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The Interconnected World of Anxiety and Sleep Disorders

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Have you ever felt that when you are worried or anxious, you find it difficult to fall or stay asleep? Have you ever wondered why this happens? When our mind is skimming through myriads of thoughts that make us worry, it affects our body’s natural sleep pattern, and we find falling asleep or staying up feels like a distant dream. 

In this article, we will help you understand how anxiety and sleep disorders are interconnected and what you can do to improve your sleep. So, let’s start. 

The Vicious Cycle of Anxiety and Sleep Disorders 

As mentioned in the introduction, anxiety and sleep are interconnected and feed on each other, creating a vicious cycle of anxiety and sleep disorders. So, let’s understand this cycle a little deeper.  

What is Sleep Anxiety? 

You probably know what anxiety is, but do you know what sleep anxiety is? To understand this cycle, it is important to know what sleep anxiety is. Sleep anxiety is like having a fear of bedtime. People with sleep anxiety may feel that something bad will happen if they sleep. During this period, numerous thoughts race through their mind; for example, they may sulk about works related to their future or the past or may ruminate about why they couldn’t sleep, etc. 

How Does Anxiety Affects Sleep? 

We know that anxiety and sleep go hand-in-hand, and it affects our sleep patterns in many ways. For example, people with anxiety usually have racing thoughts, and this constant chatter within the mind makes it difficult to fall asleep. Even if they somehow fall asleep, the constant wakefulness throughout the night interrupts restorative rest, and consequently, you wake up feeling fatigued. 

How Sleep Deprivation Exacerbates Anxiety 

Research has found a connection between inadequate sleep and several mental health issues, notably anxiety. A person with insufficient sleep experiences raised cortisol levels, often called the stress hormone, resulting in increased negative emotional responses. While sleep disorders can co-occur with other mental health conditions, they can also contribute to the onset or worsening of existing mental conditions like anxiety. 

The relationship between sleep and mental health 

When we sleep, our body goes through different stages called the circadian cycle, an internal clock that regulates our sleeplessness and wakefulness. During these phases, different parts of our brain are engaged in activities that contribute to our thinking, memory, and learning, all of which influence our mental and emotional health. Any disruption of this natural process sometimes leads to mental health problems. 

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Who gets sleep anxiety? 

Sleep anxiety can occur to anyone, irrespective of their age or sex. However, certain factors make them more prone to developing sleep anxiety. For example, people with already existing mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, etc. 

If someone is struggling with sleep disorders like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, etc, then they may also be at higher risk of developing anxiety at night. 

How common is sleep anxiety? 

The data on the exact number of people with sleep anxiety isn’t available. However, studies suggest that the number is quite high. The rationale behind its high prevalence may be due to the high percentage of people with anxiety. According to the WHO, close to 4% of the global population is experiencing anxiety disorder, and we know that these two conditions are deeply interconnected.  

What causes sleep anxiety? 

When we are in grave situations, our bodies release hormones that cause anxiety.  However, the body is designed to handle short-term anxiety as it protects us from imminent threats. But chronic anxiety is different, and our body is not designed for it. The constant release of related hormones makes it difficult for you to sleep, and this may sometimes lead to sleep anxiety. Other factors like panic disorder or social anxiety can also make one susceptible to sleep anxiety. Existing sleep disorders too can sometimes cause sleep anxiety.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Anxiety-Related Sleep Disorders 

Like other mental health conditions, anxiety-related sleep disorders also have symptoms that can help in recognizing the condition. In this section, we will discuss how to identify signs of sleep anxiety and its diagnostic process. 

Recognizing the Signs of Sleep Anxiety 

Here are some signs that may indicate that what you are experiencing may not be fleeting thoughts but rather something more concerning.  

  • Constant running thoughts making difficult to fall asleep 
  • Frequent waking during the night 
  • Early morning awakening 
  • Restless sleep 
  • Daytime fatigue  
  • Difficulty in concentrating 

The Diagnostic Process for Anxiety-Induced Sleep Disorders 

Understanding the root cause of the condition is very important as this will allow the health care professional to customize the treatment accordingly. It is also crucial in the sense that it will help the professional to determine if the condition is an anxiety-induced sleep disorder or the other way around. Here are some methods to diagnose the condition. 

