Posted on January 8, 2017 in Mental Health

Can Lack of Sleep Cause Anxiety?

The average adult needs about seven hours of sleep a night to feel fully rested and functional. Teenagers need to get an additional two hours of sleep to maintain their normal function during the day. Unfortunately, if you fail to get enough sleep, you may experience significant feelings of anxiety. At the same time, people with anxiety-related problems may find themselves having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Sleep Problems and Sleep Disorders

The National Institutes of Health estimates that about 20 million Americans sometimes experience disruptions in their normal sleeping patterns. More than twice that number of people have ongoing or chronic sleep disturbances serious enough to meet the definition of a diagnosable sleep disorder. A sleep problem becomes a sleep disorder when it repeatedly interferes with your ability to maintain a sense of mental/emotional or physical well-being during waking hours.

Lack of Sleep and Anxiety

So, can lack of sleep cause anxiety? In a word, yes. This typically happens with a sleep disorder instead of occasional sleep problems. However, you can potentially experience worry during any episode of sleeplessness. This worry may be directed at sleeplessness itself, or at some other target such as an upcoming daytime activity. Scientists now believe that sleep deprivation and other ongoing sleep disruptions may play an important role in setting the stage for diagnosable anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. These disruptions may also play a key role in triggering the onset of depression and a wide array of other diagnosable mental health issues. However, not all people with sleep problems or sleep disorders will develop problems with anxiousness, an anxiety disorder or any other mental health condition.

Anxiety and Lack of Sleep

Before fully answering the question, can lack of sleep cause anxiety, it’s important to understand the two-way connection between sleep and your mental/emotional state. Some people don’t qualify for an anxiety disorder diagnosis, but still feel anxiousness that at least occasionally interferes with their ability to get a good night’s sleep. In other cases, a diagnosable anxiety disorder produces significant symptoms of insomnia or other sleep disturbances. However, not all anxious people or people with anxiety disorders experience disruptions in their ability to get decent rest.

Resources

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Sleep Disorders

https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/sleep-disorders

National Sleep Foundation: The Complex Relationship Between Sleep, Depression and Anxiety https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/the-complex-relationship-between-sleep-depression-anxiety

Sleep Health Foundation: Anxiety and Sleep http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/files/pdfs/AnxietyandSleep.pdf

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