Anxiety affects your sleep. Here’s how

7 min readMar 12, 2020


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Hectic schedules and an erratic lifestyle leading to stress and a feeling of anxiety is a common phenomenon that a large number of people experience nowadays. The result is constant tossing and turning at night, finding it hard to sleep.

Sounds familiar?

Well, the chances are that you’re suffering from a clinical disorder known as sleep anxiety, affecting your sleep patterns negatively.

Sleep Anxiety

In this post, we are going to discuss everything you need to know about sleep anxiety including what it is, the signs, symptoms, and causes of sleep anxiety, the difference between sleep disorders and sleep anxiety, how does sleep anxiety affects our sleep and what are some tips to better manage sleep problems caused by anxiety.

There is probably nothing more frustrating than feeling exhausted all day and still end up completely awake all night. When your brain is constantly worrying about your pending to-do-list or other worries, the condition is known as sleep anxiety.

Put simply; sleep anxiety is a state where you’re unable to sleep due to feelings of nervousness, stress, excessive worry and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are, in fact, two of the biggest causes for lack of good quality sleep.

Night-time is one of the most common times when people experience anxiety. There have been several clinical trials to suggest that sleep deprivation can be a trigger for anxiety. Historically, research also shows that anxiety disorders are associated with reduced sleep quality.

Why Do We Get Sleep Anxiety?

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Anxiety is not a bad thing as such. It is a normal human emotion characterized by feelings of nervousness and worry. You may find yourself experiencing anxiety during various stressful situations, such as a job interview, before an important meeting or on a first date.

The frequent feeling of anxiety simply suggests that something isn’t right and keeps us awake at night. Having a good nights’ sleep and feeling well-rested can help us fight against anxiety. However, the opposite is also true that is lack of sleep feeds the anxiousness, which keeps us The frequent feeling of anxiety simply suggests that something isn’t right and keeps us awake at night. Having a good nights’ sleep and feeling well-rested can help us fight against anxiety.

Symptoms and Signs of Sleep Anxiety

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There are many symptoms of sleep anxiety. Everyone experiences it differently. Symptoms can occur at any time of the day, morning, or night. The common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feelings of nervousness, restlessness, or worry
  • A complete loss of sleep, insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Frequent nightmares about stressful situations
  • Panic attacks accompanied by various physical manifestations
  • A feeling of too much anxiousness and worry
  • Feeling tired all day but completely awake at night
  • Irritability and depression

What Causes Sleep Anxiety

There can be multiple causes of feeling anxious and a lack of sleep. Often, the two are not exclusive of each other. Here is a list of some of the most common causes of sleep anxiety:

  • Excessive workload or responsibilities

One of the common causes of anxiety is having too much on your plate at a time. When you take or are given too many responsibilities to be completed in a limited time, the result is extreme stress and anxiety, which makes it hard to sleep and causes sleep problems.

  • Common triggers

Anxiety can also be caused by a number of environmental factors or everyday triggers such as excessive exposure to screen and high altitude (due to oxygen shortage) as suggested by this study.

  • Brain chemistry

There have been studies which suggest that people having gaps in their brain chemistry are more prone to anxiety and sleep problems.

  • Genetic factors

People with a family history of anxiety or insomnia generally have higher chances of suffering from anxiety and other sleep disorders.

  • Withdrawal from any kind of addiction

Withdrawal from any sort of addiction, such as alcohol or drugs, can cause a lack of sleep and/or anxiety.

How Does Anxiety Affect Our Sleep

There is a science behind how anxiety affects our sleep. Whenever we feel anxious, our bodies start a stress response, which can kick in at any place and time.

In case of sleep anxiety specifically, it’s more related to our subconscious. During the daytime, our minds are generally busy thinking about everyday tasks such as the big work deadline, weekend get together with friends or upcoming family trip. However, our brain is equipped to take those stress triggers, mimic the stress pattern, and spring to action putting us into a stressed state even after we have been removed from the immediate stress trigger.

What does that mean?

Well, it simply means that when we get the chance to relax our mind, we wake up stressed and panicked in the middle of the night, owing to our subconscious. Once awake, the situation worsens as the issue just multiplies by feeding on itself.

We wake up anxious and stressed; we feel anxious about being awake and find it difficult to go back to sleep because of the anxiety. There is also the probability that we weren’t able to fall asleep in the first place due to the feeling of extreme anxiety.

Difference Between Sleep Disorders and Sleep Anxiety

There are as many as 70 types of sleep disorders that exist today. Some of the most common ones include-

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep anxiety
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Sleep depression
  • Movement syndromes
  • Narcolepsy

In general, sleep disorders and sleep anxiety are biologically connected to each other. Patients suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), have increased chances of having sleep disorders with difficulties in falling asleep and had a harder time staying asleep.

More than 70% of patients undergoing treatment for sleep disorders suffer from a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety or depression.

So, which causes the other? Is sleep anxiety, the cause of sleep disorders or are sleep disorders causing sleep anxiety?

The answer is- either way!

Anxiety is the primary cause of sleeping problems. However, recent research has shown that sleep deprivation or a complete lack of sleep can also lead to an anxiety disorder. Further, studies also suggest that people with over-worrying tendencies are more prone to sleep disorders.

Tips to Overcome Anxiety And Have a Good Nights’ Sleep

There are several vital functions that occur during different stages of sleep to make us feel well-rested and energized. To improve sleep, it is essential to treat anxiety disorders at the earliest and practise good sleep hygiene. Here are some steps you can take to beat anxiety-

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine
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First and foremost, make sure to go to bed at the same time every day to help the body adjust to the schedule and feel tired when it’s bedtime and awake in the morning.

  • Exercise on a regular basis
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This is another great way to beat everyday stress and train the body to feel tired and rest at bedtime. However, it is recommended to avoid exercising close to bedtime. The best time to exercise is afternoon or early morning.

  • Avoid too much of caffeine
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There is research to prove that caffeine can take up to six-eight hours to wear off. If you suffer from anxiety or any sort of panic attacks, avoid caffeine completely to sleep better at night.

  • Read before bedtime
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Reading before bedtime is an excellent habit that can take your mind away from the everyday stress and help you relax. Studies show that reading helps to reduce stress levels by as high as 65% and make you fall asleep in no time.


People with anxiety disorders generally have a difficult time managing worries and negative thoughts. They may find themselves worrying about different aspects of life, including the events that have passed, current situation, or what lies in the future. The situations that cause such worry maybe about their career, relationships, and other similar responsibilities in life.

Irrespective of the source of your worry, these negative feelings of uneasiness and anxiousness can cause extreme stress that prevents you from getting a good night’s rest and sleeping better.

It is important to remember that anxiety and sleep disorders can form a vicious cycle within no time. People who experience anxiety or similar panic disorders often have trouble sleeping, and the result is sleep deprivation that can lead to more anxiety and heightened symptoms.

If you think that you’re also experiencing sleep anxiety and/or have developed a sleep.




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