Here’s How Anxiety Impacts Sleep (And What You Can Do About It)

Anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults. Anxiety disorders range in severity, but if you’re struggling, you may also experience sleep problems.

Anxiety impacts sleep because it can be challenging to unwind when your mind and body are on overdrive. You may find yourself tossing and turning, feeling excessively stressed as you ruminate over past or future events. 

Anxiety may also trigger disturbing nightmares or sleep terrors. These experiences can make you feel even more panicked when you get into bed or wake up in the morning.

However, you can take proactive steps to feel better. Let’s get into what you need to know. 

Understanding How Anxiety Impacts Sleep 

Many people with anxiety disorders report sleep issues like insomnia, nightmares, or general fatigue throughout the day. These symptoms may be exacerbated during times when you feel particularly stressed.

Unfortunately, stressing about sleep can worsen the situation. Sleep anxiety may occur when you start feeling worried or dreadful about getting enough sleep. For example, you might start obsessing over if you fall asleep or whether you will wake up in the middle of the night.

Finally, untreated anxiety may coincide with maladaptive coping responses. For example, if you drink alcohol, overeat, or use nicotine to cope with your stress, these habits may jeopardize the quality of your sleep. 

How to Get Better Sleep If You Have Anxiety 

Implementing the right habits can improve your sleep hygiene. This work starts by working on some of your anxiety symptoms and being mindful of potential triggers that might affect you at bedtime. Here are some tips.

Create a Wind-Down Routine

Try to be intentional in how you relax before going to bed. Ideally, you should stop using any electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. Scrolling through your phone late at night only keeps the brain overstimulated, which can emit blue light and delay you from feeling tired.

Instead, consider implementing a simple ritual ahead of time. Maybe it’s a hot shower, writing down your gratitude, and reading a book. Perhaps it’s having sex with your partner or cuddling and catching up on each other’s days.

Your wind-down routine doesn’t need to be overly elaborate. In fact, it should be simple enough that you can replicate it most days. When you can easily implement it, it becomes more second-nature. 

Make Sleep Sacred

Embrace a mindset that sleep is non-negotiable. It isn’t just a nice luxury that you can have when you’re on vacation or in the right mood. It’s just as imperative as eating well and staying physically active.

To make sleep sacred, you may need to adjust your bedroom environment. That means investing in a high-quality mattress and comfortable sheets and pillows. It also means prioritizing keeping a dark, cool room with limited outside noises. 

Making sleep sacred also entails prioritizing it like you would prioritize any other essential activity. Do your very best to maintain a routine sleep schedule, and stick with it even on weekends.

Don’t Check the Time

Avoid the temptation of compulsively looking at the clock if you’re struggling to sleep. Anxiety impacts sleep when you’re acutely aware of the problem as it’s happening. When you keep checking the time, you start obsessively down the hours or minutes you have until you need to wake up.

Instead, turn the clock around (or put your phone in another room). If you suspect you’ve been up for longer than 20-30 minutes, engage in another activity like reading, doing a quick chore around the house, or drinking some milk.

Be Mindful of Late-Night Sleep Busters

You probably know it isn’t a good idea to drink a cup of coffee with dinner, but have you considered how your typical diet soda or favorite chocolate contains some caffeine? Or, you may know that exercise is important, but are you aware that doing it so close to bedtime may interfere with your sleep? 

Everyone is different, meaning we all respond to various sensitivities differently. You may not know which habits do (or don’t) affect your sleep. 

However, keeping a journal can help track trends. But generally speaking, you might consider limiting or avoiding the following within 3-4 hours of bedtime:

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Intense physical activity
  • Heavy foods (anything that may be fried, spicy, or very rich)
  • Alcohol
  • Too much water (as you may wake up frequently to use the bathroom)

Final Thoughts

Anxiety affects sleep in numerous ways. Knowing your anxiety triggers– and doing your best to cope with them- can help you feel calmer and more empowered. 

Subsequently, managing your anxiety can help you sleep more soundly. And, fortunately, it’s a two-way street. Focusing on implementing healthy sleep habits can help reduce your anxiety. 

If you’re still struggling, therapy can offer structured support and solutions for improving your emotional well-being. Contact us today to get started! 

Willow Counseling, PLLC, Nashville, TN

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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