We’ve all dealt with bouts of anxiety, mild or severe. If we examine how it makes us feel, it’s almost a sickly feeling depending on frequency and intensity. Despite anxiety’s psychological properties, there’s a physical manifestation that’s beyond denial. When that happens, we’re caught in a prison of mind-numbing thoughts and crippling surges of who-knows-what throughout our bodies. What affects our brains, affects our bodies in more ways than we understand. It just so happens that the correlation between anxiety and sleep deprivation is something that we can talk about at the ENT Institute, since we treat sleep disorders.
I’m no expert on the subject. Rather, I drew a bad hand at the table of life, another statistic of an anxiety disorder that attacks the mind and the body simultaneously. But that’s why this subject became a point of interest for me. Since I’m no expert, here’s a quote from one: “Long-term anxiety and panic attacks can cause your brain to release stress hormones on a regular basis. This can increase the frequency of symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and depression. When you feel anxious and stressed, your brain floods your nervous system with hormones and chemicals designed to help you respond to a threat. Adrenaline and cortisol are two examples,” (Cherney, 2020).
So, anxiety is actually a good thing, when used in the right context. If a bear charges you because you approached their cub, then the right amount of anxiety should tell you it’s time to run and that adrenaline might carry you out of that situation (big maybe). Or better yet, you’re in school and the teacher makes you “tell us a little about yourself”, which then fills you with dread, causing you to flee the situation (not actually a good situation to flee from).
When anxiety isn’t good in context is when you’re trying to go to sleep and a wave of anxious thoughts flood the forefront of your mind. It’s hard to sleep after that, right? Those thoughts trouble you, creating a surge of burning in your legs and stomach, keeping sweet dreams a distant fantasy. A bad night’s sleep leads to daytime sleepiness, leading to more anxiety, leading to more lost sleep.
Sleep foundation.org says that, “Connections have been found between anxiety disorders and changes in a person’s sleep cycles9. Research indicates that anxiety and pre-sleep rumination may affect rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which involves the most vivid dreaming. Anxiety may provoke more disturbing dreams and create a higher likelihood of sleep disruptions. Nightmares may reinforce negative associations and fear13 around going to sleep.”
Matters just get worse from there. SleepFoundation.org continues to say that those with anxiety struggle with sleep deprivation symptoms more so than those without anxiety. Because anxiety gets into the REM cycle or causes sleep disorders, our bodies feel the brunt of those symptoms in a much more severe way.
So then, what is there to do about anxiety and sleep deprivation?
Treatments and remedies for anxiety and sleep deprivation
If you’re struggling with anxiety, there are many ways to reach out and receive help. Going to a medical professional will result in positive solutions. These remedies are designed to help short term, not treat long-term symptoms. Because we have sleep specialists at the Ear, Nose and Throat Institute, we’ll mostly be coming at it from that angle.
Here are a few remedies for symptom relief:
- Breathing exercises for anxiety
- Find hobbies that you enjoy
- Exercise regularly
- Lower your caffeine intake
- Eat a healthier diet
- Turn off the electronics an hour before bed
- Don’t eat a couple hours before bedtime
- Stay consistent with a sleep schedule
- Use the bedroom only for sleep, not for activities like watching TV, playing video games, etc. This trains the brain to prep for sleep when you lay down.
The last piece of advice that I’m going to give is that if you’re suffering from sleep deprivation or even sleep apnea, come to the ENT Institute for a sleep study. Our sleep specialists will effectively diagnose and treat you, getting you back to better sleep in no time.
To schedule a sleep study, call 770-740-1860 or fill out the form at the top of the page.
- Cherney, K. (2020, March 28) 12 Effects of Anxiety on the Body [Health Article] Retrieved on August 12th, 2020 from https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/effects-on-body#1
- Suni, E. (2020, August 6) How Does Anxiety Affect Sleep? [Health Article] Retrieved on August 13th, 2020 from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-does-anxiety-affect-sleep#:~:text=Anxiety%20is%20frequently%20connected%20to,involving%20insomnia%20and%20anxiety%20disorders.