At its most basic form, sleep anxiety is the fear or worry about going to sleep. It stems from one’s apprehension about not falling asleep, not being able to stay asleep, or the events that can occur while asleep.
Sleep anxiety is often rooted in fears where one might anticipate something terrible happening to them while asleep. As a result, people who suffer from sleep anxiety think that they should not sleep and need to stay awake, alert, and vigilant.
Anxiety often manifests itself through symptoms that could be mental as well as physical. Sleep anxiety is also no exception. The most representative symptom is a person feeling afraid and anxious when thinking about falling asleep. Although, there are several other symptoms as well.
People who suffer from sleep anxiety start feeling distressed as they get closer to their bedtime. They start avoiding going to bed and make a conscious effort to stay up for as long as possible. Many intense cases of sleep anxiety also see people having panic attacks and trouble focusing on other things in life. They experience irritability, mood swings and can not remember things as promptly as they should.
There are several physical symptoms of sleep anxiety as well. For instance, people start suffering from nausea and stomach issues if their sleep anxiety is persistent. They experience tightness in the chest and their heart rate increases. They also go through frequent bouts of sweating, chills, and hyperventilation.
Children who suffer from sleep anxiety may express their distress through crying, clinginess, resistance to bedtime, and the urge to not leave themselves alone.
The Demographics of Anxiety
According to theby the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect as many as 40 million adults in the US, making it one of the most common mental illnesses in the country.
What is more worrisome is that a large chunk of this population does not receive treatment. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable. But only 37% of those who suffer from this illness eventually receive treatment.
Not treating anxiety disorders in time may lead to other conditions. A person with an anxiety disorder is three to five times more likely to visit the doctor and six times more likely for hospitalization than those who do not have it.
Information about sleep-related anxiety is less readily available, though studies such as thishave observed the deleterious effect general anxiety has on sleep.
What we can say is that sleep anxiety can affect the population cutting across a wide demographic range. Adults, teens, children, males, females – everyone can suffer from sleep anxiety. However, if you are already suffering fromsuch as:
Then you have a higher chance of developing sleep anxiety.
You may also develop nighttime anxiety if you are already suffering from:
Sleep Anxiety: Causes and Diagnosis
Although sleep disorders or anxiety-related conditions heighten the risk of sleep anxiety, anxiety is integral to being human. People feel afraid, worried, or concerned under a wide range of circumstances. Our bodies release hormones when we come under stress. These hormones help us act quickly and escape harm.
However, if you have chronic anxiety, you may suffer from persistently high levels of stress hormones in your body. This will make it difficult for you to relax. You will find it difficult to fall asleep comfortably. In some cases, even if you fall asleep initially out of tiredness, the anxiety will wake you up at night with thoughts that could be stressful and worrisome.
Sleep anxiety also comes as part of insomnia. With insomnia, an individual stays anxious about poor sleep even in his/her waking hours.
Some basic questions can help determine if you have sleep anxiety. Medical practitioners may inquire about your eating or drinking habits before going to bed and whether you necessarily feel anxious before bedtime. They can also ask about how long you take to fall asleep and the number of times you wake up.
A more specific diagnosis of potential sleep anxiety is the sleep study, also known asIn a sleep study, doctors keep you under observation in a sleep lab overnight and keep checking the vital parameters of your body.
These doctors will thoroughly observe your:
- Eye and leg movements
- Body positions
- Breathing patterns
- Blood oxygen levels
- Electrical activity in the brain
- Heart rates and rhythms
How to Overcome Sleep Anxiety?
You can start withPopularly termed talk therapy, the treatment is well-structured and goal-oriented. When used to alleviate insomnia, it is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I).
Apart from sleeping disorders, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also proves useful in curing mental illnesses, eating disorders, chronic pain, and other everyday challenges emanating from grief, separation, work problems, or relationship troubles. In CBT treatment, a therapist hosts a limited number of sessions conducted in a Q&A format.