Initial Evaluation: This includes inquiries such as your pre-bed diet or drink choices, the duration it takes to drift off, and how frequently you awaken during the night. 

Sleep Study: The professionals may conduct a sleep study to understand how your body works during sleep. The study involves checking your blood oxygen level, heart rates, and rhythm, eye and leg movements, breathing, body positioning, etc. 

When is the time to seek professional help for sleep anxiety? 

Sometimes it is common for every one of us to have problems falling asleep or staying awake. However, if you are experiencing this for a longer duration, for example, 4 weeks or more, or if the condition started impacting your daily life, then it the time for you to consult a mental health professional.

Effective Management and Treatment Strategies 

As far as managing and treating sleep anxiety is concerned, there are multiple ways. In this section, let’s explore the options.  

Lifestyle Changes 

Making positive lifestyle changes brings numerous benefits not just as an effective strategy to manage related symptoms but also in general. Here are some lifestyle adjustments you can implement to alleviate symptoms and enhance sleep quality.

  • Avoid caffeine beverages before bed 
  • Follow a regular bedtime routine 
  • Read a book before bedtime  
  • Follow sleep hygiene  
  • Keep electronic devices such as mobile away from the bed 
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Eat a balanced diet 

Alternative Therapies 

Lifestyle changes are a good way to start healthy habits and can help you manage the condition to a great extent. However, including alternate therapies can provide additional support and complement the approach to enhance overall well-being. Here are a few alternate therapies to include in your healthy habit. 

Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil 

CBD oil is derived from extracting oil from the cannabis plant, especially the cannabis sativa plant or hemp, which contains just a fraction amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (TBC), a psychoactive compound that causes the sensation of high that is often associated with cannabis. Several studies indicate that the oil may be beneficial in alleviating pain, reducing anxiety, and enhancing sleep quality.

Meditation 

 Meditation has been part of human life for ages. In the ancient world, people practiced meditation for spiritual awakening and awareness. However, in this 21st century, it has become a part of alternate therapies to treat many illnesses linked to mental health. Engaging in meditation can lower your heart rate and decrease stress hormone levels, aiding in sleep improvement.

Medication  

Without any doubt, medication is one of the most important parts of treatment. Indeed, medication can’t offer a cure. However, it can provide relief from symptoms, improve quality of life, and even manage chronic illnesses to the point where they have minimal impact on daily activities. Here are a few prescriber medications for anxiety induced- sleep disorders 

Benzodiazepines 

Benzodiazepines are frequently recommended to address anxiety and insomnia. The medicine makes the nervous system less active, thereby helping to alleviate symptoms and conditions. However, due to the risk of dependency and misuse, benzodiazepines are highly regulated and can only be obtained with a doctor's prescription. 

Nonbenzodiazepines 

Similar to benzodiazepines, nonbenzodiazepines affect the brain’s GABA system, which promotes calming effects. This is often prescribed as a second line of treatment and improves sleep. 

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) 

SSRIs are medications that help in treating several conditions like depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Its mechanism involves boosting serotonin levels in the brain, which govern mood, sleep, social behavior, and memory. This is also a prescribed medicine.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 

CBT is an effective evidence-based intervention based on the idea that our thoughts, behavior, and emotions are interconnected, so it aims to help the person identify negative thoughts contributing to his/her problems. The intervention also trains you to change negative thought patterns to a positive one and teaches effective coping strategies. 

Suggestions for improving sleep 

There are various methods one can implement or include in their daily habits to improve sleep quality. Below mentioned are a few simple methods. 

Implementing Relaxation Techniques 

Before you go to bed make a habit of practicing relaxing techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation as these techniques can help you reduce bedtime anxiety. 

Managing Environmental Stimuli 

Keep your bedside void of electronic devices, such as your laptop and mobile, as the devices emit blue lights that can suppress melatonin production, affecting your sleep-wake cycle. 

Establishing a Consistent Bedtime Routine 

Consistency is the key. Following a strict routine of wake-up and bedtime to regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake-up cycle. By doing so you are synchronizing your internal clock with that of the external environment. 

