The Connection Between Anxiety and Sleep
If you're considering therapy to deal with anxiety, then it's important to understand your condition. Some patients with anxiety are prone to have difficulty sleeping while others have sleep disorders that can produce the symptoms of anxiety or depression. One effect of sleeping disorders is that people, for example, have anxiety about their ability to fall asleep because it takes them so long to enter sleep time, which is also called increased sleep onset latency.
There has been extensive research completed in recent years on patients with sleep disorders and anxiety, including studies with and without the control group. This research has been relevant to the new craze over using gravity blankets as a therapy to improve a person's quality of sleep. There are mixed findings on whether gravity blankets can help adults, especially if you have trouble sleeping but are not diagnosed with a condition like autism or a sleep disorder. The thinking is that the gravity blanket helps people to feel as though they are snuggling and protected as they might feel in their mother's womb. Before buying a gravity blanket or another over-the-counter product, it's important to discover why you're having symptoms associated with sleep disorders or anxiety or both. Your symptoms cannot be fully understood without proper diagnosis and treatment from a qualified professional.
The Connection Between Anxiety and Sleep
In a recent study on the elderly, Leblanc et al wrote:
Anxiety is in turn linked to a greater likelihood of poor sleep efficiency and awakening at night, increased sleep onset latency, poor quality of sleep, and daytime sleepiness. Finally, overall, less anxiety and depression are observed in good sleepers than in poor sleepers.
The bottom line is that, when you sleep better, you're going to be at your best throughout the day and more prepared to handle the effects of anxiety. You could spend between $100 and $250 on a gravity blanket, which usually translates to beads totaling ten percent of your body weight, or you could get into therapy for anxiety disorders. The cost of a gravity blanket could, for example, pay for one to three sessions of therapy depending on your health insurance plan or employee assistance program benefits. If you have trouble sleeping, have anxiety, or both, you need to develop new habits that will help you address them. Scientists used to believe that anxiety and depression caused sleep disorders, but new research shows that sleep disorders can cause anxiety.
What it Means to Be Sleep-Deprived
A sleep disorder or an anxiety disorder may come first in a patient. When deprived of sleep, you're always tired. You cannot function as you used to when you were symptom-free. Mary Shull uses therapeutic techniques to help private clients deal with the effects of either disorder. She helps patients get to the heart of the matter. They may need to do common therapies such as keeping a sleep journal. They may need to discuss their fears, especially those that make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Mary is committed to treating the whole patient, which means working together to solve one issue at a time. The common connection between anxiety and sleep disorders is that a patient cannot function at normal capacity because he or she is slowed down by anxiety (or his or her physical reactions to fears - whether real or imagined) or by a lack of sleep or by both conditions. Whenever the brain experiences sleep deprivation, a person has a decreased ability to cope with problems and/or symptoms of illness. Everyday stressors are hard to deal with when one is exhausted. Don't let your symptoms stop you from enjoying your life.
Coping with Anxiety While You Are Awake
One of the most panic-inducing issues with anxiety is that it can happen anywhere. Depending on what stress is piling up in your mind at the moment, a trigger can occur and induce a panic attack. While you can alter your behavior to help prevent an attack in known places, situations or people that trigger panic, you can still find yourself having anxiety when you are away from your home base. Therefore, it is a good idea to be prepared for times anxiety can strike when you are out and about.
Meditation has been proven to help people focus their minds for many reasons. For someone with anxiety, it is a great way to calm down. You don't need a lot of time to meditate. Find a spot that is relatively quiet, preferably where you can sit down. Close your eyes, and work on clearing all thoughts from your mind. Slow down your breathing. Breathe in and hold it for a count of five, then breathe out and do the same. Continue for five to ten minutes or until you calm down.
Physical exercise can be a great solution to anxiety. If you are somewhere that you have room to walk, ask for a ten-minute break and just walk. Use the walk to focus your mind on your surroundings, or if that is too difficult, work clearing your mind from all thoughts. Count your steps. Look for five things you love in the world around you. Or play a game with yourself by counting all of the things you see that are one color.
Coloring isn't just for kids. Adults have found that coloring is a good way to lower stress levels and help with anxiety attacks. The act of choosing a color and focusing on coloring in sections of a pattern can distract you from your thoughts and allow you to concentrate on the soothing repetition of filling in sections of a pattern with color. There are numerous coloring books for adults available online, in book stores and art shops. All you need is a small coloring book and a few pencils to work on when you feel anxious.
Mind Distraction Techniques
There are many mind games you can play with yourself to help alleviate anxiety, but simplicity generally is the best answer. A good distraction technique to start with is the game of five. Start with anything:
- 5 things you see that are blue
- 5 people who love you
- 5 types of weather in your city
- 5 activities you love
- 5 places you want to visit
You can keep playing the game of five until you are calm or switch to another technique after you are calm enough. If you are thinking about the game of five, your thoughts won't be able to spiral into more anxiety. You can even ask someone to help you think of topics and do it with you. Five things that make you laugh, your five favorite movies, five silly pet names. Any list of five will do.
Keep a List
Prepare yourself for times that anxiety strikes without warning by keeping a list of techniques that work for you. Carry it in your purse or pants pocket. Whether you use this list or make your own, you'll feel better if you know that you are prepared in case of a surprise anxiety attack when you are out at work, on vacation or just doing errands. Contact me for more coping techniques.