Every one in seven person in the world is diagnosed with sleep anxiety. Sleep anxiety falls under the classification of psychosis according to National Institutes of Health (NIH) and American Psychiatry Association (APA). Between the ages 30-60, this disease becomes very common. But what we don’t know about sleep anxiety is that, with a little bit of push from specialists, and care from family can change the lives of those with anxiety disorder. It is important to differentiate sleep anxiety from sleep disorder. Sleep disorder can cause fatigue. Although to not get very confused, it’s important to know, that adults normally sleep for 8 hours.
Sleep deprivation raises chances of anxiety by 30 percent. Do you at times feel that that fight you had in the morning was worthless? And that it took away more energy from you, than it returned apologies like you had anticipated? And did you skip work because you thought one day of continuous sleep will restore your potential energy and you can work for the rest of the week, without sleep?
Compensating sleep or using sleep as excuses is quite common. That is why sleep anxiety is also said to be caused by performance anxiety. Work, sleep and anxiety are in fact deeply related subjects and the most studied subject in neuroscience.
What is sleep anxiety?
The moniker itself is self-explanatory- stress, anxiety of sleep or fear of going to sleep is indeed called sleep anxiety. Forty million people (15 percent) people in the world today are diagnosed with sleep anxiety disorder. And at least one in seven Indians suffer from sleep disorder.
Sleep anxiety disorder or night anxiety is caused by lack of sleep, so what can we do to avoid getting into the vicious loop which is now as common as cold and cough. According to reports in Times of India, The Hindu and Economic Times, mental health cases have doubled in India in less than three decades.
This article aims to bring out the effects of sleep anxiety and anxiety disorder (as neurosis and psychosis) through different case studies as studied by psychologists in the most recently. Why it is important to consult a doctor if we have sleep anxiety symptoms, and why do many of us still fear the words mental hospital and mental health.
Causes of Sleep Anxiety: Our Brain Knows When We Have To Stay Awake
A good sleep is very important. However, anxiety disorder can cause extreme sleepiness, in odd hours of the day. But what can we say, if we are feeling too sleepy, that is mainly because our work-life balance is mostly not in our control and that is why it’s also called sleep disturbance- that is if you are sleeping during the day and are awake at night. These changes are detected by advanced technology used by doctors and they study the changes in physiological process-most commonly noted in the somatic and autonomic nervous system (ANS);- in the cerebral cortex in our brains.
The main function of a brain for sleep is that it has to carry out for a good sleep is arousal. Neurotransmitters in our hypothalamus send histamines to alert us not to sleep so that we can work. Some studies have shown that because of antibiotics the brain sends antihistamines causing us to sleep. Poor habit of sleeping can cause systematic failure in the respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems; in endocrine, renal and sexual functions; and also in thermoregulation of the body.
A point to note is that the most vivid dreaming state is not characteristic of a good sleep. It may be provoked by anxiety and pre-sleep rumination causing “Rapid Eye Movement” (REM) sleep. REM sleep is in fact longer than NREM sleep. These are different sleep patterns that occur in cyclical rotation when we are sleeping. In patients with sleep anxiety disorder (panic disorder, anxiety disorder) reportedly, the (anxiety) attack occurs within three hours of sleep onset. They are short lived, lasting approximately 2–8 min. In the transition into Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep or NREM sleep is fast and not with dreams, cognition or imagery. The sleep onset directly sometimes transitions into REM sleep which s symptomatic of sleep anxiety related disorders.
Main Factors of Sleep Anxiety
There are two main factors causing change in sleep patterns which affects sleep according to neurobiologists- homeostatic and circadian factor. When our neurons in the somatic and autonomic nervous system fire less suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) in homeostatic drive- it causes less sleep.
The psychosocial factors, considered as causes are mutually exclusive, and are individual specific monitoring of sleep in patients of sleep disorder. It is noted by social scientists that education and marriage are the leading causes of sleep anxiety.
Causes for Sleep Anxiety
1. Alcohol/drug use
You have to start accepting that you have a drug problem. Drugs here mean any external sources including caffeine. Using caffeine too much is also a reason for not sleeping on time. Avoid drinking coffee without a good reason. And definitely not in the evening or night. Alcohol in the morning and in the day time is also a problem. In common sense knowledge, alcohol is a sedative and is used to go to sleep or reduce anxiety. But it caused fragmented and non-restorative sleep in adults.
