Anxiety is a debilitating feeling of nervousness and worry that can disrupt our daily functioning and cause a lot of distress. These sensations are experienced by all of us at some point in our lives when we get stressed out. 

To a certain extent, these feelings are very normal and good for us as they motivate us to perform well in all aspects of our life. But when these feelings go beyond a particular level, they can be pathological and render you incapable of performing any task.

What is Sleep Anxiety?

When anxiety lingers on for longer than usual then it starts to interfere with your sleep. Neverending worries and doubts cloud your mind, making it very difficult for you to fall asleep. 

Sleep anxiety can include anticipatory anxiety before going to sleep as well, this includes having negative thoughts and distress associated with sleep. This could have a drastic effect on their routines and sleeping patterns causing insomnia where both the quality and quantity of sleep are hampered. 

Anxiety also causes disturbing dreams reinforcing the negative beliefs around going to sleep. There is also strong evidence that lack of sleep can instigate or worsen your anxiety, and hence sleep deprivation is not only a symptom but also a cause for anxiety. 

Types of Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder where you have trouble falling or staying asleep. This condition can be acute or chronic depending on the period a person suffers for; it could be 1 night to a few weeks or 3 nights a week for a few months. 

Acute Insomnia

It is also known as adjustment insomnia as it involves having a brief episode of difficulty in sleeping. This is generally caused by the stressful events of life such as losing loved ones, major life changes, cessation of drugs, etc. Acute insomnia generally lasts for less than three months and the symptoms fade as the individual learns to cope with their situation.

However, if acute insomnia is left untreated, the likelihood of developing chronic insomnia and other complications that are associated with this condition increases manifold. Women are more susceptible to it than men, especially during pregnancy and menopause.

Chronic Insomnia

Insomnia that lasts for 3 nights a week for three months or more is termed as chronic. It also has several reasons such as irregular sleep schedules, poor sleep hygiene, persistent nightmares, mental health disorders, underlying physical or neurological problems, medications, a bed partner with sleep apnea or other problems, and certain other sleep disorders.

Other Types of Insomnia

  1. Sleep Onset Insomnia- This Insomnia means difficulty in falling asleep at the beginning of the night. It is marked by constant tossing and turning in bed without actually getting any sleep. People stay up for 20-30 minutes even after going into bed. A person with this type of insomnia has a reduced sleep time and can feel the effects of lack of sleep the next day.
  1. Sleep Maintenance Insomnia – It is characterized by the inability of staying asleep throughout the night. This often means that the individual wakes up at least once during their sleep and is unable to sleep for the next 20-30 minutes. It decreases the quality and quantity of sleep and leaves them feeling sluggish and tired the next day.
  1. Early Morning awakening Insomnia- It involves waking up way before a person has planned to in the morning. He/she is not able to get the planned amount of sleep which hampers mental and physical activity. Some experts view it as sleep maintenance but most consider it separately.
  1. Comorbid Insomnia- Initially insomnia was considered as comorbid or secondary insomnia. This meant that insomnia was a result of anxiety, depression, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or physical pain. 

Further research showed that sleeping problems shared a bidirectional relationship with other health issues. Furthermore, insomnia triggered by other health conditions doesn’t always go away once the issue is resolved. Because of a cascade of factors that cause insomnia, it is very difficult for the patients to narrow down one specific case. 

Healthy Sleep Habits

Now, let’s talk about the ways to battle your insomnia. Following are some tips and lifestyle habits that you can inculcate into your routine to help you have restful sleep and feel energised every single morning, ready to take on the day: 

  • Wake up at the same time each day: It is tempting to sleep in on the weekends, especially if you haven’t had enough sleep during the week. But if you suffer from insomnia then you need to wake up at a specific time every single day so that you fall in line with your circadian rhythms and develop a better sleep cycle. 
  • Eliminate Alcohol and other stimulants like caffeine: Caffeine is a pretty strong stimulant as its effect can last up to 24 hours and has a very strong chance of affecting your sleep and frequent awakening. Alcohol initially has a sedative effect but after a few hours causes frequent arousals and a night of restless sleep. 
  • Limit Naps: Even though napping is a good way to catch up on sleep, if you have insomnia then setting a sleeping schedule is very crucial. Training ourselves with cues such as darkness and sleep time will help in increasing the quality of our sleep.
  • Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise helps in increasing the quality and duration of sleep. However, if we exercise before sleeping then it has a stimulating effect which will be detrimental to our sleep. This is why there should be at least a three gap between exercise and sleeping. 
  • Limit activities in bed: The purpose of the bed should only be sleeping. So, avoid studying, making phone calls, or watching tv in bed or bedroom as this increases alertness and makes it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Do not drink or eat before your bedtime: Eating before bed activates the digestive system which will keep you from falling asleep. Drinking a lot of fluids before sleeping will cause excessive pressure on the bladder resulting in frequent toilet visits disturbing your sleep. 
  • Get over your worries before bedtime. Make a list of all your worries and tasks you would want to accomplish the next day. So that you can plan your day and these thoughts won’t keep you active at night. 
  • Reduce Stress: There many techniques you can use to relax your mind and reduce stress to increase the quality of your sleep. Some of the techniques are progressive muscle relaxation (perhaps with audio tapes), deep breathing techniques, imagery, meditation, and biofeedback.

Ways to Encounter Insomnia and Treatment

If you are suffering from the symptoms of insomnia and sleep anxiety for the past few months, then you may have to see your doctor. Treating insomnia involves two main goals; increasing the quality and duration of sleep and reducing the symptoms experienced during the daytime. Once diagnosed with Chronic Insomnia, you may opt for cognitive behavioural therapy for the purpose of treatment. It may involve processes like stimulus-control, sleep restriction and compression, and relaxation techniques to help you manage sleep anxiety. Moreover, education for sleep and hygiene may also help. Learning about healthy sleep patterns and understanding why you experience insomnia symptoms may reduce the chances of any relapse. Medications may also be prescribed such as benzodiazepines, melatonin agonists, orexin receptor agonists, and other over the counter drugs. 

Insomnia is a grave health condition mostly overlooked by physicians as they do not go to the root of the matter and cover it up by sleeping pills. Thousands of people suffer from insomnia daily with the number increasing every day but people are becoming aware that it is hampering their daily life. It has a negative effect of their relationships, creativity, and workplace productivity causing the quality of their life to decline. If you think you’re suffering from this condition, you must contact a health professional immediately as early intervention and treatment make a lasting difference.

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