Anxiety and insomnia are often related. Each can be the cause of the other, which can lead to a vicious cycle that may seem impossible to break.
A study conducted by Dag Neckelmann, MD, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, shows that chronic insomnia increases your odds of having anxiety disorders. So, treating chronic insomnia may be one way to alleviate feelings of anxiety.
Although many people have suffered insomnia in certain periods of their lives, chronic insomnia is characterized by one month or more of having trouble falling asleep, waking up too early or overall poor quality of sleep. It affects 10 percent of adults in the US.
To fight chronic insomnia, first check with a doctor to ensure that conditions like heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, pregnancy, menopause or arthritis aren't the cause of the problem. Certain medications may also negatively affect healthy sleep.
Seek any psychological factors that are affecting your rest. For example, one major sign of depression is not being able to go back to sleep after waking up too early. So, in this case, treating your depression may also help with your insomnia.
One way to deter both anxiety and insomnia is to cut down on caffeine and alcohol. Coffee is the obvious culprit when it comes to too much caffeine but you also want to avoid tea, soft drinks, chocolate and certain medications. While you may fall asleep quickly after drinking alcohol, your sleep will be light and fragmented.
Calcium enhances sleep, as do B vitamins and magnesium.
And then there's smoking. . . Nicotine increases blood pressure, speeds up the heart rate and stimulates brain activity—not what you want when you're trying to get a good night's sleep.
Another way to kick the insomnia is through exercise. You don't have to jump gung-ho into a gym or athletic club, though. Just a 20 minute walk every day (or even 3/4 times a week) can help. The best time to exercise is in the late afternoon. Do not exercise just before bed—that would be counter-productive as exercise stimulates your body.
The right environment and position are also conducive to sleep. Your room should be as dark as possible. Any kind of light, and especially blinking, flashing lights or lights from the TV, are disruptive to sleep.
You can also try wearing a mask to block out light although some find this uncomfortable. A white noise maker is a way to block out bumps in the night or other sounds that could wake you up. Temperature is also important. Make sure that your thermostat is set at a comfortable position for you when you're covered in blankets.
If you've tried everything and you still can't sleep, try not to get stressed out about it. This just makes matters worse. Try to do something calming like reading or taking a warm bath and go back to bed as soon as you start feeling sleepy. Herbal supplements such as Valerian, passionflower, and hops can be helpful, along with a short-term trial of melatonin, or CBD oil. Testing for hormone imbalances may be a good idea.
The above information about anxiety and insomnia does not substitute medial advice given by a health professional.
The Gut Doc is located in Kirkwood, Missouri, and serves clients throughout the St. Louis Area and surrounding areas, including St. Louis City and County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, Illinois counties of Madison, St. Clair and Monroe.