In This Guide
It is usually seen that there is a correlation between psychiatric disorders and sleep. So, if you are someone who is suffering from anxiety, you might face difficulties in falling or staying asleep.
Sleep anxiety is a condition where there is a worry or fear associated with sleep. People suffering from this condition often think that something or the other will go wrong when they fall asleep, and poor or insufficient sleep can exacerbate your sleep anxiety symptoms in several ways.
What is Sleep Anxiety?
Sleep anxiety is a fear of going to sleep, where the person suffering from this disorder is unable to sleep. Although many people with sleep anxiety are unaware they have this condition until it becomes severe, some warning signs may appear before sleep-related fears develop.
For some, these apprehensions may begin during early adulthood. Other people fear sleep may never come. Children who have nocturnal fears often wake up screaming, which can be terrifying for both the child and parents. When sleep anxiety is more frequent, sufferers are often unable to fall asleep alone because they believe a certain “fear trigger” will cause harm to them.
Causes of Sleep Anxiety
To get a precise diagnosis, it is important for the patient to log their sleep cycle every day. The first question to ask when evaluating someone with sleep anxiety is if they had a traumatic event that happened at night. It is also important to find out what night-time fears are and how they differ from daytime fears. The various causes of sleep anxiety are as follows:
- Hereditary factors
- Work or social stress
- Lack of sleep
- Nervousness about health, family, work, school performance
- Chronic illness or disease
- Medications for anxiety disorders
- Drugs to aid in the treatment of other conditions
The causes are different in each person. For example, if you have chronic anxiety it can even lead to sleep anxiety. If you suffer from chronic pain and take medication for it, it can also sometimes cause sleep anxiety.
Symptoms of Sleep Anxiety
The first step in overcoming sleep anxiety is to understand what it is and how it manifests. This post will outline the most common symptoms, as well as what you can do about them. Various Symptoms of Sleep Anxiety are as follows;
- Not being able to sleep at all or waking up very early in the morning and feeling like you can’t go back to sleep.
- Having trouble concentrating and carrying out daily responsibilities
- Feeling irritable and unhappy most of the time
- Stopping activities that used to be fun or pleasurable because they seem unimportant now.
- Experiencing a lot of worry about not sleeping, even when you’re asleep, anxiety attacks at night, and phobia of sleeping. You might think that you can’t breathe or that you’re dying.
- Having physical symptoms, such as sweating a lot, feeling shaky or panic attacks at night.
- Feel like you’re always tired and have low energy levels.
- Getting more upset about not sleeping than your friends and family do.
- Thinking that you’re too tired to enjoy life.
- Being irritable or unhappy for much of the time.
- Often feeling frustrated and angry, or unable to get your work done easily or spontaneously.
- Lying awake at night, unable to sleep at all.
- Having nightmares about not being able to sleep.
- Worrying about not sleeping, even when you’re asleep. You may believe that you can’t breathe or that you’re dying.
- Worrying about not sleeping so much that it’s making you feel tired or unhappy during the day.
- Losing your temper more easily than usual, feeling like a bad person or feeling like you’re losing control of your life.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders come in various forms and degrees. There are five categories of anxiety disorders;
1. Social Phobia
Fear that makes you avoid social situations. This disorder usually occurs during the teenage years and can get better as one grows older. However, it can be very distressing and can adversely impact one’s life.
2. Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder where one feels like they are in real danger and may experience bouts of terror. If you are suffering from this disorder, you may also end up feeling like you are losing complete control of your life.
3. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
May include worries about work performance or future, worry about children and aging parents, worry about everyday things like the weather or health etc. It is a long-term anxiety disorder with an onset in adolescence or early adulthood.
4. Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
Obsessions are unwanted intrusive thoughts. Compulsions are repetitive behaviours (e.g. hand washing) or mental acts (e.g. praying) that a person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules that must be applied rigidly. In OCD, you may also have repetitive thoughts but your compulsions are specific and you don’t worry about another obsession as much as about your compulsion.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder where one experiences obsessions, compulsions and/or both. The obsessions are thoughts that are intrusive and unwanted, while the compulsions are repetitive behaviours. The intrusive thoughts often centre on fears, doubts and/or a significant other. The obsessional thoughts are experienced as if they are very important and real. The compulsive behaviours are done to prevent the obsession from occurring and all arise from a perceived need to be safe.
5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
May occur after severe trauma or life-threatening events such as war, assault, being kidnapped or held hostage, natural disasters, etc. Also referred to as PTSD, some of the symptoms include flashbacks of past traumatic events and uncontrollable thoughts of an event.
How Common is Sleep Anxiety?
While anxiety is a common disorder, people suffering from such mental health conditions can experience sleep disorders too. However, it can also be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Therefore, it is important that you visit your healthcare professional and take medical advice to rectify the same. Nevertheless, sleep anxiety can be effectively managed with proper treatment.
11 Tips to Improve Sleep Anxiety
Tiredness, anxiety, and other sleep-related symptoms can be common side effects of living with chronic insomnia. There’s a lot of help out there to try and get your sleep back on track — from tips for getting more sleep in general or sleep anxiety treatment at home to overcome the most common obstacles faced by older adults. But even if you’ve tried everything possible, it might be helpful to learn about some different strategies for dealing with anxiety when you wake up from sleeping.
1- Sleep Demonstration
This is a good technique for insomnia that can especially work well when you’re having trouble falling asleep or you can’t sleep due to anxiety. Start by maintaining the same position in bed. Then, roll over in the new direction and with your arms straight out, so you’re lying on your side. At this point, do not consciously decide to fall asleep or stay awake! The goal here is simply to fall asleep gradually with no further effort needed on your part. You can fall asleep this way even if you’re not tired, and it also works well when you’re trying to get up in the middle of the night.