Eliminating Daytime Naps 

Long naps, especially in the late afternoon, can trouble your ability to fall asleep at night. This can make you more alert and focused throughout the day, and increase energy, and cognitive functions. 

Limiting Stimulants Before Bed 

Substances like caffeine and nicotine act as a stimulant in our bodies. Caffeine blocks certain chemicals in our body that promote a feeling of sleepiness, whereas nicotine alertness and heart rate make it difficult to wind down and prepare for sleep. 

Ensuring Comfortable Sleep Environment 

A comfortable sleep environment promotes deeper, more restorative sleep throughout the night. This means you spend less time in lighter sleep stages and more time in deep sleep. A comfortable sleep environment also minimizes distractions and disturbances that can wake you up during the night. 

The Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Managing Anxiety and Sleep Disorders 

Our lifestyle makes a lot of difference when it comes to managing anxiety and sleep disorders. Other aspects, such as medications and therapies, complement these efforts, but the foundations lie in our daily habits and routines.  

Diet, Exercise, and Sleep Hygiene

A major chunk of our healthy lifestyle revolves around diet, exercise, and sleep hygiene along with mindful practices. These pillars work synchronously to support physical health, mental clarity, and emotional balance. Constant attention to these factors boosts vitality, resilience, and a sense of fulfillment in our daily lives, consequently helping in managing anxiety and sleep disorders. 

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques 

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques work wonders in promoting mental and physical well-being. When you practice these techniques, you are teaching your mind and body the skills of quietness and relaxation. Over a period, you learn to cope with stress, improve focus, get better sleep, and enhance your overall quality of life. 

Manage Anxiety and Sleep disorders with the help of Cadabams 

Anxiety and sleep disorders are among the most common types of mental health problems. Every year, millions of people get treatment, and after successful completion of their treatment course, they get back to society with improved quality of life.  

If you or anyone you love is battling with anxiety or sleep disorders, Cadabam’s can help. With over three decades of experience in treating mental health problems, Cadabam’s can be the partner you are searching for. Our state-of-the-art facility offers best-in-class facilities with qualified professional experts to address any concerns you have and offer customized treatment plans for your unique needs. 

If you are searching for a solution to your problem, Cadabam’s Rehabilitation Centre can help you with its team of specialized experts. We have been helping thousands of people live healthier and happier lives for 30+ years. We leverage evidence-based approaches and holistic treatment methods to help individuals effectively manage their Anxiety and Sleep Disorders. Get in touch with us today. You can call us at +91 96111 94949

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FAQs 

1. Is there a correlation between anxiety and sleep? 

Yes, anxiety can disrupt sleep, and poor sleep can exacerbate anxiety. Anxiety can cause racing thoughts and trouble falling asleep, while inadequate sleep can increase stress levels, exacerbating anxiety symptoms. Establishing healthy sleep habits and addressing anxiety through therapy or relaxation techniques can help improve both sleep quality and anxiety levels. 

2. Why does anxiety cause insomnia? 

Anxiety sets off a series of physiological reactions, including heightened arousal and elevated levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. This heightened state of arousal can disrupt sleep patterns, making it challenging to unwind and drift off. Racing thoughts and worry further exacerbate insomnia, creating a cycle that perpetuates sleep difficulties. 

3. Does sleep improve anxiety? 

Yes, sleep plays a crucial role in managing anxiety. Sufficient sleep enhances emotional regulation and reduces stress, which can alleviate anxiety symptoms. Consistent sleep patterns contribute to overall mental well-being, supporting cognitive functions that help cope with daily challenges and maintain emotional balance. 

4. Why does anxiety get worse at night? 

Anxiety can intensify at night due to reduced distractions and increased focus on worries. Evening cortisol levels may also peak, exacerbating symptoms. Additionally, fatigue can amplify anxious thoughts as the mind lacks the energy to rationalize or cope effectively, leading to heightened distress before bedtime. 

5. What is the best medication for anxiety and insomnia? 

The best medication for anxiety and insomnia varies depending on individual health factors. Common options include benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam or lorazepam, and non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics like zolpidem or eszopiclone. Seeking guidance from a healthcare professional is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

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