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What are Anxiety Sleep Disorders?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 17, 2024
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Anxiety sleep disorders are problems that involve stress or other kinds of anxiety that may cause any number of problems with sleep. These disorders often affect falling asleep or staying asleep, although sometimes a person's anxiety may cause night terrors. For people suffering from anxiety sleep disorders, anxiety may or may not be a problem during waking life, but there is usually some kind of stress involved. The disturbances in sleep patterns caused by anxiety can eventually cause problems in daily activities. As such, finding a resolution for sleep anxiety disorders is important not only for mental health but for safety as well.

Usually, anxiety sleep disorders are characterized by an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. One might toss and turn or get near the point of sleeping only to jolt awake again. Waking suddenly in the middle of the night and being unable to return to sleep is also common. These problems are often related to stress and thinking about the stressful subject. Sometimes taking steps to become relaxed is enough to overcome minor anxiety sleep disorders.

These problems may happen with other common sleep disturbances associated with anxiety. Grinding one's teeth, for instance, is often associated with stress. Anxiety sleep disorders commonly involve nightmares or, more seriously, night terrors. These problems may cause a person to wake up or may cause other physical effects such as a sore jaw.

For many people, anxiety sleep disorders can be overcome by simply taking steps to relax prior to sleep. Problems when falling asleep are often related to the mind's tendency to wander prior to slumber. Keeping stressful thoughts to a minimum can be difficult, but meditation and keeping the sleeping space reserved for sleep can both help. When relaxation exercises prove insufficient, many people resort to medications such as sedatives. These can be dangerous and are usually not a good solution when a less extreme measure would be acceptable.

One of the more insidious problems with anxiety sleep disorders is that they perpetuate themselves. A person who is suffering from a lack of sleep typically becomes more irritable and anxious, making it yet more difficult to achieve normal sleep. While most people at one time or another will experience an isolated case of anxiety-induced insomnia, often as a response to an unusually stressful situation, extended periods of insomnia or other sleep disturbances can be quite dangerous. As such, it is important to seek treatment promptly if the cause of the insomnia will not resolve itself.

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