anxiety and sleep

Anxiety and sleep: 7 tips to feel more rested when you’re anxious

Sleep issues can really affect your entire life.

“I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.” (David Benioff, City of Thieves)

Sleep is sometimes our most-needed medical tool but, for many, can be the hardest to use. 

Maybe you fear the dreams you might have. 

Maybe your brain is spinning so fast that relaxing enough for sleep is impossible. 

Whatever the case, you need a proper night’s sleep. It’s essential for mental and physical wellbeing. 

Sleep issues is the second fact about anxiety that I wanted to talk about in this series.  The series is based off of a post about anxiety that I wrote several months ago.

It affects millions with anxiety, and with other mental illnesses as well.

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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.

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My story of anxiety and sleep

I’m one of the lucky ones. I live with anxiety but it is rare that it keeps me up at night. Actually, I have the opposite problem. 

It’s super common for people with anxiety to have a hard time sleeping. (I don’t like saying “anxious people,” because I think language matters.) The racing thoughts and other physical symptoms make it impossible for your body to achieve the proper state of calm. 

If that sounds like you, you are not alone. For me though, my anxiety makes me so tired that I sleep too much. Before I got on a good supplement regimen, I was falling asleep in the middle of the day due to my anxious overwhelm, and falling asleep for the night around 630pm. 

Like I said, I’m one of the lucky ones. Too much sleep is probably better than no sleep. But it’s still no quality of life. 

Once I got tired of being tired, a critical milestone in anyone’s recovery, I was able to slowly make progress. 

I decided: Well, damn, I’m only in my 30s. I’m not 100. I deserve energy to pursue my interests. And spend playful (not lethargic) time with my kids. And be able to stay up after they go to bed, just enjoying life. 

That led me down a rabbit hole that ultimately identified some biological factors of my fatigue that have helped. I’m not where I’d really love to be. But I am able to stay up until 830 or 9 now, and am usually not falling asleep midday. So, in my book, it’s a win. 

vitamin d, anxiety, sleep issues
Nature Made Extra Strength Vitamin D3 5000 IU (This and iron have been game changers! Ask your doctor!) vitamin d

How anxiety causes sleep issues

“Researchers have found that the relationship between sleep problems and anxiety is bidirectional. This means that sleep problems can cause anxiety, and anxiety can disrupt your sleep. And just like anxiety, sleep problems can impact how you function emotionally, mentally, and physically.”

Anxiety and Sleep

This same article says that 40 million adults in the US suffer from some form of sleep disturbance. But how does it relate to anxiety?

As they mentioned above, sleep issues cause anxiety, and anxiety causes sleep issues. That’s what makes this symptom of anxiety so tricky to deal with. It can be hard to nail down an exact cause. 

For many people, negative thought patterns are the key. 

Have you ever been kept awake at night with thoughts that snowball out of control? That is very common for people with anxiety. 

I have a random ache in my side. 

I should see the doctor. 

Who’s gonna tell me it’s serious. 

I’m probably gonna die. 

What will happen to my family?

Who will take care of the kids?

Do you see how ludicrous anxiety is? All because you probably just needed to drink some water. It takes away all rational thinking, and doesn’t allow us to view situations from a logical perspective. 

We lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, being held captive by nonsense. 

journal, anxiety, sleep issues
Ruled Notebook/Journal – Give journaling a try!journal

Don’t worry. It’s not your fault. Blame your brain! People with anxiety have issues with neurotransmitters that keep them happy, and there are parts of your brain that don’t work properly. 

Luckily, our brains are elastic. That means with enough practice, it can be fixed. You know how years of bad experiences cause your brain to be anxious? The good news is that with time and dedication you can teach it the opposite. You can prove to it that your negative thoughts are just that. Thoughts. 

How to spot it in a friend

Maybe you’re not the anxious one.  Maybe your friend is suffering from anxiety.  As I mentioned in my previous post about anxiety, it is incredibly common.  40 million adults live in the United States live with anxiety per year, so it is likely that your friend is one of them.

Some interesting statistics about sleep

  • Sleep problems are more common in those with mental illness than people without. 
  • Having sleep problems can increase the risk of becoming mentally ill. 
  • If you fix the sleep issues, you may find  the symptoms of the mental health issue improved.
  • More than 50% of those with anxiety disorders have sleep issues.

Here are some common signs of sleep issues:

  • You always feel tired, even if you got enough sleep. 
  • You nap a lot during the day. 
  • There is a struggle to fall asleep. 
  • Irritability.
  • Increased depression.
  • Lack of motivation.

