I have severe anxiety. Not just that, I have multiple anxiety triggers: social situations, driving, and general anxiety (it can happen at any time with no warning). I used to be so scared to let people know. But now I realize it is okay. If I can help one person, I feel that I will have accomplished something.
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After years of continuing therapy, I am beginning to realize anxiety has been a part of my life for a long time. I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t anxious. I had my worst full-blown episode, thinking I was having a heart attack, in 2010. Part of this was triggered by a serious car accident two of my sisters had been in, as well as knowing my mother-in-law was in her last days fighting Parkinson’s Disease.
One area that was really affected was my sleep. This was different from the new mommy, can’t sleep through the night, stuff. This was busy brain, staying up all hours worrying about anything and everything. Worst-case scenarios were going through my mind.
I would like to share a few things that I have discovered over the years about anxiety in general and its link with sleep disorders.
Link between anxiety and insomnia?
Were you aware that there is a very common link between anxiety and insomnia? So much so that the two can lead you in a never-ending cycle. Research has shown that treating insomnia is an effective way of dealing with those feelings of anxiety.
Chronic insomnia is more rampant than you may realize, it actually affects 10 percent of adults in the US alone. Chronic insomnia is defined as having sleep issues for one month or more. This includes not being able to fall asleep, stay asleep, or just feeling that your overall quality of sleep is suffering.
Causes of Insomnia
If you think you may be dealing with chronic insomnia, it is important to visit your doctor first. It is possible that this could be an underlying sign of another health issue. Heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy, menopause, arthritis, or epilepsy could all be a cause of any sleep problems. (Note: I am not a doctor, and this is not to be used in place of medical advice.)
Many times any form of insomnia can be caused by another issue. For example, if you are feeling anxious or depressed, you may not be sleeping well. If you take steps to treat your anxiety or depression, this can ultimately help with your insomnia issues.
Foods and Beverages
Certain foods can contribute to both anxiety and insomnia. Alcohol and caffeine are known to be the two biggest culprits. Try to avoid foods such as tea, coffee, soft drink, and chocolate. If you are taking any medications, look to see if they contain caffeine; unfortunately many do. I have stopped drinking coffee myself. I was using it to try to stay awake, but it never seemed to help. As for the chocolate…well, I have given it up for the Whole30 program, but even after 11 days, I am still craving it (so that will probably be one of the first things I reintroduce).
If you currently smoke and are dealing with anxiety and/or insomnia, then you may want to consider quitting. Did you know that nicotine only acts to increase your blood pressure? Which in turn increases your heart rate and stimulates your brain. Then you wonder why you can’t get a good night’s sleep!
You may find that drinking a glass or two of wine before bed will help you sleep. It does help you fall asleep, but your sleep will not last long, and you will wake up feeling tired and groggy. You’ll be lucky even to get back to sleep at all.
Foods That May Help
If you are looking for foods that will help you sleep then choose those that contain calcium, B vitamins, and magnesium.
One of the best ways to deal with anxiety and insomnia is by starting some type of exercise routine. A 20-minute daily walk can do wonders for your health, and help induce sleep at nighttime. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime though, as this can stimulate your brain and body. Start out by walking 2 or 3 times each week.
Another cause of your insomnia could be your bedroom! Keep your room as dark as possible and free from any noise, such as the light from the television or an outside street light. If you happen to live on a busy street, you might want to try wearing a sleep mask at night. Or buy a white-noise machine. Also, check the temperature of your room. You don’t want to be too warm. Some people find it helpful to sleep with their window open a little.
You may want to get into the habit of trying some calming routines before bed. Take a warm bubble bath filled with lavender. Drink an herbal tea. Listen to some relaxing music. Read a book. All can help induce sleep. Try not to use a reading device with backlighting. Or use something with a night mode, like the Amazon Fire. My husband bought me one for Mother’s Day, and it seems to make a big difference.
Start to condition your mind that you are tired and that you will fall asleep. It will be difficult at first but try always to keep a positive mindset and not a negative one. Look forward to sleep – maybe even treat yourself to a new pillow and comforter.
Trying not to get anxious or stressed out over not sleeping is not easy. The more you fret and worry, the worse your insomnia becomes, it truly is a vicious cycle. I know. I’ve been there. There are even times that I still am up half the night.
I can’t stress enough the importance of seeing a doctor. In my case, my insomnia wasn’t all due to anxiety. I also have a thyroid issue (as well as other autoimmune disorders). And seek advice from a therapist and/or a psychologist. This isn’t something to be ashamed about. It is a real disease. It may be what we call a silent disease (since it isn’t seen or usually known), but it is still real.
Take the time to take care of yourself. I wish I had started treatment sooner. I still have a long way to go. Just starting this blog is therapy for me. Getting me out of my comfort zone and doing something I would never have attempted before.
Until next time, sweet dreams!