What Is Anxiety And What Are Its Symptoms
Anxiety is a general term for multiple disorders that can cause worry, nervousness, fear, and apprehension. Anxiety is defined as: “an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
Mild anxiety may be merely unsettling, while severe anxiety can seriously affect your life. It can certainly affect your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, leaving you tossing and turning and waking up still tired, instead of dozing off easily and waking feeling refreshed.
How Does Stress Affect Sleep
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder derived from stress. Insomnia is defined as persistent difficulty with sleep onset, maintenance, consolidation, or overall quality. It occurs despite adequate time allotted for sleep on a given night and a comfortable place to sleep, and people with insomnia experience excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability and other impairments when they are awake. Current estimates suggest 10-30% of adults live with insomnia.
- Problems or dissatisfaction at work
- Divorce and other marital or family difficulties
- The death of a loved one
- Major illness or injury
- Crucial life changes
Not everyone develops chronic insomnia due to constant stress, but those with anxiety disorder are at higher risk of experiencing insomnia symptoms. Additionally, changes to ones sleep schedule that occur due to life events or changes can also lead to insomnia. Once chronic insomnia takes hold, people often feel anxious about sleeping and other aspects of their lives. This increases day-to-day stress, which in turn exacerbates insomnia symptoms.
Other daytime impairments related to insomnia that can bring about or contribute to stress include:
If someone experiences insomnia symptoms for fewer than three months, then this condition is referred to as short-term insomnia. Just as chronic stress can precipitate chronic insomnia, acute stressors can bring about short-term insomnia symptoms. These stressors may include:
The Relationship Between Sleep And Mental Health
The relationship between mental health and sleep isnt entirely understood yet. But according to Harvard Health Publishing, neurochemistry studies and neuroimaging suggests:
- an adequate nights sleep helps nurture both mental and emotional resilience
- chronic sleep disruptions might generate negative thinking and emotional sensibility
Its also implied that treating insomnia may help alleviate the symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder and vice versa.
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In Mensa Corpore Sane Health Body Healthy Mind And Good Sleep
I have treated so many people who were depressed, anxious or even paranoid because they were not well nourished and well rested. If you are robust and well you can often view your circumstances in a totally different way. Your perspective changes. Insurmountable challenges suddenly become manageable, and often the way forward is seen more clearly. ;I have seen people go from debilitating anxiety to having a new lease for life in just days. I have also seen and personally experienced, insomnia being cured in just a matter of days. The way you feel today is not set in stone. Life can change for the better very quickly.
Sleep and especially good quality sleep is not an option or a lifestyle choice.; According to our genes and according to our nightly brain detox we have a definite biological NEED for sleep.
But what about the problems that can lead to insomnia in the first place? Can they contribute to anxiety and depression too?
In my opinion the answer is a definite YES.
Consider Getting Medical Help
If you have a sleep disorder that doesnât let up, such as insomnia or chronic nightmares, talk to a sleep specialist.
Insomnia can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy or sleep medications. Chronic nightmares may require imagery rehearsal therapy that involves rewriting and rehearsing a new version of the nightmare during the day. It can also be treated with various prescription medications. You should also talk to your doctor if you think you have sleep apnea or another condition thatâs disrupting your sleep.
For Coulter, training for a marathon in 2008 provided a temporary break from the sleeplessness. She also gets some relief by taking a sleep medication, though she says it doesnât always work. She is now considering seeing a sleep specialist and in the meantime, has started running again. âRunning does help,â she says. âI think I shift my anxiety to doing a good run or doing well in a race.â
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Your Mind Is Racing When You Get Into Bed
When your mind is anxious, there are often physiological components to that anxiety, and you might notice some restlessness or a jittery feeling. Those types of body-based signals will interrupt the body’s natural relaxation process that takes place before sleep. “An excellent way to manage this is to get some exercise,” says Crawford. “It does not have to be vigorous exercise, though that may feel satisfying. A walk early in the evening, sex, yoga, stretching or even a swim will help expend pent-up energy and restlessness associated with anxiety.”
Where To Get Help
- Sleep, Better Health Channel. More information here.
- Why is sleep important? National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. More information here.
- Sleep deprivation, Better Health Channel. More information here.
- Sleep and mood are closely connected, Sleep Health Foundation. More information here.
- Sleep hygiene, Better Health Channel. More information here.
- Sleep – common disorders, Better Health Channel. More information here.
- Herbal remedies and sleep, Sleep Health Foundation. More information here.
- Sleeping pills and natural sleeping aids, Helpguide.org. More information here.
- The link between sleep and mood, Get sleep. More information here.
- Up all night: the effects of sleep loss on mood, Psychology today. More information here.
- Sleep and mental health, Harvard Medical School. More information here.
