According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in United States, affecting 40 million adults every year. One of the biggest contributors to anxiety in adults is sleep deprivation. Think about it. Without a good night’s rest, you can’t perform at your best during the day. You feel drained throughout the day. Life seems to throw constant hurdles for you to trip over. You needlessly struggle over issues that you’d normally resolve with ease. Life over-all becomes more and more stressful.
Is Sleep Deprivation Causing Anxiety in your Life?
Can Sleep Deprivation Cause Anxiety? If you are experiencing a string of nights when you just can’t fall asleep or can’t get enough sleep, then yes! Sleep deprivation can cause anxiety in your life, giving you feelings of stress and anxiousness throughout the day. What compounds this problem is the fact that anxiety can also cause sleep deprivation. Thus, this become a vicious cycle.
Even if you’re one of those awesome people that rarely experiences anxiety, stress, and/or depression, sleep deprivation can trigger these issues. But that’s just the beginning. If you allow sleep deprivation to grow out of control in your life, other anxiety-related symptoms will begin to appear and compound.
Quick Question, What is Sleep Deprivation?
Basicly sleep deprivation is what occurs whenever someone doesn’t sleep or get enough sleep. This can happen in one night or a string of nights. People suffering from sleep deprivation commonly feel sluggish, tired, and resort to consuming large doses of caffeine.
When Sleep Deprivation Grows Beyond Just Anxiety
As mentioned, sleep deprivation and anxiety go hand-in-hand. This vicious cycle of sleepless nights can also trigger countless other issues that affect the mind and the body. Let’s cover some of the problems people needlessly suffer from:
Issues in the Body
Sleep is necessary for the body to repair itself and to relax the tension that gets built up throughout the body. If this doesn’t occur, anxiety will continue to build. This causes a slowing of motor skills, reaction time, cognitive thinking, and a weakening of the immune system.
Most people are able to cope with the lack of sleep, the increased anxiety, as well as the number of annoyances that are experienced through the use of pills, sugary foods, alcohol, and large doses of caffeine during the day. After a while, the body develops a number of physical conditions including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Troubles Developed in the Mind
The mind can also be deeply affected by sleep deprivation. Neuroscientists at UC Berkeley have found that a chronic lack of sleep ramps up anticipatory anxiety experienced during the day by triggering the brain’s amygdala and insular cortex. These are the regions of the brain associated with processing emotions. This results in abnormal neural activity seen in anxiety disorders.
For people who are anxious by nature, sleep deprivation will trigger a full-blown anxiety disorder. Other maladies that can be develop also include generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Sleep disruption has also been connected to psychiatric disorders such as depression.
Solutions for Breaking the Cycle of Sleep Deprivation & Anxiety
If you’re feeling trapped within the cycle of sleep deprivation and anxiety, there are ways out. Two of the main solutions for breaking this cycle are conducting a sleep study and cognitive behavioral therapy. Let’s take a brief look into both of these potential solutions:
A sleep study or polysomnography is necessary for a doctor to properly diagnose if you are afflicted with a sleeping disorder. The study is an overnight exam, usually at a sleep lab or a hospital, that allows doctors and sleep specialists to observe what’s happening in one’s brain and body. EEG monitors your sleep stages and REM cycles, as well as non-REM or NREM sleep throughout the night, to spot possible disturbances in one’s sleep patterns. The sleep study also examines eye movements, oxygen levels in the blood, heart rate, breathing rate, snoring, and body movements.
The data gathered will be taken by a technologist and then sent to your doctor to be evaluated. Processing the data may take up to two weeks. Shortly after, you’ll be scheduled a follow up vistit to discuss the results with your doctor.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treatments
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia, sometimes referred to as CBT-I, focuses on identifying and replacing thoughts and behaviors that cause and/or deepen sleep problems. CBT-I strives to replace destructive thoughts and behaviors with habits that promote sound sleep. This can be accomplished with the help of a sleep therapist, who might suggest keeping a detailed sleep diary for a period of one to two weeks.
Once the underlying cause of your sleep deprivation has been identified, the sleep therapist may recommend the following CBT-I techniques:
- Stimulus Control Therapy: The goal of this method is to help remove the factors that causes your mind to resist sleep. This will include developing good sleep habits such as going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Only using the bed for either sleep or sex.
- Sleep Restriction: Lying in bed while awake can lead to poor sleep. This treatment at first reduces the amount of time spent in bed, which makes the person more tired for the next night. When better sleep is achieved, the time spent in bed is gradually increased.
- Sleep Hygiene: We go deeper into sleep hygiene here. This boils down to changing basic lifestyle habits and environmental factors that influences how you sleep.
- Relaxation Training: This involves meditation, visualization, muscle relaxation, etc.
- Remaining Passively Awake: This is also referred to as paradoxical intention. To avoid worrying over not being able to sleep, you will make no effort to sleep. Letting go of this worry makes it easier to actually fall asleep.
- Biofeedback: This utilizes a device that you’ll take home with you to observe biological signs such as heart rate and muscle tension. This information helps to spot sleep patterns that affect your sleep.
Breaking the Cycle
Can Sleep Deprivation Cause Anxiety? Absolutely, yet anxiety can also beget sleep deprivation. This can cause an endless cycle that can critically harm your health. Getting diagnosed is a critical first step before the cycle gets out of hand.
Bibliography and Further Reading:
“How Does a Sleep Study Work?” National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved January 24, 2018 from https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-does-sleep-study-work
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, September 28). “Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of sleeping pills.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 24, 2018 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/insomnia-treatment/ART-20046677
Anwar, Yasmin. (2013, June 25). “Tired and edgy? Sleep deprivation boosts anticipatory anxiety.” Berkeley News. Retrieved January 24, 2018 from http://news.berkeley.edu/2013/06/25/anticipate-the-worst/
Weber, Greg. (2015, October 14). “The Dangers of Anxiety-Related Sleep Deprivation”. Healthy Place. Retrieved January 24, 2018 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2015/10/the-dangers-of-anxiety-related-sleep-deprivation/
“How Sleep Debt Causes Serious Anxiety”. Calm Clinic. Retrieved January 24, 2018 from https://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/causes/sleep-debt