The therapist aims to first understand your problem and help you recognize thoughts that they consider problematic. The final step is to work synergistically with the patient to help them overcome stress or pain arising out of those thoughts.
In the case of sleep anxiety, CBT helps avoid anxiety-triggering behaviors or environmental factors. It helps comprehend the ways sleep anxiety affects one’s brain and the rest of the body. The result is a thorough course correction, helping negate inaccurate thoughts.
It is also important to maintain good quality sleep hygiene. For instance, one should avoid drinking lots of fluid before going to bed.
It is also crucial to:
- Relax before going to bed and avoid consuming caffeine
- Wake up at the same time each day to maintain your sleep schedule
- Get a fixed seven hours of sleep every night at least
- Stop using electronic or digital devices starting a little before your sleeping hours
- And more
Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly is also as important as practicing good sleep hygiene.
You can follow a set of sleeping practices, like listening to soft, de-stressing music when going to sleep. Get your bedroom ambiance set to a tone of comfort, quiet, and dimly lit. Do not use your bed for watching television or office work. Get out of your bed if you have not fallen asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed.
Whether you succeed in maintaining a good sleeping regime would also depend on your mattress. This physical tool is as vital as your behavioral practice is. Amerisleep mattresses, for instance, use soft and breathable covers that prevent overheating. Its HIVE® technology, pocketed coils, and conforming foams reduce pressure points that cause pain. The foam’s advanced open-cell design wicks away warm air to make it cool and bouncy.
Finally, there are medications to treat anxiety. However, you should consult your healthcare provider before you start taking medicines.
Not treating sleep anxiety at the right time can affect your body in more ways than one. There are chances of developingheart attack, and heart diseases that may eventually lead to heart failure. It may also result in:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is sleep anxiety?
If you feel stressed about falling asleep and fear it happening, you are experiencing sleep anxiety. There are different reasons to experience sleep anxiety. However, many of them come down to the perceived vulnerability of being asleep and unable to stop something from happening to you.
Is sleep anxiety the same as insomnia?
While the two conditions can be rooted in anxiety, sleep anxiety is not the same thing as insomnia. Sleep anxiety is rooted in fears and worries tied to falling asleep, while insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it challenging to fall asleep or stay asleep.
The two conditions can overlap, with sleep anxiety worsening insomnia and the sleep deprivation from insomnia worsening sleep anxiety.
How can I get over sleep anxiety?
A key part of combating sleep anxiety is learning to manage your dread and altering your perspective on what could happen. You may want to speak with a sleep specialist or therapist about cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques. Techniques to manage generalized anxiety, such asmay also help reduce sleep anxiety.
Exercise can also improve sleep quality in general. So even if you don’t have sleep anxiety, it may help you sleep better.
How do you stop thinking at night so you can sleep?
If you’re having trouble stopping your racing thoughts and anxieties, you may want to distract yourself with an entertaining fantasy. Should you fail to distract yourself, try getting out of bed and going to a dimly lit room. Return to bed when you feel tired.
You can write down your worries in a notebook, then unwind with a cup of herbal tea or milk. Reading a few pages of a loved book may also help you calm down and give yourself something to think about as you drift off.
How can I sleep alone in my room without being scared?
For some individuals, taking steps to make their home feel secured with smart locks and security systems may help them sleep better. Others may want to speak with a therapist to confront their deeper issues and learn techniques to calm the mind and help them think more positively.
Turning off electronics at least an hour before bed can also help a sleeper calm down before bed. We also recommend limiting scary or stimulating content, such as true crime shows and horror movies.
Ready to Manage Sleep Anxiety?
Sleep anxiety can complicate your efforts to get a good night’s rest, but the condition isn’t impossible to overcome. Talking with a therapist about strategies and a treatment plan can help you boost your sleep quality. Steps such as regular exercise and a healthy diet can also help you improve your life in other ways.