Sleep quality is affected by long working hours. Uninhibited multi-tasking and non-measurable workload is also casual of sudden deaths due to cardiovascular issues. The most famous example of this is the karoshi deaths in Japan. On top this, workplace politics and harassment is also causes of sleep anxiety disorder.
Depression and anxiety have a linear correlation with poor sleep quality. You may not be prone to loneliness, but occasionally one feels lonely. This can be for weeks and also months. Loneliness triggers over thinking and leads to lack of sleep. Even the sudden confinement of children because of the lockdown has caused mental health problems like loneliness.
4. Low self-esteem
Lack of sleep is also induced by overuse of social media without keeping in mind the time. As a way of coping, adolescents may also pick up smoking and alcohol which disrupts sleep. Low self-esteem can be because you ignore your own achievement and focus on others’. Negative thoughts, anxiousness, feeling ashamed are all signs of low self-esteem.
Sometimes at work and even at home we feel singled out for certain aspects of ourselves, like body weight, height or even in a moral or sexual point of view. This can cause fear to develop in the process. In such cases people want to cut out or put too much pressure on themselves to change themselves. Such new habits can also cause sleeplessness.
6. Limits to Entertainment
We should be especially aware of space and time when we want to be become healthy. And take one step at a time towards our goal. Overuse of our daily calendar and goals leads to anxiety and depression and hence also relates to sleep anxiety. It’s better to limit things cautiously and stick to the decision and be consistent. It’s important that we include some fun in our work schedule.
7. Wound healing
A severe accident often causes post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. Anxiety affects the pain and takes longer to heal. If this lasts many days and breaks our sleeping habit. This can cause sleep anxiety disorder.
8. Entrez Gene
It is a database of causes of anxiety disorder. It holds the information of our circadian rhythm genes and their expression. Sleep deprivation affects are moods and motor nervous system. Hormonal activity is one of the main causes of having a deep sleep. Studies have found that certain genetic continuity in families can cause restlessness and hence less sleep.
Sinus-infected people lack quality sleep as the pain takes a toll on mood. More often they are of depressed moods. Allergies, watery-eyes, inflammation-stimulating immune substances cause sleep deprivation. And at night sinuses get worse, because of gravity there is pull felt in the body’s internal tissues leading to the sinus tissues swelling up.
Sleep, mood, and quality of life is closely associated with a healthy body. Anxiety and depression symptoms are highly prevalent among patients with severe obesity. According to a 2012 study by John Hopkins researchers dietary changes alone or from diet combined with exercise, can help improve the quality of sleep among people who are overweight or obese.
What are the differences between Anxiety disorder and Sleep Disorder?
Anxiety Disorder is a large category for a variety of disorders which are directly related to sleep disorders. For example, depression and suicidal thoughts are also part of anxiety disorder. However, nocturnal obtrusive sleep is sleep anxiety, where the anxiety begins at the sleep onset. Anxiety disorder can affect sleep but sleep anxiety is itself another class of the disease. It is used for abnormal sleeping patterns and not necessarily for a disorder, which actually obstructs not only sleep but also when the person is not sleeping. In both scientists have different approaches when it comes to their treatments.
What are the health risks we have with sleep anxiety?
The most important discovery in the field of neuroscience in the 21st century is that lack of sleep was may not necessary be abnormal and more sleep may not necessarily repair our nervous system. There are a number of diseases associated with sleep anxiety disorder, like, sleep apnea, sleep hyperpnoea, epilepsy, and narcolepsy, sleep walking, gastro esophageal reflux and sleep paralysis. According to Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, mental ill-health is one of main causes of long-term physical disabilities.
Mental Health risks of Sleep Anxiety
Extreme anxiety can lead to memory loss. Anxiety and stress use up energy from our body and over a period of time, although anxiety attacks are actually memories, but the process is not always occurring in developmental stages.
Nervousness and sleeplessness
At the moment of fear and panic often grips the patient during sleep onset which lasts for two-eight minutes. This spurs a negative cycle and causes insomnia and anxiety disorder.
