How Sleep Affects Anxiety
Anxiety is believed to be a reaction to stress, which brings about worrying thoughts and feelings of tension. It can also result in physical changes, like elevated blood pressure. Anxiety, just like physical pain, is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, temporary anxiety is normal and healthy. This is because it draws you to the things that stress you out to help properly deal with them. Chronic and excessive reactions to stress, on the other hand, can be problematic. These are anxiety disorders that simply do not go away, and in most cases, get worse over time. There are several treatment options for people who suffer from severe anxiety. The most common ones are medication, meditation, and psychotherapy. Today, however, we explore one simple, yet effective treatment option. This is none-other than the good old sleep. Quality sleep has been known to reduce anxiety. Read on to learn how the quantity and quality of your sleep affect anxiety.
Gives the Body and Brain Time to Heal
Multiple studies confirm that quality sleep is an essential factor in predicting longevity. Perhaps even more influential than genetics, diet, and exercise, almost all parts of the body are affected by the quantity and quality of your sleep. During sleep, neurons in the body get a chance to shut down in order to repair themselves. Without such an opportunity, neurons become over-polluted and depleted. The result: normal cellular activities begin to fail.
This lack of repair contributes to increased levels of anxiety because the body is not functioning optimally. Also worth noting, sleep provides cells with better protein production. That synthesis fuels much needed repair and growth resulting from stress and other degenerative factors. Quality sleep also maintains healthy social and emotional functioning.
Allows a Person to Put Emotional Events in Context
Professor, Matthew Walker, from the University of California, noted that lack of sleep reverts the brain to more primitive activities. This simply means that without sleep, you become less able to perceive emotional events in the right way to respond appropriately. To understand this better, it is important to note that there is a part of the brain that prepares the body to protect itself in casein times of danger. This is known as the amygdala. When it senses any danger, it sends a direct message to the prefrontal cortex, which decides whether to activate a flight or fight response.
Normally, the two brain sections work together to respond to danger appropriately. This keeps people from overreacting to various emotional responses. Without sleep, the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala cease working together (1). As a result, emotional centers become more active, which leads to slower reflexes, problems with concentration and focus, irritation, and heightened feelings of anxiety.
Reduces/ Eliminates Psychological Problems
Good sleep also factors in REM sleep. This is dream sleeping. Lack of REM sleep has been associated with causing or worsening multiple psychological problems. This type of sleep helps to process memories and emotions. Most importantly, it clears the day’s stressful events from the mind. During dreaming, experts believe this is the time when the parts of the brain used for developing new skills and learning are also stimulated. Ideally, humans should have at least 3-5 REM cycles in one night. This implies that if you are getting more quality sleep, you are bound to have a better mood the next day.
Promotes a Healthier Body
It is also essential to mention that enjoying quality shut-eye also allows you to live healthier. This means that your immune system functions better; thus, you avoid the sicknesses that take others down for days or weeks at a time. With a healthier body comes confidence and happiness (2). These both help to reduce anxiety significantly. Sleeping well also means increased energy and a more positive attitude towards life.
Ways in which to get more ZZZ’s
You have probably heard that you need to be getting at least seven to eight hours of good sleep every night. It may not be possible for some people. Luckily, quality sleep supersedes quantity. If you can get five or six hours of refreshing, uninterrupted sleep, you can still enjoy the perks sleep offers anxiety patients. This is also to say that eight hours of restless sleep will not do you any good. If you are a person who always has trouble sleeping, you need to adopt healthy sleeping habits as soon as possible. This can include making sure your sleeping environment is clean and cozy, reducing screen time night, avoiding stimulants or heavy meals right before bedtime.
Try these tips…
- Get a quality mattress! Spend the money by investing in your sleep, and you might save thousands on therapy and medicine.
- Wind down a minimum of one hour before bed. Ditch the screen and grab a book.
- Write down all the things on your mind before bed, or make a list in your journal of things you hope to accomplish the next day.
- Keep your room cool.
- Wear comfortable pajamas.
- Keep a pen and paper beside your bed to jot down anything that awakens you. Studies show this helps return you to sleep faster because you can “let it go.”
- End each day with gratitude. Before bed, write down all the things for which you’re grateful.
- Try a white noise machine.
- Diffuse essential oils, like lavender.
- Try deep breathing or meditation.
- Choose the right foods before bed that aid in sleep.
How does sleep affect anxiety for you? Do you notice a cause and effect? Tell us more in the comment section below.