The sleep and anxiety connection!

Here is a question I am asking, What is the relationship between anxiety and sleep?

There are plenty of people including myself that have difficulties with sleep. When we experience stress and anxiety in our lives it can be hard to relax. It can be difficult to shut our minds off and we pay for it with lack of sleep.

Why do we have a difficult time sleeping?

We all have bad habits but some bad habits that make us prone to sleeplessness. Little things that we do too close to bedtime including eating dinner too late at night, consuming caffeine and nicotine, drinking alcohol and using electronics like smartphones and laptops.

Eating dinner causes the release of stomach acid to digest food and that results in someone tossing and turning all night.

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that either make it hard to fall asleep or you end up having lighter sleep. It’s important to avoid caffeine consumption 4 hours before bed.

It is true that drinking alcohol can help someone fall asleep quicker. However the quality of sleep is not good due to less time being spent in the most restful stage of sleep called REM (Rapid Eye Movement).

The exposure to blue light from the use of smartphones and other electronic causes our brains to interpret it as daylight and this disrupts the amount of melatonin our body produces resulting in lack of sleep. It’s important to unplug from these devices before bedtime.

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

Lack of sleep contributes to many problems like waking up feeling groggy, anxiety and depression. I noticed that if I don’t get enough sleep I feel like my mind is more hyperactive and I feel more anxious. I also start feeling depressed and when this happens I start having negative thoughts like self doubt and feeling hopeless. The increased amount of anxiety can make it harder to fall asleep.

I did some research and another question came up. Which comes first anxiety or sleep?

It turns out that the relationship between anxiety and sleep problems is bidirectional. What does a bidirectional relationship mean? The capability of reacting or functioning in two opposite directions. Basically sleep problems cause anxiety and anxiety causes sleep problems.

When I was in high school I was diagnosed with ADHD and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The symptoms included anxiety and depression and the doctor prescribed an antidepressant called effexor XR. However, as time went by my symptoms worsened until 2010 when I had a nervous breakdown after experiencing a stressful life event that put my mental health over the edge. The symptoms started to change to include rapid cycling between manic and depressive moods with increased anxiety and worsening sleep issues.

I struggled with sleep issues since I was a kid. As an adult I developed a sleep disorder as ADHD developed into an anxiety disorder. It became more difficult to shut my mind off at night due to racing thoughts  that bounced back and forth from one worry to another.

Due to inconsistent sleep and the medication I was on I ended up gaining weight. When this happened I ended up with obstructive sleep apnea. My sleep problems went from bad to worse when lack of sleep worsened my depression and anxiety and caused increased weight gain.

I did go for a sleep study and received an official diagnosis of severe obstructive sleep apnea. I was prescribed a CPAP machine to help me sleep and overtime my sleep improved and so did my anxiety and depression.

I have a job that requires me to wake up at 3:30am at least three days a week and it can be a challenge for me to get even 6 hours of sleep on some nights. When this happens over the course of a week the sleep deficit adds up and I start feeling more anxious and depressed. The increased anxiety can make it difficult to go to sleep despite feeling tired.

I use different techniques to keep anxiety to a minimum. I exercise for a minimum of 15 minutes every day and avoid drinking coffee after 3pm. I utilize meditation and yoga to calm my mind down along with holistic treatments like CBD oil to control anxiety.

We all deal with anxiety from time to time and it can keep us up at night. There are things we can do to relax, but for many of us chronic anxiety is a huge problem that results in a sleep disorder. There is a definite mind and body connection when it comes to sleep and anxiety and one has an affect on the other. If you want to read more about the mind and body connection here is a link to my previous blog.

What do you do to keep anxiety under control?  

Please comment below and if this blog helped you hit like!

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