If your friend has even one or more of these, they are likely living with some form of anxiety related sleep issues.  Speaking from experience, these are awful feelings to live with, and they can be the reason that many anxious people find themselves tired and unable to sleep. Or sleeping too much!

You can feel rested again

Since science is proving that your anxiety at night could be causing the sleep issues OR the sleep issues could be causing the anxiety, maybe it’s time for a new approach. 

Anxiety, unfortunately, can be difficult to treat, which is why so many go untreated. But it’s possible by targeting the sleep issues themselves, and temporarily forgetting about the anxiety, you could find both problems improved. 

There are lots of things you can do to help make your bedroom environment more conducive to sleep. Here are a few that have helped me.

anxiety and sleep problems, sleep issues, sleep problems, anxiety
  • Melatonin
  • Avoiding caffeine or alcohol before bed
  • Exercise
  • Affirmations
  • Unplugging from social media
  • Fighting like hell to not nap during the day
  • Getting blood work (I found out I was both Vitamin D and Iron deficient.  And coincidentally, both things can either mimic symptoms of anxiety and exacerbate mood issues.)

At the end of the day, you can definitely feel rested again. It will take time, don’t get me wrong. And you have to fight for it everyday. 

Lying down and dying, if you’ll forgive the expression, is not going to do anything beneficial for you.

Do you have a hard time sleeping when you’re dealing with anxiety? Let me know in the comments below, and make sure to share the article if you found it helpful!

You have to put both feet on the ground and start looking for answers to your sleep problems.

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Related Posts for Anxiety and Sleep Issues:

5 Ways to Improve Your Sleep Habits

7 Types of Rest

How to Recognize the Physical Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Anxiety: What is it?

7 Interesting Facts About Anxiety

122 thoughts on “Anxiety and sleep: 7 tips to feel more rested when you’re anxious”

  1. I’ve been suffering from anxiety and it affects hard on my sleeping routine. These practices are effective and helps to gain positivity. Good sleep makes motivation to start a great day. This information needs to spread. Thank you! this helps alot.

        1. Hey Chloe, I’m sorry you’ve been struggling. I would love to see a huge study done on sleep issues right now because I would wager it’s more common than ever. I hope the tips help. Thanks for reading!

  2. There were times when I used to sleep so late that the next day I’ll feel headache most of the day and staying very dull but motherhood has changed that 😛 now I can sleep whenever you say me to and I can go to deep sleep right after hitting the bed. But your post was very nicely written and very well expressed

  3. Thankful that I did not encountered any sleeping issues ever but my does most especially during this pandemic. I will let her know everything about these things. Thank you

    1. Hey Monica, especially (depending on where you live I guess) as we move into winter months and you might be getting less sunlight. Can’t hurt to try. Thanks for reading!

  4. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder way back in my 20’s but over the years, I’ve slowly learned new ways to cope or take control. I’m better at recognizing that lack of sleep certainly increases my anxiety (and can make me overthinkg, feel depressed, etc). Sleep is a hard thing to figure out. It’s not my thoughts lately that keep me up, rather something is keeping me from getting into deep sleep and I’m about to undergo a home sleep study to see if we can catch what’s going on… until then? I just keep trying to adjust my habits and wait for my vitamin level tests to come back and try other options to cure these sleep issues and my current overload in anxiety.

    1. Hey Brandy, I am the same way with sleep. I had 2 sleep studies done without any answers, so I hope they are able to find out something in your case! Take care, and thanks for reading!

  5. I never would have thought to get a blood test to see if vitamin D and iron levels were good. I absolutely have issues sleeping when I’m dealing with high anxiety, so this was all really helpful information. I find that going screen-free for at least 30 minutes before bedtime really helps most nights.

    1. Hey Sarah, can’t hurt to get it checked out! I was so Vit D deficient at one point, I was literally falling asleep standing up at work. It’s definitely a “thing.” Take care, and thanks for reading!

  6. Great post! Every night I wrestle with sleep. Some nights I can go to sleep so easily but then wake up with some awful thought that pops in from out of nowhere. Melatonin helps but I’ve also added affirmations, stopped drinking, or eating around two hours before sleep. It is slowly getting better.

    1. Hey Jennifer, I’m sorry. Sleep issues (in my opinion) are one of the hardest issues to face. It can be so hard to pinpoint a cause. I’m glad it’s getting better! Take care, and thanks for reading!

    1. Hey Sadia, you never know! I try to get blood work done once a year to make sure none of those things are going on. It’s definitely worth it to check. Thanks for reading!

  7. I really don’t have many issues with sleeping–sometimes my mind runs, but eventually I sleep. My husband? He has so many issues, I feel for him. I know he does get anxious with work sometimes.