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Common Symptoms Of Anxiety
Anxiety can manifest in many different ways, and present differently from person to person. Almost all types of anxiety involve a magnified sense of worry about something, but other symptoms may include:
- Nervousness, irritability and restlessness
- Tense muscles
As clinical psychologist Steve Orma puts it, “Anxiety is an emotion that actually wakes us up. There are all kinds of physical changes happening that ramp you up, which is the exact opposite state of what you need to be in when you’re trying to fall asleep.”
What Is Anxiety What Are Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a feeling of worry and unease. Its normal to experience anxiety occasionally in response to fearful or stressful situations.
In anxiety disorders, this distress becomes excessive. Fears are not proportional to the situation, and worrying interferes with everyday life. These feelings become persistent, occurring most days for a period of six months or more.
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How To Catch Up On Lost Sleep
If you don’t get enough sleep, there’s only one way to compensate getting more sleep.
It won’t happen with a single early night. If you’ve had months of restricted sleep, you’ll have built up a significant sleep debt, so;expect recovery to take several weeks.
Starting on a weekend, try to add on an extra hour or 2 of sleep a night. The way to do this is to go to bed when you’re tired, and allow your body to wake you in the morning .
You might sleep up to 10 hours a night at first. After a while, the amount of time you sleep will gradually decrease to a normal level.
Don’t rely on caffeine or energy drinks as a short-term pick-me-up. They may boost your energy and concentration in the short term, but can disrupt your sleep patterns even further in the long term.
Page last reviewed: 5 August 2021 Next review due: 5 August 2024
Anxiety Depression And The Brain Detox
So why is there such a strong connection between insomnia, anxiety and depression?
Part of the answer to that question became clearer in 2013 when it was discovered that during deep sleep, our brain goes into a literal rinse-cycle or a deep clean. This miraculous event is able to happen because as we sleep brain cells shrink by up to 60%, creating space between the cells to literally flush away debris in the cerebrospinal fluid and out of the brain. OUR BRAINS DETOXIFY AS WE SLEEP. We are simply not going to feel refreshed and ready to take on the new challenges of a new day in the same way if we do not sleep well.
We feel fatigued when we dont sleep and a feeling of fatigue can lead to a low mood. We may feel more anxious too because we feel less able to face the challenges ahead of us. We may feel more anxious and low because we feel alone in the vulnerability caused by lack of sleep. We need to feel strong in order to not feel helpless.
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How Much Sleep Do You Need
How much sleep you need depends on your age, physical activity levels, and general health.;
- Children and teenagers need 910 hours of sleep a night. Younger children tend to go to sleep earlier and wake earlier. As children grow into teenagers, they seem to get tired later and sleep in later.
- Adults need around 8 hours sleep each night. We tend to need less sleep, as we get older.
These are some general guidelines. If you are tired during the day, you may need more sleep.
Stalked By Chronic Nightmares
Chronic nightmares are another troublesome sleep disorder that can cause fear, says Shelby Harris, PsyD, CBSM, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Montefiore Medical Centerâs Sleep-Wake Disorders Center in New York City. Children are especially vulnerable, but adults – especially those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder — experience nightmares, too.
Joni Aldrich, 57, of Winston-Salem, N.C., began to dread sleep after she lost her husband to brain cancer four years ago. After he had a seizure, she had to make the difficult decision to suspend treatment, an experience that traumatized her.
Every night, she had nightmares of him begging her to help him, but she couldnât. She would awaken shaking. Aldrich finally got help from a counselor and began taking an anti-anxiety medication to help her sleep. âI still take the anti-anxiety medication in a very low dose, because I fear the results otherwise,â says Aldrich, CEO of Cancer Lifeline Publications. âEven one of those nightmares wouldn’t be worth it. And, I still go to bed later than I should just to make sure that I’m really tired.â
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Anxiety And Sleep Problems
When you sleep your mind and body relax, so the next day you’re sharper and able to withstand some of life’s daily stresses. For those with anxiety however, sleep is not always easy to come by.
Sleep problems are extremely common in those with persistent stress, and in many cases it can actually cause a cycle that makes it harder to overcome anxiety in the future.
How Anxiety Can Affect Sleep
Lack of sleep can lead to increased chances of anxiety, but anxiety can also cause a lack of sleep. Unfortunately, the two can intertwine quite a bit, causing one to exacerbate the other.
Anxiety can have a negative effect on your bodys ability to fall asleep as your brain is in fight or flight mode, thinking of all potential outcomes for whatever is causing the anxiety. Furthermore, anticipatory anxiety and specific anxiety about sleep can lead to sleep disturbance and insomnia, which then creates a feedback loop that can make both conditions worsen. Insomnia can also make you more irritable and more worried, as your brain is not getting all the sleep it needs in order to function at normal levels.
