Anxiety and poor sleep go hand in hand.
The worry and stress that anxiety generates can be enormously disruptive for sleep. And vice versa, the exhaustion and fatigue that come from a lack of rest can contribute to a range of mental health problems, including anxiety.
Thankfully, it is possible to lower our levels of anxiety by working on improving our sleep, and thereby enjoying a happier, fuller life.
First, let's understand exactly how sleep and anxiety interact.
The main sleep disorder that anxiety creates is insomnia; the inability to fall or stay asleep. As might be expected, this is due to the increased mental activity and emotional stimulation making it difficult for the body to relax and fall asleep.
Unfortunately this can quickly become cyclical, as not being able to fall asleep can itself generate an anxiety about not getting enough sleep which leads to more insomnia and so on.
There is also strong evidence to suggest that this goes the other way too; having poor, disrupted sleep can itself lead to anxiety. People with obstructive sleep apnea were reported to have significantly increased mental health problems including anxiety, depression and panic disorder.
But luckily, the causal relationship between our anxiety and sleep can be flipped. As mentioned above, better sleep means less anxiety and so by working on our sleep, we are also able to improve our mental health.
The question is, how?
At a basic level, the best thing to do is to make sure you have good sleep hygiene. Habits like avoiding caffeine after lunch, having a good sleep environment and going to bed & waking up at consistent times are all terrific things you can start doing to maximise your sleep quality.
But good sleep hygiene doesn't always solve everything.
The bottom line is that if you're struggling with mental health, or with poor sleep, you need to speak to a medical professional.
If you're experiencing anxiety or disrupted sleep, please book an appointment with your GP and get in touch with us. We'd love to help.
Sleep well, live well.