It’s Not In Your Head: Sleep Deprivation Makes Your Anxiety Worse

sleep deprivation anxiety

Guest blog by Eric Kelly of My Dadventures

If you have a mental health disorder like anxiety, ADHD, or depression, or you’re in a high-stress position at work (learn more about how stress affects managers here), you might think you feel worse after a night of poor sleep. The truth is that you probably do feel worse, and not just because you’re tired. There is evidence to suggest that sleep disorders and anxiety are in a toxic relationship, with each having the ability to impact the other. Fortunately, although you can’t cure either condition on your own, there are things you can do to help you get better sleep so that you are in a better mindset to manage your mental health. Here are some tips that might make those restless nights a little easier.

What Does Sleep Deprivation Do?

Sleep deprivation is a serious concern. When your brain does not have adequate time to shut down and reboot, you may face the next morning with a negative outlook. Not sleeping affects your brain’s ability to regulate hormones, which are chemical messengers that play a huge role in your overall mood. Further, long-term sleeplessness can cause memory issues. It can even bring your libido to a grinding halt, which Talk Space’s Dr. Samatha Rodman explains can have a dramatic — and negative — impact on your relationship. All of these side-effects work together to exacerbate existing emotional turmoil.

Sleep Isn’t Illusive

When you are in the throes of insomnia, you may begin to feel as though slumber will never come again. However, before you give up hope or reach for a sleeping pill, spend some time evaluating your environment. You might find that there are things you can change for the better.

Your mattress is one example. Although the surface upon which you sleep is an obvious determiner of your overnight comfort, far too few people truly know how to buy the right mattress. It is not enough to walk into a store and pull out your credit card for the first model you see on sale. You have to get to know your sleep style. Mattresses run the gamut from ultra-plush to extra-firm, and your mattress consultant can help you understand the differences. For most people, however, a memory foam mattress is a good first place to start. These are available in all softness levels and in all price ranges. A memory foam mattress may be flippable, suited for one-side sleeping only, or designed with more than one material type. Of course, all of these factors affect its comfort and price.

Less obvious, but just as important, is the weight and material of your bed covers. If you routinely find yourself sweating through the night, look for bed sheets that wick moisture from your skin. Likewise, when you toss and turn more than you lie still, you may need a heavier blanket to help you self-regulate. Weighted blankets provide a deep-pressure sensory experience, which can stimulate dopamine and serotonin production. These are two hormone neurotransmitters that can make you feel more relaxed even after a stressful day.

You’ll also want to check your HVAC and ensure the ambient temperature in your home is somewhere between 62 degrees and 68 degrees. Your bedroom should be a stress-free space free of clutter. Some aromatherapy can help lift the atmosphere. When noise is a problem, a sound machine, running fan, or pair of foam earplugs can help reduce distractions. Finally, pay close attention to what you eat and how much you exercise. Failure to eat well and exercise are both mistakes when you can’t sleep. This is especially true when you are already struggling to stave off unwelcome thoughts and feelings.

Many people have some form of mental illness, and almost all of these report a co-occurring sleep disorder. You are not alone, and if the self-help methods above do nothing to bring restorative sleep, talk to your doctor. They can evaluate your current medications as well as your lifestyle choices to help rule out any underlying causes of your sleeplessness.

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