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How To Help Sleep Anxiety

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What Is Anxiety What Are Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety : How to Sleep With Severe Anxiety

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.

Sleep As A Clinical Recommendation

The researchers sought to replicate their findings, so they conducted another set of experiments in a larger sample, of 30 participants, as well as an online survey, of 280 people.

The lab experiments confirmed that people who experienced more deep sleep at night had the least anxiety the following day. The online survey confirmed that the amount and quality of sleep that people got reliably predicted their anxiety levels the following day.

The studys lead author also suggests that good sleep should be a clinical recommendation for treating anxiety.

People with anxiety disorders routinely report having disturbed sleep, but rarely is sleep improvement considered as a clinical recommendation for lowering anxiety, she says.

Our study not only establishes a causal connection between sleep and anxiety, but it identifies the kind of deep REM sleep we need to calm the overanxious brain.

Eti Ben Simon, Ph.D.

The studys senior author also comments on the findings, saying, We have identified a new function of deep sleep, one that decreases anxiety overnight by reorganizing connections in the brain.

Deep sleep seems to be a natural anxiolytic , so long as we get it each and every night, concludes Prof. Walker.

Inspire Them To Eat Well

A healthy diet is important for teens and adults but its even more crucial if your child suffers from poor sleep related to anxiety. A balanced diet can actually reduce anxiety symptoms. For instance, complex carbohydrates metabolize slower and maintain even blood sugar levels. This creates a sense of calm. About 90 percent of serotonin a chemical that regulates mood is made in the digestive tract. So, what your child eats can actually affect anxiety and in turn, his sleep quality. Foods that can help temper anxiety include those rich in zinc, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics

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What Causes Anxiety Before Sleep

According to clinical psychologist Emily Knott, Anxiety before bedtime often takes the form of a phenomenon referred to in psychology as pre-sleep arousal.

Knott says that pre-sleep arousal may cause the body and nervous system to enter a state of heightened awareness that may take the form of problem-solving, thinking about your own thoughts, focusing on stimuli in the environment such as noise and light, and ruminating about the consequences of not being able to sleep.

While there hasnt been extensive research conducted on sleep and anxiety, there are a few reasons why your anxiety may be worse at night. Here are possible causes.

How Anxiety Can Affect Sleep

Intranasal Ketamine

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.

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Behavioral Techniques Used In Cbt For Sleep Disorders

As well as changing the way you think about sleep, CBT also works to change the habits and behaviors that can prevent you from sleeping well. Depending on your specific symptoms and needs, your therapist may employ some of the following techniques:

Sleep restriction therapy reduces the time you spend lying in bed awake by eliminating naps and forcing you to stay up beyond your normal bedtime. This method of sleep deprivation can be especially effective for insomnia. It not only makes you more tired the next night but builds a stronger association between bed and sleep rather than bed and lying awake.

Stimulus control therapy helps to identify and change sleep habits that prevent you from sleeping well. This means training you to use your bedroom for just sleep and sex, rather than working or watching TV, and maintaining consistent sleep-wake times, even on weekends.

Improving your sleep environment and sleep hygiene. Your sleep environment should be dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable, so your therapist may recommend blackout shades, earplugs, or a sound machine to block out noise. Sleep hygiene involves improving your daytime habits to include exercising regularly, avoiding nicotine and caffeine late in the day, and learning to unwind at night.

Biofeedback uses sensors that measure specific physiological functionssuch as heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension. Biofeedback teaches you to recognize and control your bodys anxiety response that impacts sleep patterns.

Avoid Lying In Bed Awake

If youre lying in bed for more than 20 minutes and still cant fall asleep, it might be time to give yourself a do-over. While it may feel counterintuitive, Lawson suggests leaving your bedroom to do a sleep-inducing activity, like having a cup of tea or reading a book. This conditioning, known as stimulus control, can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.

If youre going to try stimulus control, its important to remove yourself from your bedroom environment. This helps give you a mental reset when you try to fall asleep again.

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Teapigs Snooze Sleepy Tea

Everyone has heard that chamomile tea can help you sleep. Why? Well, its commonly called a mild tranquilizer and has an antioxidant called apigenin, which binds to specific receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety and help make you sleepy.

This sleepy tea takes chamomile up a notch by also adding in lavender, another ingredient that has been used for centuries to help calm nerves. The tea is also naturally caffeine free and, well, its simply delicious.