A feeling of detachment
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) when the patient recognizes anxiety, they make it a point to detach themselves emotionally from people, avoiding stress. This is process is called depersonalization. At times the medicines we take also cause this emotional detachment.
The cause of panic attack is not known, but cognitive behavior therapy and medications can prevent panic attacks. One can have feeling of breathlessness, hyperventilation, and rapid heartbeat all together during a panic attack. Nocturnal panic attacks take a while to calm down and affects sleep.
Can’t focus and concentrate
Any kind of emotional trauma does in fact lead to loss of concentration and attention. Mostly mood swings affect concentration and therefore can affect the complete life of the individual. Cutting down on news consumption and social media is a beginning to recover from this kind of sleep anxiety.
Physical Impacts of Sleep Anxiety
Not sleeping for a long time can lead to nausea and vomiting. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and functional dyspepsia (FD) have difficulty sleeping. Vice versa, sleeplessness can affect how you think about food. Since you cannot manage time, because of it, you will land up feeling stressed and eat junk food, which in return will affect your irritable bowel.
Snoring is not because of sleep anxiety. It can be a tissue which vibrates because it’s too floppy, because of alcohol and cigarette consumption and sinus or nasal problems generally. It is a pathophysiological condition which is initiated by vivid dreaming state and at times because of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Constantly disrupted sleep can lead to severe anxiety and brain disorders. Exercising daily, and changing your posture while you sleep are great ways to stop snoring.
Daytime fatigue may be because of stress and anxiety. This is a vicious cycle. As it makes the body susceptible to depression. Mental exhaustion leads to physical exhaustion. It’s also true that if somebody in the family is ill, the family members may be feeling fatigue. Even childbirth can cause fatigue.
This is called daytime sleepiness and is known to affect the immune system, making the body prone to infections and sickness behavior. You may sleep during the day which will conserve energy, but your body will fight the infections through fevers and other means.
Inflammation in the heart valves, low blood sugar and menopause can cause habitual night sweats. Fever and unplanned weight loss is one of the most common symptoms of stress including night sweats. You may have a condition called anhidrosis which causes night sweats. But as sleep far as sleep anxiety is concerned the roots of the problem can be a sleep disorder and can lead to parasomnia or sleepwalking.
Things to be practiced before going to bed?
- For those with sinus- Lay on your back. Sleep with your head elevated as this will drain mucus and relieve sinus pressure. You can use an extra pillow to prop your head up.
- Limit the use of the bedroom to only sleeping and having sex.
- Have chamomile tea as it calms the nerves
- Don’t workout at least for two hours before going to bed
- Switch off mobile phones and any kind of entertainment device which might distract you from sleep.
- Close your eyes and take long and deep breath and count them while laying on your back.
What are the Food changes you have to change?
- Eat vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and lean protein
- Regulate caffeine intake
- Avoid alcohol
- Animal experiments have endeavored to study the effect of GABA present
- in fermented foods which reduces anxiety and depression
- reduce carbonated drinks and fast foods as these cause stress
- Eat nuts and keep healthy snacks at home.
- Have a flavonol rich diet- like berries, red cabbage and onions.
- Take care of your glucose levels.
When to meet the doctor?
Sudden fast weight loss or weight gain or if you cannot sleep for more than a week or ten days continuously and its affecting your work and making you more anxious, you should visit a doctor immediately. The most workable and useful method used in treatment of sleep anxiety is actigraphy. It is used by therapists. It maps your sleeping patterns over a period of time and gives you suggestions for improvement. You have to wear wrist-watch like package on your wrist.
We have to be strong when we are suddenly facing heart palpitations, sweating and having nightmares, we should talk to somebody we trust and also reach out to a doctor if we feel that it is necessary for leading a healthy life. Delaying treatment and necessary actions will only worsen the sleep anxiety. Don’t become a recluse- go out every day a little even during the pandemic. Choose large spaces where there is less chance of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.
Does Plants help you get rid of Sleep anxiety?
Apparently hemp extract is good for reducing anxiety.
Does sleep anxiety comes with in our past memories?
A negative past event may trigger sleep anxiety in individuals.
How Sleep anxiety changes your life?
Sleep anxiety can affect your physical and mental health and make it worse. It is also known that sleep restores our energy to work and repairs body tissues.