. Sleep anxiety treatment includes the following:

1. Going to therapy

To get yourself out of this rut and get your sweet sleep back, you can always visit a therapist and talk about the issues that are bothering you. It will take time to get to the bottom of it, as therapy takes time, but once you start looking after your mental health, your sleep cycle will automatically get better with time.

You can consult the therapists at Now&Me to get rid of this issue and get your sleep cycle back on track. It won't be a quick fix, but taking that first step will motivate you to work on improving your mental health and sleep cycle.

It should be noted that if you do not prioritise your sleep, it will interfere with every aspect of your life. So, to get your life on track – make changes that help you live a stress-free life.

2. Mindfulness and grounding techniques

If you wish to indulge in more of a self-help technique, you can practice meditation, where you close your eyes and get yourself back to the present moment. It won’t happen instantly and will take a lot of trial and error, but once you understand the art of meditation, you will stop giving any importance to your unnecessary thoughts.

Other than this, you can try the grounding technique, wherein you bring yourself into the present moment by focusing on 5 things around you, like a pen, books, your senses, clothes, and things like these. This helps you distinguish between what is real and what is not, and you lose focus on irrelevant thoughts.

3. Exercise – investing in your physical health

Invest in your physical health because it has been scientifically proven that there is a link between your physical and mental health. If you are not physically active, you will feel mentally drained. And the more you work out, the more hormones you release, which is a guiding factor in making you happy and stress-free.

Set a routine and devote at least 30 minutes a day to your physical health by doing yoga or cardio.

4. Medication

If you feel your anxiety is getting out of hand, it is time to consult a doctor. They might put you on medications to cure your anxiety or sleep anxiety disorder. You have to let them know about your stress and anxiety so that they can diagnose you properly and provide you with the right medication.

The medication may cause some side effects, but in the long run, it will only help you get your REM cycle back on track.

How can Now&Me help?

Our platform, Now&Me is a safe place that can help you understand the root cause of your sleep anxiety. It can help you in the following ways —

  • You can write about whatever it is that is bothering you so that you feel light and unburdened.
  • It helps in structuring thoughts by making you understand the root cause of your problems.
  • Engaging with others can make you apply their techniques to get a good REM cycle.
  • You can be a part of the larger community and understand your needs and requirements by meeting different people.
  • It’s like your personal journal – write your thoughts without any filter and make it your best friend who listens to and understands you as no one else does.
  • You can interact with like-minded people and understand the root cause of your sleep anxiety by getting professional guidance and support from our anxiety therapists.

TL;DR

When you wish to understand the root cause of your sleep anxiety but have no one to talk to, sign up on Now&Me and let your words flow. Be a part of a welcoming, nonjudgmental community. It is a lovely and warm family that has your back. A platform designed for you to easily ask for assistance and simply write whatever you are feeling while breathing easily.

FAQs

Your anxiety typically worsens while you are sleeping because your mind is worn out. If you tend to overthink and become stressed, your mind will start acting erratically the moment you're left alone and unoccupied.

As humans, we occasionally tend to let our thoughts stray, which can easily make us anxious. As a result, even if you have no cause for concern, your mind may catastrophise and cause you to feel anxious.

You can help yourself by engaging in relaxation techniques like meditation and grounding exercises as well as actively tackling your anxiety, which will improve your sleep.

There are numerous ways to treat sleep anxiety. Therapy, medications, mindfulness practices, physical activity, creating routines, and consciously making them work are a few of them.

CBT assists you in determining which thoughts and behaviours cause sleep problems. You learn how to replace these thoughts and behaviours with sleep-promoting habits. Unlike sleeping pills, CBT assists you in overcoming the underlying causes of your sleep problems.

Having better sleep habits will improve your mental and physical health, which will aid in restoring your REM cycle. And, once your REM cycle is restored, your sleep anxiety will gradually improve.

Medication aids in the treatment of sleep anxiety by restructuring certain parts of your mind that prevent you from overthinking or becoming preoccupied with your anxious thoughts.

You can avoid sleep anxiety by maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding electronic devices before bedtime, creating a relaxing environment, and, finally, meditating.

The duration of sleep anxiety varies depending on the individual and the type of anxiety they have - is it mild or chronic? A lot of factors come into play when we talk about sleep anxiety.

You may experience nausea, gastrointestinal problems, or digestive problems as a result of your sleep anxiety. Due to the strong connections between your gut and mind, anxiety will manifest physically.

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