Published On By Rachel Nall

Anxiety And SleepSleep plays an important role in various brain and bodily functions. A lack of sleep may increase the risk of many health conditions, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

Anxiety can also disrupt sleep, making it tough to fall asleep or stay asleep. It can even lead to nightmares. That’s why it’s crucial to address both sleep problems and anxiety together to break the cycle and start feeling better.

This article explains how sleep and anxiety are linked, exploring how they affect each other and what it means for our everyday lives.

You might discover new ways to feel better and care for your mental health by understanding how sleep impacts anxiety.

What Is Anxiety

Anxiety is a response to a possible threat or stressor, serving as a survival mechanism. It may cause an uneasy feeling characterized by elevated heart rate, sweating, and nausea, among other symptoms. There are several anxiety disorders recognized by medical professionals, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder.

Relation Between Anxiety And Sleep

Sleep disturbance is one of the contributing factors in many mental conditions, including anxiety, indicating a potential connection between them.

Here are some major points to consider to understand the relation between sleep and anxiety.

  • Anxiety as a Cause of Sleeping Difficulties: Anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, and PTSD, are often associated with various sleeping problems, with over 90% of people with PTSD reporting symptoms of insomnia. The state of mental hyperarousal, characterized by worry, can lead to higher sleep reactivity, making you more susceptible to sleeping issues, especially during times of stress.
  • Negative Thoughts and Sleep Anxiety: Negative thoughts associated with bedtime, known as anticipatory anxiety, can hinder healthy sleep routines. Research suggests that anxiety and pre-sleep rumination can impact dreaming during REM sleep, potentially leading to nightmares and disturbing dreams that disrupt sleep and reinforce the fear of going to bed.
  • Bidirectional Relationship: Sleep deprivation can both trigger and exacerbate anxiety disorders. People prone to anxiety are particularly susceptible to the effects of inadequate sleep on mood and emotional health. This bidirectional relationship means that anxiety can lead to poor sleep, which in turn can worsen anxiety symptoms, creating a self-reinforcing cycle.

Ideal Time For Sleep You Need

The National Sleep Foundation provides age-specific recommendations for adequate sleep duration, from newborns requiring 14-17 hours to adults aged 18-64 needing 7-9 hours of sleep.

Elderly individuals aged 65 and above should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. These guidelines serve as a foundation for good sleep hygiene and overall wellness.

How Does Deep Sleep Protect Against Anxiety?

Studies have shown that deep, slow-wave, non-REM sleep acts as a natural anxiety reliever by reorganizing brain connections to decrease anxiety levels significantly.

Research conducted on a group of young adults revealed that after a sleepless night, anxiety levels increased by up to 30%, demonstrating the detrimental impact of inadequate sleep on emotional well-being.

Functional MRI scans highlighted the deactivation of the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain region essential for attenuating anxiety and stress after sleep deprivation.

A full night of sleep led to a substantial reduction in anxiety levels, particularly in people who spent more time in deep sleep stages.

Eti Ben Simon, a neuroscientist and sleep researcher at the Center for Human Sleep Science, emphasized the importance of deep sleep in restoring the brain’s prefrontal mechanism responsible for regulating emotions. This restoration process lowers emotional and physiological reactivity, effectively preventing the escalation of anxiety.

How To Find Your Optimal Bedtime?

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine aligns with your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which indicates physical, mental, and behavioral changes over time.

Finding your optimal bedtime involves understanding your body’s internal clock and creating habits that support a restful night.

Here are three essential tips to help you discover the ideal bedtime for a good night’s sleep:

  1. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your natural sleep patterns and energy levels throughout the day. Notice when you naturally start feeling sleepy in the evening and aim to go to bed around that time. Experiment with different bedtime routines to see what helps you fall asleep.
  2. Create a Relaxing Pre-Bedtime Routine: Engage in calming activities before bed, like listening to music, taking a warm bath, or relaxation techniques like deep breathing. Avoid stimulating activities like using electronic devices or consuming caffeine close to bedtime, as they could interfere with your sleep.
  3. Stay Consistent: Aim to go to bed and wake up simultaneously every day, including weekends. Ensuring consistency helps regulate your body’s internal clock. It lets you fall asleep and wake up naturally. Over time, maintaining a regular sleep schedule could improve your sleep and contribute to better overall health.

