Get More Sleep to Manage Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Find Out How to Get a Better Night's Sleep and Soothe Anxiety

woman eyes closed laying in bed
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Many people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) struggle with sleep problems. Typical issues are inability to fall asleep and difficulty staying asleep, particularly in times of heavier stress. One possible solution to some of these problems is to practice good sleep hygiene and structure your sleep schedules in ways that facilitate us getting the best sleep we can.

Health and Sleep

Dr. Daniel Kripke is a sleep expert from Scripps Clinic of Sleep in La Jolla, California, who has examined insomnia in a wide range of studies.

Sleep loss and sleep disorders are serious health issues. Anywhere from 50 to 70 million Americans are estimated to chronically suffer from sleeplessness. Beyond just feeling sleepy, this can harm work performance, delay motor functions, impact physical health, and can even decrease life longevity.

For those with GAD, sleep is extremely important. Not having enough rest can make you sluggish and irritable, making you feel unprepared. This can be a trigger for your anxiety, increasing your symptoms.

Sleep and GAD are connected in a cycle. Because you worry and are anxious, you have trouble sleeping. When you cannot sleep, you become more anxious, and so on. This a dangerous cycle does not come without long-term effects.

Kripke's Approach to Getting Better Sleep

Dr. Kripke examined those with poor sleep and good sleep to find common practices to improve the quality of rest. Essentially, there are two main elements to Dr. Kripke’s approach and several supporting factors.

The first is to wake up at the same time every single day regardless of what time you went to sleep. Figure out when you need to be up on a regular basis and make that your standard wake-up time. Ideally, this will help you get tired at a regular time at night, making it easier to fall asleep.

It's important to keep that time consistent every day.

While it may be tempting to sleep in on weekends, it can actually backfire. It's impossible to "catch up" on sleep and changing your routine will only make it more difficult to get rest when it's back to work.

The second element is that people should only go to sleep when they are tired. Laying in bed tossing and turning simply because the clock reads a certain time can actually make sleep more difficult than if you stayed up an extra half hour. If after twenty or thirty minutes you do not feel tired, get up and do something soothing, like reading a book, until you feel tired. Avoid watching television or using a computer, as the light can keep you awake. Kripke also recommends avoiding alcohol, caffeine, sleep aids, and spending time in bed when you are not trying to sleep.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

Dr. Kripke is emphatic in pointing out that research does not support the idea that people need 8 hours of sleep per night to be healthy. Many professionals view the amount of sleep needed by people as a range where some people need more and others need less to function optimally.

Therefore, worrying about that you are not getting enough sleep to be healthy is actually not supported by sleep research. Finally, no approach works for everyone. If this method doesn’t work for you, continue your search to find a method that does.

If your anxiety continues to harm your ability to sleep, talk to your therapist or your primary care doctor. They will be able to offer you treatment options, including therapy or medication, to help you get the rest you need.

Sources:

Colten, H. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation, 2006. 

Kripke, DF. "Mortality Associated with Sleep Duration and Insomnia". Archives of General Psychology, 2002, 131-136. 

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