    1. Hey Amber, sleep issues are the worst! I hope he finds something soon. I’ve had the worst sleep this pregnancy and it sets such an awful tone for the following day. Thanks for reading!

  8. I guess I’ve been a lucky one about sleeping. I sleep well. It may take me 15 minutes or so to fall asleep, but I usually think about something I’m looking forward to, and the next thing I know its morning. I also think drinking no caffeine and working out a lot helps with my sleep.

  9. My mind often starts going around bedtime. I think a big part of it is that I am so busy during the day and the kids keep me distracted – so when it is time to go to sleep, I have time to think. These are good tips to help with that.

    1. I definitely know how that is! As a mom are brains are constantly going haywire. I hope you can find a way to settle your mind down adn get some quality sleep!

    1. I want to get into yoga, and I don’t know why I find it so intimidating. LOL. I will have to look up some videos on Youtube. Glad you are sleeping well now!

  10. Interesting, I’ve never really thought about my biological factors in getting to sleep. I have a young child 6 months that keeps me up at night anyway so I haven’t been putting a lot of time into trying to get good sleep. You’ve given me a lot to think about, nice article.

  11. Jessica Formicola

    I have been extra anxious since the start of this Coronavirus. I’m so glad to have found these tips to help me sleep. Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. There is a lot of great information here. I am pretty sure I have some anxiety, and I don’t sleep the greatest at night. It takes me a while to fall asleep, so I usually use melatonin and it helps for the most part.

  13. I didn’t realize how circumstances were affecting my life until I began having trouble sleeping but I found exercising was the best way to help get back into a normal sleep routine. Thanks for sharing all these helpful tips as I’m sure many people are having similar experiences.

    1. Aww I’m sorry. I’ve been through that before, although I usually end up needing too much sleep and being tired from that. Hang in there and mix up your routine a little. Thanks for reading.

  14. Excellent post. I’ve had some sleep issues since menopause, but, boy, have things gotten worse with the current crisis! I don’t feel especially anxious by day and feel like I’m taking the situation well in stride. However, my anxiety has been covertly expressing itself through sleeplessness and nightmares! Thanks for a good article.

  15. This was the perfect post for me right now. My sleep has been terrible and the current pandemic hasn’t helped. The funny thing is I got my bloodwork done just before my Dr went to teletherapy and it turns out I have a lack of Vitamin D and as you mentioned it’s important for sleep. Who knew? Well, I’m sure people knew, but not me, lol. Thanks and stay well.

    1. I never knew that either. And my neurologist said you’re supposed to take the supplement at bed time. Which no one bothered to tell me when another dr recommended it in the first place. Thanks for reading!

  16. Pregnancy has REALLY messed with my sleep. What you said about an iron deficiency makes perfect sense to me because I am iron deficient according to the blood work. Melatonin has also done wonders for my sleep cycle. Very informative and helpful article!

    1. Yeah, it definitely helps to have a routine. And I think it can be detrimental to have “too much sleep.” I’ve noticed that in my own life. Thanks for reading!

    1. Chronic illness is definitely not a person’s best friend when it comes to sleep. Hopefully you can find something that helps you! Thanks for reading!

  17. This is my oldest daughter to a T!! She has anxiety and her sleep has always been a factor in that but I have never really 100 % understood why. I have Crohn’s and my exhaustion is pain and fatigue related to that which means at the end of the night I collapse dead exhausted and sleep unless interrupted by someone who is sick in the middle of the night etc. She naps in the middle of the day often and has never ever grown out of that. She would come in from kindergarten and nap and grade 3 and nap and I always thought JEEZ she should be outgrowing this by now. And here we are at 18 during coronavirus and she’s napping and I am often letting it go because she is BLOODY worn out by worry.

  18. I am absolutely loving all of your tips. The funny thing is, since the quarantine started I have never slept better in my entire life 🤷🏻‍♀️

  19. This is such a great post! I will have to implement some of these tips you suggested because my sleep has been so off. Especially with everything that’s been going on lately. I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep for the longest time! It is no fun!

  20. Great tips! It’s so important to maintain a healthy sleep pattern when we’re dealing with anxiety (or any other disorder). Our brains need rest in order to function at their best and I don’t think enough is talked about when it comes to the overall health benefits of sleep.

  21. It’s interesting how we can realise our anxious thoughts can be over the top when we revisit them later. It’s ensuring they don’t have the power in the moment isn’t it. This is a very helpful series.

  22. Great post! It is a revolving circle with sleep and anxiety. I was anxious this morning and I really think in this case it was because I didn’t get much sleep last night. I also realize I might want to stop rewarding myself with wine before bed and see if that helps.

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