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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Avoiding caffeine or alcohol before bed
- 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!