Did you know that poor sleep can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression?
Although we all know how important diet and exercise are for our health and wellbeing, the importance of sleep is often underestimated, especially for our mental health.
Problems with sleep and anxiety tend to go hand in hand. If you are having problems with sleep, anxiety and stress are the most common causes. People who suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues often have problems with sleep, which only exacerbates their symptoms, and then the effects of sleep deprivation make it harder to improve their anxiety symptoms.
You may have difficulties in falling asleep; or difficulties in staying asleep; or both! Anxiety and stress can lead to constant worrying and negative thoughts (preoccupation), and not being able to relax, as your body and mind stay alert, both of which impact your sleep.
The Benefits of Sleep
So what should we be aiming for when it comes to sleep?
Healthy sleep is often characterized by:
- 7-8 hours of daily sleep;
- Sleeping at night and waking up in the morning;
- Falling asleep within 15-20 minutes of lying down on the bed;
- Feeling refreshed when waking up;
- Feeling alert and able to maintain energy throughout the waking hours;
- Sleeping without disturbance, or out of the ordinary behavior (eg snoring, pauses in breathing, teeth grinding).
Even if you don’t manage a good night’s sleep, each and every night, research studies show that it is important to have at least one good night’s sleep every four days. Poor sleep and sleep deprivation can result in problems such as:
- Increased anxiety and stress levels;
- Increased irritability and aggressive behavior;
- Depressed mood;
- Excessive appetite;
- Excessive sex drive;
- Fatigue and tiredness.
If you have been having ongoing problems with sleep, it could be a sleeping disorder such as:
- Insomnia—chronic difficulty in falling asleep and/or maintaining sleep when no other cause is found for these symptoms;
- Bruxism— involuntarily grinding or clenching of the teeth while sleeping;
- Nocturia—a frequent need to get up and urinate at night;
- Sleepwalking or somnambulism—engaging in activities normally associated with wakefulness (such as eating or dressing), which may include walking, without conscious knowledge.
Anxiety and problems with sleep can be difficult to tackle on your own, so it can be a good idea to seek support from a mental health professional. An experienced mental health professional, such as a psychologist, can suggest different strategies to both alleviate your anxiety symptoms, and improve the quality of sleep.
Author: Yu Takizawa, B Sc (Hons), M Couns, M App Psych.
Yu Takizawa is a Brisbane psychologist, fluent in both English and Japanese. He is particularly interested in offering counselling and psychotherapy services to people who are facing cultural challenges, or problems with anxiety.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Yu Takizawa, you can try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) by freecalling 1800 877 924.