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Anxiety and Sleep - What You Need To Know

Apr 29, 2022 10:36:43 AM / by Wellcare



The world is suffering from a silent mental health pandemic. Across cultures and countries, millions of people suffer from anxiety. Roughly 275 million people suffer from anxiety-related mental health problems. 

Like anxiety, insomnia is also a widespread problem. Up to 22% of the European adult population suffers from insomnia. The number is also growing among kids. 


That brings us to our question for today: how are sleep and anxiety connected? And what can you do to improve your mental health and sleep patterns? Today we will dive into these topics and a lot more. 


The link between anxiety and sleep


Sleep characterises restfulness. Anxiety, on the other hand, characterises hyperactivity. As a result, it is impossible to get good sleep when we are anxious. Most of us have experienced this in our lives. When we feel too anxious about something, falling asleep becomes a lot more difficult. 


Sleep promotes good mental health and is also a result of it. That means we sleep well, we are generally happier and calmer. On the contrary, sleep deprivation takes a heavy toll on our moods. For example, many of us know the consequences of interacting with a grump boss who did not sleep well last night. We experience the same with our minds as well. When we wake up without a good night’s sleep, it becomes very difficult to get through the day. 


Both insomnia and anxiety have a wide range of causes. We will cover most of the important reasons and their solutions in this article. Apart from that, we will explore how you can improve your sleep and mental health at the same time. We will also look into a special mental condition called sleep anxiety. It is a specific mental health issue that causes anxiety on account of not being able to sleep. 


Can lack of sleep cause anxiety and depression?


Yes, lack of sleep can cause anxiety and even depression. What is even more concerning is how lack of sleep and anxiety can trigger a loop where you feel anxious for not sleeping and cannot sleep for being anxious. If you have suffered from such a problem, you already know the intensity of it. 


Mental hyperactivityWhen our minds are too active, we are not creating a conducive environment for our brain to relax and fall asleep. The more thoughts you have in your mind, the harder it is for you to fall asleep. 


As you can see, mental hyperactivity is a common problem for people suffering from anxiety disorders. The intensity of it might vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder one is suffering from. Nonetheless, every mental health problem that makes it difficult to calm our minds is also responsible for insomnia. 


How anxiety affects sleep patterns


People suffering from anxiety do not only suffer from periodic insomnia. In fact, many of them have problems falling asleep on a regular basis. It becomes so normalised that people stop seeing it as a disorder after a point. However, the effect it has on our health is very significant and builds up over time. 


Research has shown that people with anxiety can experience a fundamental change in their sleeping patterns


Let’s understand how it works. 


If you have high levels of anxiety, you will have trouble entering REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep researchers have discovered that the most regenerative sleep happens only during the REM phase. Typically, it takes between 30 minutes to an hour to enter the REM phase. For some it may take longer. 


When someone with an anxiety disorder is trying to enter REM sleep, the first trouble they will have is in transitioning from NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) sleep to REM sleep. 


NREM sleep is generally divided into three stages. After the 3rd NREM phase, we enter the REM stage. In this last non rapid eye movement stage of sleep, our muscles relax and heart rate begins to drop. For people with anxiety, reaching this stage is very difficult. As a result, they also find it difficult to enter the REM stage. Consequently, their sleep is not as regenerative and energising as it should be. 


Dreams, nightmares, and anxiety


People with anxiety often have a bad relationship with sleep. That means there are some core issues that prevent them from appreciating and accepting this natural need. One of them is bad dreams, nightmares, and nocturnal panic attacks.


As we discussed above, REM sleep is the deepest stage of sleep. It is in this phase that we see our most vivid dreams. While scientists do not yet know why we see the dreams we see, there is consensus on the fact that our mood affects our dreams. 


Most people suffering from anxiety have nightmares or nocturnal panic attacks. It has a two-fold effect on their sleep patterns and relationship with sleep:


  1. Once they wake up from a bad dream, it becomes even more difficult to fall asleep again. As a result, their sleep utility suffers
  2. Repeated instances of nightmares and nocturnal anxiety attacks instil a fear of sleep. These people now think that as soon as they fall asleep, nightmares will haunt them. It creates a bias in their minds which makes them scared to sleep. 


As a result of these two problems, people with anxiety disorders have a lifelong problem with falling asleep. It worsens depending on the situation. The only way to get rid of it is through systematic treatment of your underlying mental conditions.


Insomnia as a cause of anxiety


Sleep anxiety is a more specific mental health condition that triggers anxiety due to the inability to sleep. People who suffer from this condition usually feel stressed about not being able to sleep. It triggers a chain that prevents them from falling asleep even when they are tired. If you suffer from this mental health problem, you would become too conscious of yourself every time you feel sleepy. It will trigger the chain of past experience with falling asleep. As a result, the mind will become hyper aroused and incapable of entering 3rd stage NREM sleep or REM sleep. Sleep anxiety symptoms always follow this vicious chain which affects the sufferers physical and mental health. 


How to get rid of anxiety?