However, its not uncommon to experience anxiety related to sleep. As Winnie Yu, a writer for WebMD noted in her article Scared to Sleep,;sleep anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. Many people may stress about not getting enough sleep to function, but the stress alone of trying to sleep can cause people to sit awake for hours. Additionally, other fears such as recurring nightmares, fear of sleep apnea , and more can all lead to disturbed sleep.
Tired And Edgy Sleep Deprivation Boosts Anticipatory Anxiety
- University of California – Berkeley
- Researchers have found that a lack of sleep, which is common in anxiety disorders, may play a key role in ramping up the brain regions that contribute to excessive worrying. The results suggest that people suffering from such maladies as generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, may benefit substantially from sleep therapy.
UC Berkeley researchers have found that a lack of sleep, which is common in anxiety disorders, may play a key role in ramping up the brain regions that contribute to excessive worrying.
Neuroscientists have found that sleep deprivation amplifies anticipatory anxiety by firing up the brain’s amygdala and insular cortex, regions associated with emotional processing. The resulting pattern mimics the abnormal neural activity seen in anxiety disorders. Furthermore, their research suggests that innate worriers — those who are naturally more anxious and therefore more likely to develop a full-blown anxiety disorder — are acutely vulnerable to the impact of insufficient sleep.
“These findings help us realize that those people who are anxious by nature are the same people who will suffer the greatest harm from sleep deprivation,” said Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and senior author of the paper, published June 26 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
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How Could Mental Health Problems Affect My Sleep
If you live with a mental health problem, this could affect your sleep in lots of ways. For example:
- Anxiety can cause racing or repetitive thoughts, and worries that keep you awake. You may also have panic attacks while you’re trying to sleep.
- Depression and seasonal affective disorder can make you sleep more, including staying in bed for longer or sleeping more often. Depression can also cause insomnia.
- If you’ve gone through trauma, this can cause flashbacks, nightmares or night terrors that disturb your sleep. You might feel unsafe or uncomfortable in bed or in the dark.
- Paranoia and psychosis may make it difficult to sleep. You may hear voices, or see things you find frightening or disturbing.
- Mania often causes feelings of energy and elation, so you might not feel tired or want to sleep. Racing thoughts can also keep you awake and cause insomnia.
- Psychiatric medication can cause side effects including insomnia, disturbed sleep, nightmares and oversleeping. Stopping psychiatric drugs can also cause sleep problems.
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How To Sleep With Anxiety
Sleep problems are extremely common for those struggling with anxiety. Ideally, you’ll need to focus on reducing your anxiety and stress in general so that you’re less consumed by the negative thoughts and experiences, and can drift off to sleep more easily.
There are tips and strategies you can use to get more rest with anxiety. Consider the following:
Mental distractions can also be beneficial, especially for heavy sleepers. Some people find that turning on radios, podcasts, or television sets, and putting the volume as low as possible so that you can barely make out the words can be helpful. Your mind tries to listen to the distraction, causing it to stop focusing on the stressful thoughts, and ultimately you’re able to fall asleep.
This solution does not work for everyone, however.
Another important thing that you can do is to create a bedtime routine. It can be difficult to go through your daily activities and then get into bed and just turn everything off. By giving yourself an hour before you want to fall asleep to go through the same motions every night you train your brain and your body to prepare for sleep. This in turn can make it easier to both fall, and stay asleep.
Unfortunately, these tips are likely not enough. You still need to stop experiencing anxiety so that sleep comes much more naturally.
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How Can You Treat Insomnia
There are both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical treatments for insomnia that you can discuss with your doctor. You may need to try some different treatments before finding the most effective one for you.
The American College of Physicians recommends cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia as the first route to treat chronic insomnia.
This process helps you recognize your emotions and attitudes that affect your sleep. You can then learn how to change them to get back some Zzzs.
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A Magnesium Deficiency Can Lead To Insomnia But It Can Also Cause Anxiety And Depression
It has been estimated that around two thirds of the population are magnesium deficient. Are you one of them?
In an article entitled Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment published in Medical Hypothesis 2006 it concludes with
It is likely that;magnesium deficiency causes most major depression;and related mental health illnesses, IQ loss and addictions. We suggest that magnesium deficiency as cause of these disorders is enormously important to public health and is recommended for immediate, wide-spread further study. The public should be advised to obtain more than 600 mg of dietary magnesium a day
Read this blog if you want to know if youre magnesium deficient. If you are then this is the best magnesium supplement I can recommend to you.
How Can Medication Treat Sleep Anxiety
Your healthcare provider may recommend medication to treat anxiety or other mental health disorders. Medication can also help improve the symptoms of sleep-related disorders such as restless legs syndrome or insomnia.
But some medications might actually increase your anxiety or make sleeping harder when you first start taking them. If you experience these side effects, talk to your healthcare provider. Many over-the-counter sleep aids can also be habit-forming. Dont start any medication for anxiety or sleep without your healthcare providers supervision.
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