You’re lying awake, unable to fall asleep … again. It seems like this happens a lot. You might have trouble sleeping because your mind is racing with anxious thoughts and worst-case scenarios.
Or, you could have chronic symptoms of anxiety that interfere with falling asleep. Is there a connection between the two, or are they completely unrelated, separate issues? It turns out that yes, there is a link between insomnia and anxiety. Dr. Ruchir Thakkar of Cermak Immediate Care explains more.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder in which you may have difficulty falling asleep (or remaining asleep). Sometimes, this may be a short-term condition caused by issues, such as temporary stressors.
Common symptoms of insomnia include:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Waking up frequently during the night
- Waking too early
- Not feeling well-rested upon waking
You can also have chronic insomnia, in which case these symptoms are ongoing and bother you for more than a month.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry, or dread, often for no reason at all. When these symptoms suddenly appear, it’s called a panic attack, and the symptoms have sent many people to the emergency room because they believe they’re having a heart attack.
The symptoms of anxiety include the following:
- Feeling nervous or restless
- Feeling of impending doom or danger
- Increased breathing or heart rate
- Digestion problems
- Difficulty concentrating
In some people, anxiety is not just a one-time thing, but rather becomes chronic instead. This condition is called generalized anxiety disorder.
The link between insomnia and anxiety
It’s not uncommon to find that many people with insomnia also have anxiety (or vice versa.) This is not a coincidence.
Sleep deprivation can actually cause several mental health disorders, including anxiety. If you’re routinely getting less sleep than your body needs (usually 7-8 hours), your risk of developing anxiety significantly increases.
Anxiety can often cause disrupted sleep, usually in the form of insomnia. If you have nightmares, this can make the problem worse because then you fear falling asleep.
Treatments that can help
Fortunately, both insomnia and anxiety are treatable. If you’re able to determine which came first – insomnia or anxiety – this information is very helpful to quickly find a solution. However, even if you have no idea which one came first, we can still get to the bottom of your issues.
You might get a referral to a sleep specialist, who may order a test called a polysomnogram. This test requires you to wear several monitors attached to your skin, which will electronically measure how well you’re sleeping.
If you have insomnia, you may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, which you’ll receive from a qualified therapist. This teaches you to retrain your brain and change the negative thoughts you may have about sleep.
Home care solutions
You can always try some solutions at home to try to address your anxiety and insomnia. Fortunately, many of the same activities improve both conditions.
Some things you may try include:
- Getting at least 30 minutes of daily exercise
- Developing a habit of meditation, especially before bed (there are several apps to help)
- Having a ritual of doing the same things before bed, such as having a small snack and reading a book
- Controlling the stimuli in your bedroom
For example, many people with insomnia find that they can’t have a TV in their bedroom or use their phones before they fall asleep.
If you are troubled by insomnia and/or anxiety, you deserve to get adequate relief. Contact Dr. Ruchir Thakkar at the Cermak Immediate Care location nearest you or request an appointment online today.