Anxiety is a classified mental health problem that can require professional medical intervention. There are many types of anxiety disorders, like OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) etc.


Those suffering from PTSD and other serious anxiety disorders often need drugs to resolve their issues. In many cases, some non-traditional medical methods are believed to work. However, it is always better to consult a medically qualified mental health expert. 


Apart from consulting a counsellor or therapist, there are a few things that everyone can do to deal with their anxiety.


Following a healthy lifestyle


If we follow a healthy lifestyle, many of our mental and physical health problems do not affect us severely. For example, working out every day and eating a healthy diet helps in dealing with many anxiety disorders. 


However, the problem lies in the fact people with anxiety often have difficulty following a healthy lifestyle. For this reason, it is always better to consult a therapist who can also guide their patients towards a healthier lifestyle. 


One of the easiest ways of dealing with anxiety is to do some physical exercise everyday. However, remember that it will not show quick results as drugs would. Once you have ingrained the habit of working out, it will start showing its implication in other areas of your life. 


Apart from working out, taking care of what you eat is also very important. Foods high in sugar content raise our insulin levels and can make us hyperactive. It is especially bad for those already suffering from anxiety. The same principle applies to food with high percentages of simple carbohydrates, like white bread and white rice. Try including more green veggies into your diet and avoid sugary substances as far as possible. 


Work on your sleep


Sleep is the most important thing for a healthy life. Many of us sacrifice sleep for a range of reasons, be it partying or work. If you take care of your diet and physical health, it might seem that you are on the right track. However, lack of sleep can ruin a lot of benefits you get from exercising and healthy food. 


The average person needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day. People with sleep anxiety often have trouble meeting this criterion. If you are not sleeping well over a long period of time, it will have serious effects on your health. 


Here are a few things you can do to improve your sleep.


First, have a night-time schedule. It does not have to be anything elaborate involving multiple steps. You can have a simple night-time routine that involves reading or journaling and a short self-care session. The entire process can take you less than 20 minutes. The idea is to shut off all screens and mentally switch off from the day’s work. 


Another thing you can do to improve your sleep is creating a cosy sleeping environment. You should dim your lights for at least 30 minutes before falling asleep. Many people also benefit from essential oils, warm drinks, and soft music. You should also focus on your bed. Using electric blankets in the cold, for example, is a great way of improving your sleeping experience. You can also wind down before falling asleep with a warm bath or electric foot warmer for your legs. A snuggly cushion would also help if you read for some time before going to bed. These are small adjustments that will have a huge effect on the overall quality of your sleep. 


Learn more about the condition


There is very little awareness among people when it comes to mental health. If you want to get rid of your anixety, learn more about the condition first. You can get a lot of insight from other people’s experiences. Apart from that, you can join online communities and forums where people with anxiety can open up and share their problems with others. These small steps will go a long way in ensuring that your anxiety is in check. 


Understanding and accepting your problems 


When we suffer from a mental health issue like anxiety, it can become very difficult to seek help. There is still considerable taboo regarding the subject of mental health. However, the best thing you can do to help yourself is to seek help when you feel the need for it. You will greatly benefit from trained medical professionals and their expertise. Many people also have a fear of medicines for mental health, but doctors recommend them after weighing multiple factors and we need not be afraid. 


Final thoughts


Sleep and anxiety are deeply intertwined, and you cannot work on one without working on the other. Once you move your sleeping patterns, your anxiety levels will go down. There are many things we can do in our own capacities to solve these issues. Many solutions to these problems are very simple, while others require medical intervention. 

The best thing you can do is start from the bottom and identify a few areas where you can work on. If that means eating one healthy meal before bed and working out for 20 minutes, stick to it consistently. The results will reflect on your sleep quality and anxiety levels.


Relax with Wellcare


The more comfortable your sleep environment, the better you will sleep. At Wellcare, we aim to give our customers the most comfortable sleep of their lives. From heating pads, heating cushions, foot warmers to electric blankets, Wellcare has a wide range of solutions to help you sleep better and keep your feet warm at all times. For your complete warmth, comfort, and safety, these are made using only the finest available materials.


Our products are also equipped with the 4D Dynamic Warmth Flow system (4D DWF). Innovation in electric heating technology, the 4D DWF mimics the human body’s breathing to ensure even heat distribution throughout the surface of the product.


Life could be vastly different if you can find a solution to your anxiety and sleep problems. We reasoned that a pleasant environment would create a calming atmosphere and lift your spirits. Once you enter into the calm mind, it may be much simpler to get a good night's sleep and feel less worried. As a gift of your gratitude for all your work, give yourself some fantastic bedding!


Click here to buy at Miller Medical

Topics: Better Sleep Tips, Get To Know Wellcare


Written by Wellcare

Wellcare Co., LTD. was established in 1995 with “increasing the value of life and creating family happiness” as the company’s original goal with a focus on delivering better life experience through healthcare products and relaxation technologies.

Original publish date: April 29, 2022, Revision Date: April 29, 2022

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