Health Concerns Of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation poses significant risks to both mental and physical health, impacting anxiety levels and overall well-being. Here are three potential dangers of sleep deprivation:

  1. Increased Anxiety and Depression: Sleep-deprived people are more likely to experience elevated anxiety during tasks and perceive a greater risk of adverse outcomes, contributing to a cycle of heightened stress and emotional instability.
  2. Impaired Cognitive Function: Inadequate sleep acts as a chronic stressor on the body, impairing brain function and overloading the body’s systems. This overload can result in memory impairment, cognitive fog, confusion, and depression, making it challenging to cope with stress and daily challenges effectively. Sleep deprivation disrupts hormonal balance, further exacerbating anxiety levels and impacting overall cognitive performance.
  3. Association with Mental Disorders: Sleep disorders are commonly associated with mental health conditions, particularly depression. Insomnia, a sleep disorder, is prevalent among people with depression, leading to early morning awakenings and sleep disturbances. Disrupted sleep patterns can worsen symptoms in conditions like bipolar disorder, causing agitation and hyperactivity. Severe sleep deprivation can even induce a state akin to psychosis, marked by paranoid thoughts and hallucinations.

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How To Fall Asleep With Anxiety?

Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and guided imagery may help alleviate anxious thoughts and promote relaxation conducive to falling asleep.

Setting up a sleep-conceive environment and avoiding the intake of alcohol or caffeine can be helpful. Avoiding mobile phones or computers before bed may also aid in a good night’s sleep.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a typical treatment for anxiety disorders that aims to redirect negative thoughts responsible for anxiety. It has also shown success in reducing anxiety and improving sleep patterns.

For some people struggling with severe cases of insomnia, even after addressing anxiety, CBT for insomnia (CBT-I) may be a beneficial next step. It helps alleviate insomnia by examining conditioned arousal and reducing sleep-related worries.

Medications like anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants could also be prescribed to manage anxiety symptoms. However, they are intended to alleviate symptoms rather than cure the underlying anxiety.

Seeking professional guidance and exploring various treatment options might help you find effective ways to manage anxiety and improve sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can Certain Sleep Positions or Sleeping Postures Impact Anxiety Levels?
    Yes. Proper alignment supports relaxation and may reduce physical tension, potentially aiding in calming the mind. Exploring different positions and finding what works for your comfort is essential.
  2. Is There a Correlation Between Dreams and Anxiety Levels During Sleep?
    Yes. Dream content, frequency, and intensity can reflect underlying emotional states. Analyzing dreams may offer insights into subconscious worries, stressors, and unresolved issues impacting anxiety levels during sleep.
  3. How Does the Use of Technology Before Bedtime Affect Anxiety and Sleep Quality?
    Using screens before bedtime can negatively impact sleep quality and increase anxiety. Blue light from electronic devices such as phone and laptop screens interferes with melatonin production, disrupting circadian rhythms. Limiting screen time before bed promotes better sleep and reduces anxiety levels.
  4. Are There Specific Foods or Drinks That Could Worsen Anxiety Symptoms During Sleep?
    Certain foods and drinks high in caffeine, sugar, or processed ingredients can disrupt sleep patterns and trigger anxiety. Opt for calming options like herbal tea or warm milk before bed.
  5. Can Integrating Aromatherapy or Essential Oils Into a Bedtime Routine Help Alleviate Anxiety?
    Aromatherapy or essential oils before bed may help alleviate anxiety. Certain scents like lavender, chamomile, and jasmine have calming properties that could promote relaxation and reduce stress levels, potentially aiding in anxiety relief.


Sleep is a vital process of your body, and chronic deprivation of sleep might lead to many physical and mental conditions, including anxiety and depression. Inadequate sleep could also exacerbate the underlying mental conditions.

Therefore, prioritizing healthy sleep habits is essential in managing anxiety effectively. Ensuring a deep sleep each night may play a protective role against anxiety symptoms.

Setting a consistent sleep routine, practicing good sleep hygiene, and addressing sleep deprivation can improve overall well-being and reduce anxiety levels.

  • The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • Consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before following health tips or instructions.

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