2- Go to Sleep
If this insomnia technique doesn’t work for you, you can try going to bed when there are no distractions at home or while watching television. It’s usually easier to fall asleep when it’s quiet and dark, but if your anxiety makes lying down a struggle, lay down on a couch rather than in bed. It’s also very important to support your head in a way that feels comfortable for you, so find a pillow or other soft object to help keep your neck in place. It might be helpful to bring a small blanket with you if the room is too cold or warm.
3- Use a Journal
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night or are scared to sleep and you’re afraid of what’s going to happen in the future due to anxiety, it may be worth writing down some thoughts on paper so they don’t keep you up at night. You can write about something meaningful to help distract you when you wake up and during the day.
4- Change Up Your Bedtime Routine
If your sleep routine is very regular and you have trouble changing it, try switching up some of the things that go on at bedtime. For example, if you’re used to going to bed and reading until you fall asleep, try reading earlier. A few books can help ignite a new interest in the day, so changing up your routine may make falling asleep easier.
5- Listen to Music
Music is a good way to distract yourself from anxious thoughts while you’re trying to fall asleep. Listening to music before bedtime can also help create an exciting atmosphere that makes it easier for you to fall and stay asleep throughout the night. Try switching up the kind of music you listen to as well, so you can create a soothing atmosphere for sleep.
6- Avoid Caffeine
If you’re used to drinking caffeinated drinks in the afternoon and evening, it’s best to avoid them since they can affect your sleep quality throughout the night. These drinks will give you a brief boost of energy during the day and may help keep you up at night, so it’s best just to stay away from them altogether.
7- Eat a Healthy Breakfast
Benefit from a healthy breakfast to give your body the nutrients it needs for long-term health. Doing this will help you feel better before you go to sleep and rest more quickly than if you had skipped breakfast. You might also find that you can eat less at breakfast and get your total daily calories for the day from things like fruits, yoghurt, eggs, or nuts.
Exercise doesn’t just benefit physically active people. It can be a great way to wind down after the day and prepare for sleep. Even if you’re not a fan of exercising in the morning, doing something physical can be extremely helpful for calming your anxious thoughts before bedtime. Try taking a walk around the block or going for a jog as part of your exercise routine in the evening, and then try to relax by listening to relaxing music before bedtime.
9- Watch a Movie
Do something that’s mentally relaxing. Watching a movie can be a great way and movies can work well for everyone. Try watching a comedy or romance if you’re having trouble sleeping, or choose a favourite film that always brings you comfort.
Music can be a powerful tool and can help you control your anxiety. For some, listening to music before they fall asleep can put them in a relaxing state, which helps them fall asleep in an easier manner.
11- Try Some Mindfulness
There can be several benefits from practising mindfulness in the day, and it can also help you fall asleep at night. There are different kinds of meditation practices, but for insomnia, you should try to focus on breathing slowly and deeply. It’s also very important to allow your mind to wander without judgment so it can calm itself for sleep.
When to See a Doctor or Professional?
In an ever-increasingly competitive world, it is more important than ever to get the sleep you need. Several factors contribute to our sleeping difficulties such as stress and anxiety.
Call your healthcare provider to set up an appointment to see if there is a reason you cannot sleep. Most people go to their doctor at the first sign of insomnia (after a week or so), but it can take up to four weeks of consistent sleeplessness for a doctor to make the diagnosis.
Your doctor may recommend an overnight sleep test, which helps decide if there is something wrong with your body’s normal sleeping patterns or with your nervous system and allows you to determine what type of treatment plan should be implemented.
Since we know that sleep, stress, and anxiety are intimately linked to each other, it is understandable that your doctor will recommend a combination of different plans for sleep medication, stress reduction techniques as well as even exercise and sleep hygiene. Doctors can offer both prescription and over-the-counter medications to help you fall asleep.
Sleep anxiety occurs when a person has difficulty falling or staying asleep because they’re worried about something, such as how much work they’re getting done. It can also be caused by using up all their energy during the day and not having enough left for nighttime.
In both cases, sleep anxiety can lead to a vicious cycle of worry, which makes it even more difficult to fall asleep. However, getting help right away can help you sleep better and take control of your life.
While some anxiety medicines enhance the chemical concentration that your brain requires to communicate and others stimulate the dopamine and serotonin receptors. Some anxiety drugs also produce a feeling of excitability and apprehension.
The main class of drugs used to treat insomnia is known as sedatives and hypnotics. The word ‘sedative’ refers to the relaxing effect a medication may have on your body. ‘Hypnotic’ means it tends to induce sleep, so they are often prescribed together.
Many people with anxiety disorders use both benzodiazepines and sedatives and hypnotics to help them fall asleep or stay asleep.
- Problems falling asleep
- Unable to fall asleep even when feeling sleepy
- Waking up frequently and not able to go back to sleep
- Waking up earlier than it was intended
- Waking up and not feeling energized or refreshed
The 3 3 3 anxiety rule is a great way to stay grounded and let go of that anxiety that’s gripping you. In this rule, you will first look around you and name three things you can see. Then, you will name three sounds you can hear and finally move three body parts. It can be lifting your arms, nodding your head or moving your ankle. This is a great method to curb the growing anxiety inside you instantly. In fact, you can not only follow this method before sleeping but always anytime in the day or at work where you can feel anxiety gripping you.
There are several reasons why you may be experiencing nighttime anxiety. It can be due to the lifestyle you lead, certain habits, and health conditions.
Physical activity is always good for anxiety. You can take up swimming, running, yoga, dancing, any activity that also helps you enjoy.
There are several ways to get a grip on your anxiety, but first, it requires patience. Try embracing a healthy lifestyle and make sure you visit a professional who can guide you the right way.