Anxiety and Sleeping Problems
By: Beth McHugh 2006
If you’re an anxious person, chances are you also experience sleeping problems from time to time. Depending on individual anxiety levels and environmental stressors in your life, the natural sleep process can be easily disturbed by stressful events which, in turn, lead to further stress and fatigue.
Where stress is chronic, sleep disorders may occur. Problems with the wake-sleep cycle are common both among anxious people and those undergoing long periods of periods of stress or depression.
When we are stressed, serotonin, a neurotransmitter which performs important roles in the processing of messages in the brain, can affect melatonin levels. Melatonin, commonly known as the sleep hormone, is essential for a good night’s sleep, but its production can be compromised by stress and anxiety.
When sleep problems occur it is very easy to slip into a pattern of worrying at the end of each day about whether sleep will come easily or will elude you till the wee hours. Worrying about your ability to sleep can set off a surge of adrenalin throughout the body, which effectively primes the body for action and has the unwanted side effect of keeping you awake.
Realizing at 1am that you are wide awake and unable to sleep and then worrying further will result in wave after wave of adrenalin being released into the bloodstream. This perpetuates the inability to sleep and keeps you super-alert. This effect is worsened if you have consumed caffeine in the form of coffee, tea, chocolate or cola in the six hours prior to going to bed.
In some cases, people can become anxious as darkness falls as they begin to think negative thoughts about their inability to sleep. Those with anxiety and panic disorders who are overly stressed due to life circumstances can find their sleeping patterns deteriorate and can become increasingly distraught about their inability to sleep. It is a vicious cycle but an understandable one, as the human mind is very good at protecting itself from harmful situations. In fact, sometimes it is too good at its job; hence in recognizing the importance of sleep, a person will worry endlessly and inadvertently galvanize the adrenalin cycle into action.
When sleep problems are interfering with the quality of your life,
it is time to take action. Check out Choosing
Better Sleep Habits for some practical tips. Herbal remedies may
be useful in many situations. Where anxiety about sleeping is severe,
medication may be required in the short term. In cases such as these,
please seek out the help of your medical practitioner.