If you’re experiencing stress in your life, chances are that you might be struggling to fall or stay asleep at night. Your anxious worry about life and its problems may keep your brain from settling down, and the disruption of sleep is likely to keep you feeling more on edge the next day.
Sleep disruption is a common feature of mental health problems, and anxiety is no exception. You don’t have to have a diagnosed anxiety disorder to feel the impact the stress and worry can have on your sleep patterns. Over 40 million Americans say they experience a long-term sleep disorder, with many others experiencing occasional sleep disruption. 70% of adults report that they experience daily stressors, so it makes sense that Americans on average are reporting they get less sleep than in previous decades.1
Which Comes First?
So which comes first, the anxiety or the disruption of sleep? Researchers have found that the relationship between sleep problems and anxiety is bidirectional. This means that sleep problems can cause anxiety, and anxiety can disrupt your sleep. And just like anxiety, sleep problems can impact how you function emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Because sleep and anxiety have such a strong relationship, it’s important to address both when you meet with your doctor. In addition to anxiety, sleep problems can put you at higher risk for missing work or school, injuring yourself, and developing health conditions such as heart attack, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes among others.2 If you’re being treated for chronic insomnia, it’s essential to express any concerns you have about how anxiety affects your day-to-day life. Treating sleep problems without taking steps to manage anxiety and reduce stress is unlikely to have any real impact.