Do you have a hard time sleeping? Do you find that your mind is constantly racing with thoughts to the point where you can’t fall or stay asleep? If so, you’re not alone. Insomnia / sleeplessness are common problems that can be caused by a variety of factors, including anxiety.
Anxiety & Insomnia Have a Direct Physiological Connection
Anxiety can cause sleeplessness because anxiety causes the body to produce increased levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenalin. This can lead to agitation, a racing heart, rapid breathing, muscle tension, aches & pains, sweating – all of which can be detrimental to sleep.
Anxiety is the most common cause of chronic insomnia and is therefore worth examining first.
Many sufferers report that they start to experience anxiety symptoms during the daytime which then carry over into nighttime hours, making it hard for them to fall or remain asleep. It can also be a life-long issue where someone is anxious about sleep.
Insomnia makes anxiety worse by exacerbating existing anxiety and creating new sources of stress. It is one of the most common triggers for more serious manifestations of anxiety, such as panic attacks. It can cause people to become obsessed with their inability to sleep. Insomnia also makes people more self-critical and interferes with concentration.
In addition, sleep deprivation increases emotional reactivity.
This is particularly true in terms of heightening feelings of anxiety because getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep per night has been linked to lower levels of an important mood-regulating brain chemical called serotonin. This reduces your ability to cope with negative emotions such as anxiety and depression.
Insomnia exacerbates symptoms associated with anxiety such as irritability and reduced concentration. It increases the risk that an anxious person will partake in unhealthy behaviors such as drinking alcohol or using drugs to help them sleep.
Anxiety Increases Internal Body Temperature & Raises the Metabolic Rate
Another way in which anxiety can have a direct impact on sleep is by increasing internal body temperature and raising the metabolic rate. It leads to restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS), and sleep apnea where breathing is compromised during sleep due to relaxed throat/jaw muscles.
Both insomnia and anxiety interact in a dynamic way. They feed off each other and can become a downward spiral into increased problems.
Counseling has been shown to help people struggling with sleep problems by providing them with emotional support. They may learn relaxation techniques to calm themselves down and manage their anxiety. Or build up coping and self-regulation skills. Anxiety counseling also helps people achieve a state of calmness & relaxation without medication.
This, in turn, builds up confidence and sense of control over our bodies and minds so that we are less likely to become anxious over the course of a normal day.