Sleep anxiety is one of many forms of anxiety on the rise, but it?s not often talked about. The following aims to remedy this by examining what sleep anxiety is and looking at what can be done about it.
Sleep anxiety is an experience of stress, worry, or fear surrounding the idea of going to sleep. Worrying about not being able to fall asleep, not being able to stay asleep, or not being safe while a person is sleeping are all symptoms of sleep anxiety.
Sleep anxiety can coincide with other forms of anxiety in a person?s waking life, or it can arrive on its own. It might also exist alongside a sleep disorder that impacts a person?s ability to sleep well, such as sleep apnea, or other conditions that impact a person?s dreams, like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Symptoms of sleep anxiety can vary but may include things like irritability, feeling dizzy, nausea, or restlessness. Panic attacks, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate are common symptoms.
While every person is different, and there are multiple pathways to sleep anxiety, it is worth examining some common patterns that arise. At the most basic level, anxiety is an uncomfortable emotion that stems from feeling unsafe. Commonly, people feel unsafe when they don?t have control over the outcome of a particular situation.
Social anxiety is discomfort with the awareness that a person can?t control the outcome of social interactions. They could be laughed at. Financial anxiety is discomfort with the awareness that a person can?t influence their finances enough to keep themselves afloat. They might not be able to pay their bills. Sleep anxiety, therefore, is discomfort with the awareness that a person cannot control their sleep.
This discomfort is often multiplied by cultural norms people may or may not be aware that they?re participating in. Much of this discomfort is programmed into people from a very young age.
Being a parent is hard. No one will tell you otherwise. Keeping something alive that seems determined to get hurt is stressful. All too often, this stress is translated into an early bedtime. Parents need their kids to go to sleep at seven or eight because they need their kids to go to sleep at that time. They need a break. They need to catch up on laundry. They need a minute to themselves, or they?re going to cry.
The result of this extremely common dynamic (overworked parents) is that children pick up on their parents? extreme focus on bedtime. Kids hear things like: you need to go to sleep now. It?s bedtime. No, one minute isn?t okay. No, you don?t need to tuck your teddy bears into their bed first. No, you need to go to the bathroom again. Get to bed NOW.
Kids are told again and again that them going to sleep?at exactly the prescribed time?is extremely important. They?ve also witnessed first-hand how quick parents are to lose their temper when trying to put a kid to bed, further building their sense that falling asleep when required to is vital. Since children need their parents to survive, it?s common for them to associate upsetting their parents with risking their own survival. Ergo, going to sleep is now?in a child?s brain?a life-or-death situation.
Couple this very common experience with other aspects of modernity (many of which are stressful in and of themselves), and you have a recipe for sleep anxiety. You have a whole bunch of people who get really nervous when they think about going to sleep. All the while, doctors and online productivity gurus are telling people they need to get more sleep.
Foremost, if you?re struggling with sleep anxiety, you need to know that you?re not crazy. Sleep is as essential for human life as water and air are; it is the time when a person?s body repairs its cells. Cell repair is what keeps us alive and healthy. Beyond this, sleep dramatically improves our mental state allowing us to be more patient, content, and wise as we go about our day. This, in turn, positively influences things like our relationships, our food choices, our financial choices, and our work performance. Quickly, good sleep can compound and have a lovely effect on every area of a person?s life. Not sleeping can, likewise, compound and have a brutal impact on quality of life.
Second, acknowledge that all anxiety serves a purpose. Anxiety is your body?s way of telling you that it thinks something is unsafe. All too often in modern culture, people are told to ?deal with? their anxiety as if the anxiety isn?t valid, as if it?s simply a misfiring of neurons that results from a broken brain. And if you?ve noticed, anxiety is skyrocketing? perhaps this approach isn?t so effective. Maybe anxiety gets louder and louder until it?s heard.
Anxiety occurs when your body finds you in a scenario that has brought you pain or suffering in the past. If sleep (or the lack of it) has brought you suffering before, this means your body is doing what it should be doing by sending you a little warning, reminding you that you could get hurt if you?re not aware and careful.
Try to look at your anxiety from the outside. What trigger reminded your body of a negative sleep experience? At what moment did the nervousness begin? Have you had positive sleep experiences in the past? What was different about those times? You might find it helpful to take on this process with a professional. One anxiety psychologist in Brisbane points out that there are several types of treatment that can help you identify the root of your anxiety. These include CBT, EMDR, and Schema Therapy, among others.
Simply distracting yourself or finding a way to numb the symptoms of your anxiety doesn?t help you tackle the source of it. Many people find keeping a journal of their anxiety symptoms can help them recognize patterns that can help with this.
Having been introduced to the concept of sleep anxiety and how it can be understood and worked with, you?re in a good place to begin your own sleep anxiety journey. It?s important to know that sleep anxiety is a thing that can be addressed and released.