According to the Sleep Foundation¹, 35% of adults in the United States suffer from insomnia. If you find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night, you may have insomnia. This sleeping disorder can also cause individuals to wake up too early or feel tired and sleepy throughout the day.
Although sleep patterns can vary from person to person, most adults require a minimum of seven hours of sleep, while children generally require about 9-12 hours.
Insomnia is often associated with other chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and anxiety. We'll further review the causes and symptoms of insomnia and how best to manage stress-induced insomnia.
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There are three types of insomnia, which include:
Short-term insomnia (acute)
This type of insomnia lasts for a few days or weeks at most. It can happen when you have been through a traumatic experience like the sudden death of a loved one or unexpected stress.
Long-term insomnia (chronic)
Chronic insomnia is described as a long-term interruption of quality sleep. You can be diagnosed with chronic insomnia if you have experienced difficulty sleeping for three nights per week for three months or longer.
Transient insomnia is defined as insomnia lasting for less than a week and does not recur. It is often caused by changes in sleep patterns, environment, or psychological issues, including anxiety.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)², more than 40 million Americans have chronic insomnia. If you exhibit at least three of the following symptoms, it's important to speak to your doctor.
The sign and symptoms of insomnia are:
Feeling tired during the day.
Increasing clumsiness, even during minor activities.
Difficulty concentrating or memory issues.
Staying awake during the night for long hours.
Having trouble sleeping at night.
Waking up early, but being unable to resume sleep.
Feeling depressed, moody, or anxious.
Anxiety is an intense and persistent feeling of fear and lack of control regarding your well-being. According to Harvard Health³, sleep disorders affect at least 50% of adults who struggle with mental health concerns, including anxiety disorders, representing a clear connection.
Lack of sleep can trigger anxiety due to mental exhaustion and irritability. Research suggests⁴ that chronic insomnia can cause negative thoughts and emotional instability.
Treating insomnia can help alleviate the symptoms associated with anxiety. In addition, a good night's rest helps nurture both emotional and mental resilience, therefore improving your brain's performance.
Diagnosed anxiety disorders require interventions and strategies to alleviate symptoms. While the treatment options that work may differ from person to person, all symptoms are manageable with proper care.
Interventions and treatments may include medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, or medical assistance from a psychologist, therapist, or general practitioner.
However, if you have yet to see a doctor, you can use some of the following tips to help you manage your anxiety-induced insomnia.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause sleep disturbance, especially when taken in the afternoon hours or close to bedtime⁵. Even when taken six hours before sleep, your favorite coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverage can have disruptive effects on your ability to sleep.
Since caffeine is a stimulant, it can produce many sensations in your body that are very similar to what you might feel when you’re anxious, such as rapid heart rate, faster breathing, shaking, restlessness, and nervousness. It can be difficult to distinguish between anxiety that’s due to caffeine intake versus feeling anxious for some other reason.
Plus, caffeine can trigger anxiety and panic attacks, particularly if you consume more than 200mg, which is equivalent to about two cups of coffee or even just one serving of a very strong caffeinated beverage.
However, keep in mind that some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, which means that a lower dose can affect you and trigger anxiety.
If you tend to experience anxiety from caffeine consumption, a pattern can develop where you consume caffeine, then you become anxious and that anxiety impacts your ability to sleep at night. When you awaken in the morning—and for the rest of the day—you’ll likely feel tired, so you reach for coffee or tea to stay awake and alert. This can trigger your anxiety again, and the cycle continues.
The mind can have a positive or negative influence on anxiety and insomnia. Having a restless mind increases the prevalence of anxiety and makes insomnia worse.
If you struggle with anxiety, taking some time to relax your mind before sleeping is very beneficial because it can help you unwind and calm your body and mind. According to John Hopkins Medicine⁶, engaging in activities that trigger your body's natural relaxation response can significantly improve your sleep. In addition, mind relaxing activities help decrease stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol.
Some activities that help relax your mind and body include:
Listening to soothing music
Anxiety and insomnia can be triggered by various things, such as stress build-up, life changes, or sudden trauma. While talking doesn't erase problems, it reduces the burden on your body and mind.
Finding someone to share your worries with may help you find relief. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)⁷ recommends talking about your problems with a trusted family, friend, counselor, or doctor. When your mind is at ease, the levels of stress-triggering hormones decrease, helping you sleep better.
Insomnia and anxiety can disrupt your life if not well managed. Consequences include difficulty functioning at work, mood fluctuations affecting relationships, or developing other at-risk conditions like depression.
If you're experiencing any symptoms of anxiety-induced insomnia, it's important to speak to a medical professional.
What Causes Insomnia? | Sleep Foundation
Sleep Disorders | Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
Sleep and mental health | Harvard Health Publishing
Sleep could be to blame for negative thinking | Geisinger
Sleepless Nights? Try Stress Relief Techniques | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Coping With Stress | Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
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