Keep Calm & Sleep Tight: Your Guide to Beating Sleep Anxiety

Last Update on March 20, 2024 : Published on March 20, 2024
Sleep Anxiety

Have you ever felt frustrated with just the idea of going to bed? And I’m not talking about the good kind of skipping sleep, either! What I’m talking about is the exhaustion that carries you to bed, but the worries that keep you awake. These nights aren’t just bad – they might just be a wink shy of sleep anxiety.

Sleep anxiety might not sound like a formidable enemy, but it’s a surprisingly common one that disrupts your sleep and wreaks havoc on your well-being.

Today, we’re exploring the world of sleep anxiety with a comprehensive understanding of the condition, which signs to watch out for, and most importantly, how to beat sleep anxiety and get a peaceful night’s sleep.

What is Sleep Anxiety?

Sleep anxiety is a specific phobia that can be characterized by a persistent fear or worry about falling asleep or staying asleep. It’s more than just a bad night. It’s a chronic state where anxiety becomes a barrier to getting a good night’s sleep. This kind of anxiety over sleep creates a vicious cycle – the more you worry about sleeping, the more difficult it gets to catch your Zzzs, leading to increased frustration and anxiety.

Sleep anxiety can manifest in different ways and can turn a simple bedtime into something more than just stressful.

Do you have sleep anxiety? Let’s take a look at the symptoms of sleep anxiety…

Symptoms of Sleep Anxiety

For some people, sleep comes easily, but when it comes to sleep anxiety, there is an underlining of fear and apprehension. Some common symptoms of sleep anxiety can include;

  • Experiencing racing thoughts
  • Constant tossing and turning
  • Frequently waking up in the middle of the night
  • Being hyper-alert before going to sleep
  • Experiencing daytime fatigue
  • Experiencing brain fog
  • Worrying about tasks and things to do
  • Constantly checking time and feeling distressed
  • Constantly ruminating about why you can’t fall asleep
  • Experiencing a sense of fear about going to sleep

When Sleep Anxiety Becomes a Problem

We all have experienced the occasional sleep issues. A stressful day, a late-night binge-watching, or even a cup of caffeine before bed can throw off our sleep cycle. However, how can we tell that these occasional sleepless nights have turned into something more problematic such as sleep anxiety?

Here’s how;

  • The Severity and Frequency: Do these sleep issues occur most nights or just occasionally? Does anxiety affect your day-to-day life?
  • The Distress Caused: Do you experience severe anxiety around bedtime and when it comes to sleeping?
  • The Impact on Well-Being: Is your daytime performance significantly impacted by your lack of sleep? Is sleep deprivation caused by anxiety taking a toll on your daily life?

If the answer is “YES” to any of these questions listed, especially if sleep issues continue for prolonged periods, then it’s an indication that you need to speak to a professional. A sleep therapist can help you rule out any underlying medical issues before determining or diagnosing sleep anxiety.

Why Do You Experience Sleep Anxiety?

The link between sleep and anxiety is two-way. Stressful experiences in your daily life can impact your sleep patterns by activating your body’s flight-or-fight response, making it harder for you to relax enough to fall asleep. Conversely, lack of sleep can worsen your anxiety symptoms, creating a perpetual cycle.

Some common factors that can cause sleep anxiety include;

  • Stress: When you live in a heightened sense of stress, the body releases hormones like cortisol that can increase alertness and make it harder for you to relax.
  • Conditioned Response: Did you know that over time, your bedtime routine can become associated with stress and anxiety, triggering your stress response even when there are no stressors around?
  • Rumination: People with sleep anxiety develop unhelpful thought patterns about sleep itself. You might worry about not getting enough sleep, catastrophize about the consequences of a bad night, or even constantly monitor your sleep, further fueling your anxiety.

If you are struggling with an anxiety disorder, are going through something major in life, have a chronic medical condition, or use substances such as alcohol or recreational drugs, then you can be more susceptible to sleep anxiety than others.

If you or your loved one is struggling with the symptoms of sleep anxiety, then it’s recommended that you speak to a professional, preferably a sleep specialist.

Treatment For Sleep Anxiety

The good news is that sleep anxiety can be treated. With certain therapy approaches, you can break this cycle of anxiety and get the restful sleep you need. Here’s how to treat sleep anxiety;

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is an evidence-based therapeutic approach that can help treat sleep anxiety. CBT helps identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to sleep. A CBT therapist can teach you techniques to challenge unhelpful thoughts and replace them with positive ones.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Other than CBT, you can also add relaxation techniques to your routine to beat sleep anxiety. Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), deep breathing exercises, and sleep hygiene practices can help you improve your relaxation response, reduce stress, and sleep without worries plaguing your mind.
  • Exposure therapy: In many cases, your therapist might even ask you to undergo exposure therapy. In this therapy, you’ll be gradually exposed to situations that trigger your sleep anxiety. You’ll learn how to manage the anxiety without engaging in avoidance behaviors.
  • Medication: In many cases, medication might be prescribed to you by a sleep specialist in conjunction with therapy and sleep hygiene. These medications can help break the initial cycle of sleep anxiety. It’s important to understand that medication shouldn’t be used without a doctor’s prescription.

Self-Help Strategies for Sleep Anxiety

In addition to professional sleep anxiety treatment, here are some self-help practices to combat sleep anxiety;

  • Challenge Negative Thoughts: Learning how to identify and challenge negative thoughts can help you combat sleep anxiety. Ask yourself if your worries are realistic and what evidence is there that supports them. Whatever negative thoughts your mind comes up with, replace them with more realistic and calming affirmations.
  • Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: While alcohol and caffeine might give you temporary relief from sleep anxiety, these substances can also cause poor sleep patterns in the long run. So, limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, especially after 4 PM.
  • Keep Practicing Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices such as meditation can help your mind quiet before bed and reduce the chance of rumination about sleep. Mindfulness can help you focus on the present moment and let go of any past or future worries.
  • Create a Sleep Schedule: You can also create a sleep schedule that works for you and have a soothing bedtime routine to wind down before bed. These practices can help your mind relax enough to catch the rest it needs.

Dealing with sleep anxiety can be challenging, so it’s important to understand that you’re not alone in your struggles. Talk to your loved ones about your sleep concerns and seek help from them. You can also consider joining a support group where you can connect with others with similar concerns and learn from their experiences.

Wrap Up…

Believe it or not, sleep anxiety can significantly alter your life and affect your well-being, but it doesn’t have to control your life. Understanding the symptoms of sleep anxiety, and its causes, and learning how to combat sleep anxiety can help you break free from this vicious cycle and get a good night’s sleep.

Remember to be patient with yourself and keep celebrating the little steps you take. With the right tools and strategies you can say bye-bye to sleep anxiety!

Know that you have resources available too;

Don’t hesitate to seek help and take charge of your well-being. Seek professional help when needed. With the right help and tools, you can conquer sleep anxiety and get the sleep you deserve.

Let us know if this article helped you understand what sleep anxiety is, its causes, and how to combat this sleep condition.

Sleep Tight, Be Safe!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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