How Anxiety Messes With Your Sleep

Stress is a big factor in everyone’s life. But when it becomes so strong that it causes you to become anxious and lose sleep, that’s when you’ve got a problem. How does anxiety mess with your brain and keep you up at night? Here’s exactly what you need to know and what you can do to try to get some shut eye tonight.

Anxiety and insomnia

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, if you’re unable to sleep, you’re not alone – over 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders. Not getting enough sleep can affect your daily life, leaving you not just tired, but also mentally and emotionally stifled. The National Sleep Foundation notes that one of the major factors of insomnia is anxiety.

Symptoms can include tension, excessive worrying about past or future events, feeling overwhelmed, and excessive energy. It’s no wonder you can’t sleep with all those thoughts running through your head! Conversely, while anxiety can cause insomnia, insomnia can cause anxiety. NSF mentions that anxiety and insomnia can cause a cycle – you can’t get sleep so you worry even more; increased worrying leads to less ability to sleep. If you can’t learn to calm down, you can be in some trouble. 

Nighttime panic attacks

Discovery News posted a video online that confirmed that we can even wake up in the middle of the night with a panic attack. Since our brains never turn off, we’re thinking about what worries us even in sleep. This “middle of the night sleepless panic cycle” can lead to other health issues down the road, including depression and heart disease. Feeling dizzy, increased heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath, and an acute fear of dying are all indicators of panic attacks. If you’re feeling one come on, there are ways to help curb your panicked feeling.

To reduce anxiety and stress, ADAA suggests taking these actions:

  • Meditate. Focus on your breathing in order to calm body and spirit.
  • Exercise. Being active is one of the best ways to de-stress – head to the gym, take a hike, or start dancing to curb the blues.
  • Prioritize. Set up a to-do list and organize your thoughts,focusing on what’s most important.
  • Listen to soothing music. Calm tunes can help lower your blood pressure.
  • Sleep. The more z’s you get, the happier your body is.
  • Talk to someone. When it’s really unbearable, don’t keep it to yourself – talk to friends and family, or a professional if you’re having trouble coping.
  • Direct stress elsewhere. Volunteer, take a class or head to the museum to take your mind off of whatever is stressing you.

If sleepless nights are still an issue, the ADAA has these pointers:

  • Schedule sleep time. Doctors say that 7-9 hours of sleep is what a healthy adult needs to stay at his best.
  • Skip the drugs, cigarettes, and caffeine. Even chocolate, candy, and many other late night snacks can be a detriment to a good night’s sleep.
  • Sleep in comfort. A sturdy mattress, comfortable pillows, and a dark, cool room all help your body to fall into that deep sleep you need.
  • Don’t work in the bedroom. Leave the laptop, cell phone, and file folders at your desk. The minute you start working from your bed, you’re training your body to skip the sleep cycle.
  • Turn the clock off. Constantly checking the hour wont help you sleep – it only makes you more anxious – turn the clock away.

No matter what you do, if you still can’t get to sleep and struggle with anxiety or depression, contact your doctor, who can prescribe other forms of exercise, or even medications if necessary.