Most people know that getting a good night’s sleep is essential, but many don’t realize how closely linked sleep and anxiety are. In fact, there is a strong correlation between the amount of sleep you get and the severity of your anxiety symptoms.
The reason why is because your body releases serotonin while you sleep. Serotonin is the neurochemical in the brain that regulates anxiety levels, so when you get enough hours of quality sleep, your serotonin levels are higher than if you do not get enough sleep.
On the other hand, if your serotonin levels are low, it will be challenging to stop anxiety. There are exceptions, of course, but this is typically the case. So while it may seem difficult to believe that something as simple as getting enough sleep can have an impact on your anxiety levels, it’s actually very accurate. Getting at least 6 hours of high-quality sleep each night can help to decrease your anxiety.
But it’s not as simple as that. To fully understand how to best use sleep to your advantage, you need to know the different types of sleep and what they do for you.
Sleep Cycles: Your brain goes through different sleep cycles throughout the night. Each cycle is about 90 minutes long, and each one brings you closer to being asleep.
Non-REM is a very deep, dreamless state that most people experience only a few times each night. It plays an important role in helping your body recover from stress and build new cells, including those responsible for learning and memory. The non–REM cycle is where you have deeper and slower brain waves and decreased blood flow to the brain. On average, this type of sleep comprises about 75% of total sleep time.
REM – is a stage of sleep during which your eyes move rapidly, and you have dreams. When you experience your typical four or five REM cycles per night, each typically lasts from 10 to 30 minutes.
The amount of time spent in different stages of sleep can vary from night to night for any individual. However, suppose one consistently spends less than about an hour in slow-wave sleep. In that case, they are probably not getting enough restorative rest with their current sleeping schedule. For this type of essential recovery to take place, it is important to allocate at least six hours for a regular sleep period and allow the body sufficient time for going through all four stages before waking up.
Some healthy sleep habits you can use to ensure you are getting the best sleep are:
– Avoid caffeine at least six hours before your regular bedtime.
– Exercise during the day instead of just before you go to bed. The rise and fall of body temperature from exercise can interfere with sleep quality.
– Limit your alcohol intake as it leads to fragmented sleep and frequent awakenings throughout the night.
– Avoid checking your phone or watching TV in bed as these activities can interfere with sleep quality.
– Find a sleeping pattern that is best for you and stick with it (fall asleep around the same time every night).
Habits like these can help your body create an internal “sleep clock” that is more in tune with when you need to sleep. On average, adults should try to get at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep each night; however, an average of seven to nine hours is recommended for anyone who is trying to recover from anxiety.
Suppose your anxiety symptoms occur during the day. In that case, it can increase nighttime stress levels and interfere with your ability to fall asleep. The less you can rest properly, the harder it will be to function during the day and overcome your anxiety.
Suppose you are struggling to get good quality sleep. In that case, it may increase your anxiety, which can lead to further insomnia, creating a vicious cycle. Remember, some people with anxiety can struggle to fall asleep as a result of elevated stress levels.
This makes it important to try to discover what is keeping you up at night so you can begin dealing with the root cause instead of allowing your anxiety to escalate further.
Suppose you have trouble falling asleep or become dependent on sleep aids. In that case, it may be time to chat with a therapist about whether an alternative strategy would work better for you.
Having difficulties sleeping can be frustrating if you are trying to heal from anxiety. Think of restful sleep as your number one ally in the fight against your panic disorder. It will not only help to decrease overall anxiety, but it is also crucial for long-term health and wellness. By maintaining good sleeping habits and getting proper sleep regularly, you will experience a more restful and productive day.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, don’t despair. Healthy sleep habits and a regular routine can help your body establish an internal “sleep clock” that’s better in tune with when it needs to be resting. Habits like these will lead to more restful nights and promote higher levels of productivity during the day for those who have difficulty managing their anxiety symptoms, which may occur during daylight hours due to elevated stress levels.
I suggest tracking your sleep with a good old-fashioned pen and paper or using a smartwatch. You can help uncover patterns in your sleep patterns and get yourself on the path to correcting your sleep hygiene.
Like anything, consistency is key. Healthy sleep habits are dependent upon a routine. Apple iPhones have a bedtime reminder (what I personally use). Each time it goes off, I stop what I’m doing, brush my teeth, and go to bed. Starting this routine has helped me decrease the number of weird dreams I have (you know, the one all cops have about trying to pull a trigger and can’t). Additionally, I feel more restorative when I get up.
The other thing I do is keep my alarm set for the same time each and every day. Even on weekends, I’m up by 0530. After a couple of months, I really don’t need an alarm anymore.
Sleeping well is crucial for anyone who wants to overcome their anxiety. It’s important to stick to a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, and get up at the same time each day. Suppose you’re struggling with insomnia or have become dependent on sleep aids. In that case, it may be time to chat with a therapist about whether an alternative strategy would work better for you. By establishing good sleeping habits, you can help your body regulate its own “sleep clock” and get the most out of your restful nights.