Meditation And Relaxation Techniques

Sleep, Anxiety, and Insomnia: How to Sleep Better When You’re Anxious

A regular meditation practice may help to promote sleep by slowing breathing and reducing stress hormone levels. Meditation is a technique that involves consciously directing one’s attention to an object of focus in order to increase awareness, relax the body, and calm the mind.

Some types of meditation include guided meditation, vipassana meditation, yoga nidra, or body scan. Also try:

  • Visualization: Visualization involves actively imagining a relaxing scene. You can try it in bed for 20 minutes before falling asleep. Involve all your senses. If you’re imagining yourself on a tropical island, think of the way the warm breeze feels against your skin. Imagine the sweet scent of the flowers, look at the water and listen to the waves. The more vivid the visualization and the more senses you involve, the more effective it will be.
  • Relaxation response: This is a mind/body response that occurs after following specific instructions patterned closely after Transcendental Meditation.
  • Mindfulness: This type of meditation essentially involves focusing on your mind on the present.

Early evidence suggests that meditation techniques may improve sleep. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says relaxation techniques have enough evidence to say they can be helpful for insomnia. But further research is still needed.

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What Causes Anxiety Disorders

The exact cause of anxiety is unknown. In fact, researchers believe that there is not one single cause but rather an interplay of factors that include a persons genetics, family history, and exposure to negative life events. Some health problems and drugs can also contribute to symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety Rule #: Use The Tools


  • I taught Maxine how her brain works and how her amygdala works to keep her safe. Lyons calls this frontloading and its a crucial part of the project. Maxine learned that when she couldnt sleep because she was scared, this was because her Worry Brain had shown up and taken over.

Coaching and Practice

  • Talking back to her Worry Brain: Maxine learned to talk back to her Worry Brain and practiced when she wasnt scared. Lyons recommends that a child externalizes their Worry Brain and talk back to their Worry Brain. When she wasnt hijacked, Maxine knew that her fears were unfounded. But when the Worry showed up, it was hard to remember. So we came up with a list of phrases that Maxine could say to her Worry Brain to give it the all clear, such as I dont need you here, Worry Brain or Go back to sleep, Worry Brain, Im safe.
  • Expect Worry to show up. Maxine would also say to Worry, Here you are Worry, you always show up at bedtime and in the middle of the night. Go away! Thanks!
  • Replace the scary thoughts. You know the exercise Dont think of pink elephants? Its impossible to NOT think a thought. Instead, acknowledge the thought and replace it with something else. We brainstormed other things she could think about.

Over the next little bit, Maxine did improve in the area of going to sleep by herself, but she was still coming and getting me in the middle of the night.

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What Causes Sleep Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural part of being human. Were meant to feel afraid or worried in dangerous situations. Stress and anxiety trigger our bodies to release hormones that help us react quickly to escape harm. But if you have chronic anxiety, you might feel stress or worry all the time. You may feel fearful of everyday situations like driving to work or even falling asleep.

Chronically high levels of these hormones, especially before sleep, can make it hard for your body to relax. You may have difficulty falling asleep. If you do fall asleep, you may wake up during the night with stressful or worrisome thoughts and not be able to fall asleep again.

The combination of a anxiety and insomnia can also be caused by a condition where there isnt enough thyroid hormone in your bloodstream and your metabolism slows down .

Research suggests that anxiety can affect rapid eye movement sleep. This is the phase of sleep when you tend to have vivid dreams. If you have anxiety, the dreams may be disturbing or turn into nightmares that wake you.

Just as anxiety can affect sleep, sleep can affect anxiety. Sleep anxiety is a common characteristic of insomnia, wherein the individual begins to experience anxiety during the day and evening about poor sleep, which may help cause another night of bad sleep.

Falling Asleep With Anxiety

Sleep Anxiety in Children

Worries keeping you up at night? Anxiety and sleep problems can feed off each other, but practicing relaxation and sound sleep habits can stop the cycle.

Does your mind race as soon your head hits the pillow? Does anxiety over work, money, or relationships keep you from going to sleep?

Its normal to be anxious from time to time. But when anxiety and emotional problems routinely get in the way of a good nights sleep, its time to take action before a potentially dangerous cycle begins.

Its really like a circular pattern — emotional problems can affect sleep, and lack of sleep can affect peoples emotions, said David Neubauer, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine and associate director at the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore, Md. There is quite a bit of overlap between symptoms of insomnia and anxiety and other mood disorders.

