We see it and hear it everywhere and from all angles – getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night is critically important to our mental health and our physical health, but that’s about as far as it goes. Few of us actually know the science behind the statistics, the concepts behind the claims, and the research that supports the results.

When it comes to sleep and anxiety, these two phenomena have a complex relationship that can actually dictate the quality of sleep you receive, while also impacting the level of anxiety that you feel each day – especially if you are someone who is prone to anxiety.

With that in mind, let’s take a deep dive into this relationship. In this short article, we are going to talk about 5 important things to know about the relationship between sleep and anxiety, and how each one plays off of the other. With more insight, knowledge, and resources, you can work best practices into your life, so that you’re sleeping better and feeling less anxious. Let’s take a look.


Sleep & Anxiety Can Go Hand In Hand

While you might not realize it, both anxiety and sleep disorders are quite common in Australia. In fact, nearly 2 million people struggle with anxiety yearly. Additionally, 1 in 5  people struggle with sleep disorders. The two go hand in hand, and many people who struggle with one or the other don’t even realise the impact that it’s having on their mental and physical health.

Quality sleep is integral to our body’s ability to rest, recover, and rejuvenate itself after each and every day. However, when our mind is racing with anxious thoughts or when you’re feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, and over worked, your body is less likely to achieve the quality sleep that it needs to fully recover. This leaves you feeling tired, groggy, and unenergised the next day – which in turn, can cause even more feelings of anxiety.

This is a simple explanation, but it still holds up. In other words, increased anxiety can lead to less quality sleep – and vice versa.


Anxiety Symptoms Are Sleep Obstructors

If you are someone who struggles with anxiety, then you’re likely well aware of the debilitating symptoms that come along with it. However, you might not realise just how devastating these symptoms can be when it comes to sleep.

For example, aside from the anxious thoughts and feelings, there are a few invisible symptoms that can heavily impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. These symptoms include increased heart rate, stomach problems or GI problems, and even restlessness. Remember, insomnia and anxiety comorbid – in other words, they often come together.

Most of the time, insomnia is a secondary disorder that comes as a result of anxiety. The common theory is that treating the primary disorder, which for insomnia, is often anxiety, depression, or another health-related reason, should help to effectively treat the secondary disorder.

 man holding hand in head looking stressed

Physical Activity Can Treat Both Sleeplessness & Anxiety

Depending on the severity of your anxiety symptoms and level of sleeplessness, there are a few things that you can do on your own to help improve your experience. One of the most trusted ways to work on your anxiety on your own is to engage in physical activity. Exercising is a great way to lower anxiety and improve sleep – specifically when you engage in physical activity in the morning or afternoon.

For some people, you might be fine exercising before bed, but this is typically not recommended. When you exercise before bed, it could end up being counterproductive, because the excess energy might contribute to sleeplessness! Instead, try to incorporate regular exercise into your life each day in the morning or afternoon and see just how well this tactic works for you.


Say No To Caffeine & Alcohol

We all know just how important coffee can be to our daily lives – a cup in the morning, perhaps another cup at lunch, and who knows – maybe even a cup after dinner! Well, the fact of the matter is that caffeine, although it can come in handy during those tough mornings, can also be detrimental to your ability to relax your mind and body.

Caffeine increases your heart rate, which can induce symptoms of anxiety. And when it’s time to go to bed, an increased heart rate can keep you awake. Similarly, alcohol does very much the same, and drinking alcohol before going to bed might leave you lying awake without even a hint of sleep! Perhaps, instead of drinking a second cup of coffee at lunch, drink a glass of water instead. Similarly, after dinner, drink another glass of water at least one hour before bedtime, so that you don’t find yourself walking over to the liquor cabinet or waking up to run to the bathroom.


Shut off The Screens

Lastly, this is something that has only recently come up as a major point of concern for those who struggle with anxiety and sleeplessness. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been forced to retreat to our homes during more than a year of social distancing. This meant that work, school, and even entertainment and socialising became screen-based exercises that saw us staring at our computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones more than ever before.

The light that these screens emit actually keep our brains awake! This means that all of the hours we spend Zooming, emailing, typing, and scrolling contributes greatly to our inability to fall asleep – especially when we’re plugged in from the moment we wake up to the moment our heads hit the pillow. It’s always a good idea to limit your screen time whenever possible – this will certainly impact your anxiety symptoms and your inability to fall asleep at night.


Sleep and Health

If you’re interested in learning more about sleep and health, you can pay a visit to the Rest Organic blog and read more about these topics.