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Understand You Are Not Alone

While you may be self-conscious or feel isolated with this phobia, its important to remember that you are not alone. There are others who struggle with sleep anxiety as well, and though you may be concerned about opening up about your condition, a trusted friend or family member can be a great source of support.

How Does Cbt Work For Sleep Disorders

CBT addresses negative thoughts and behavior patterns that contribute to insomnia or other sleeping problems. As the name suggests, cognitive behavioral therapy involves two main components:

Cognitive therapy teaches you to recognize and change negative beliefs and thoughts that contribute to your sleep problems.

Behavioral therapy teaches you how to avoid behaviors that keep you awake at night and replace them with better sleep habits.

Using a sleep diary in CBT

To identify patterns in your sleeping problems and decide on the best treatment approach, your therapist may start by asking you to keep a sleep diary. The details can be important, revealing how certain behaviors are ruining your chance for a good nights sleep. You can download or print HelpGuides sleep diary and take it to your therapist to help pinpoint your specific problems.

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What Does Anxiety Feel Like

The symptoms of anxiety disorders can affect people both emotionally and physically.

People with anxiety may feel extremely nervous and on-edge. This can affect their concentration and mood, leading to irritability and restlessness. Their fear or sense of impending doom can feel overwhelming and out-of-control.

Physically, anxiety disorders can provoke tense muscles, rapid breathing and heartbeat, sweating, trembling, gastrointestinal distress, and fatigue.

Many people with anxiety disorders attempt to avoid situations that could trigger heightened worry however, this does not resolve their underlying fear and can interrupt both professional and personal activities. Over time, a person with anxiety disorder may get used to being worried such that a state of distress or fear seems normal.

Anxiety disorders can occur alongside other mental health problems like depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , nearly 50% of people with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Improving The Sleep Environment

How to deal with sleep anxiety and improve your sleep when you have chronic insomnia

This may not be the most necessary step towards a good nights sleep, even with anxiety. However, by taking care of where you sleep, and how your sleep environment looks like can improve the quality of your sleep.

So, if you want to be comfortable, relaxed and to finally fall and stay asleep, improving your sleep environment will definitely help. Heres what you can do

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Try A White Noise Machine To Help You Fall Asleep

A low level of constant noise can be useful for distracting your anxious mind, shifting the focus away from troubling thoughts to the constant noise produced from a white noise machine. A simple fan also does the trick as does a sleep app on your phone. Just make sure that the volume is quite low barely audible to keep sound in the background.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Anxiety

When you cant sleep due to anxiety, you may experience behavioral changes, including:

  • Feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • Tense muscles.
  • Trembling.

Some people also have nocturnal panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden, intense burst of extreme fear. Nocturnal panic attacks only happen at night, and often wake you from sleep.

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Magnesium And Restless Leg Syndrome

People with restless leg syndrome experience uncontrollable urges to move the limbs and sometimes cramping or crawling sensations, often peaking in the evening hours when at rest. The sensation makes falling asleep difficult and can wake you out of your sleep.

Research shows mixed results when using magnesium to treat patients with RLS. One small study found that sleep efficiency increased significantly, from 75% to 85%, when RLS patients took magnesium for 4 to 6 weeks. Other studies have shown that magnesium salts may reduce leg cramps during pregnancy.

In contrast, a study of magnesium as a treatment for nocturnal leg cramps in older adults showed no significant change in symptoms. More research needs to be done to determine who can benefit from magnesium as treatment for RLS, and therefore improve their sleep.

Try A Different Nightlight

29. Sleep

There are so many types of night lights you can try. When my kids were younger, they both loved the what they called their Turtle night light. It was the Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light, and when it was lit up at night, it showed constellations on the ceiling and walls in their room.

Now my son is partial to the Projectables LED Plug-In Night Light of Spider-Man. This displays a huge image of Spider-Man wherever the light is pointed. My son loves the idea that a superhero is in his room at night with him.

There are some other neat nightlights too, try a new one and see how your child responds.

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Visualize The Good Things In Your Life

The power of your imagination can help get you to a place of ease when youre fretting.

Visualization of positive events and relationships in your life will help you increase your connection to positive emotions that are also lying around within you, but you have to work at accessing them when the anxious feelings or thoughts have already shown up, says Cummins.

Calming your body is integral to calming your mind.

Joy Rains, a certified life coach and the author of Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind, recommends a progressive relaxation exercise you can do in bed.

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