Sleep and Anxiety: How Much Does Lack of Sleep Affect Anxiety?

A  good night’s sleep is essential to recharge and get completely functional for the next day. But lack of sleep takes a huge toll on your mental and physical well-being.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that adults who don’t get recommended 7 hours of sleep at night are more prone to developing chronic health conditions including depression, arthritis, and diabetes.

By and large, there’s a link between sleep deprivation and anxiety. Both complement each other. If your body doesn’t get enough time to refresh, it is bound to showcase its adverse effects, anxiety being one of the major consequences.

Does the lack of sleep trigger anxiety in you too?

This article will discuss the relationship between sleep deprivation and anxiety. Moreover, you’ll also learn different tricks to improve your sleeping pattern.

What is Anxiety?

Woman that is worried.

In simple terms, anxiety is the fear of what’s going to happen next. When you anticipate a threat or a harsh event coming ahead, your body’s natural response is anxiety. It triggers feelings of stress, worry, and fear in you.

There are multiple kinds of anxiety, including:

  • General anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

Surprisingly, the link between sleep and anxiety is bi-directional, i.e., lack of sleep leads to anxiety, and anxiety causes sleeplessness. Thus, if left disregarded, the cycle could perpetuate between sleep and anxiety disorders.

The Harvard Health Publishing states that sleeping issues affect around 50% – 80% of US adults with generalized anxiety disorder.

If your sleeping issues persist for a long time, you become prone to excessive worrying and may even develop depression.  The connection between sleep deprivation and anxiety isn’t completely decoded yet. However, the available data hints towards their negative relationship.

A study revealed that generalized anxiety disorder was predicted by sleep issues in teens and children of the 9-16 age group. 

How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Anxiety?

By and large, the sleeping patterns of a person hugely impact how he experiences the world. Going longer without getting adequate sleep can make you feel anxious and more distressed. 

The University of California, Berkeley researchers, carried out a study primarily focused on a major hidden consequence of limited sleep, i.e., anxiety.

They observed the subjects’ anxiety levels after a night of adequate sleep and another night of complete sleep deprivation. The results showed that the anxiety levels in people were higher after a sleepless night than after a night of normal sleep.

Moreover, the researchers also examined the subjects’ brain activity during both nights with a brain scanner. They found that the activity of the medial prefrontal cortex, a part that controls emotions, was reduced during sleep deprivation. Therefore, a sleep-deprived brain is more likely to fall prey to anxiety and stress.

So, one can pen the relation between sleep and anxiety as:

  • A full night’s sleep imparts positive mental health benefits as well as strengthens emotions
  • Chronic sleep deprivations can lead to excessive worrying and weakened emotional control

How to Treat Sleep Problems and Anxiety?

By and large, both anxiety and sleep deprivation can be treated with similar techniques. However, to break the sleep-anxiety cycle, you need to improve your lifestyle in addition to using medications or therapies.

Improving Lifestyle

Bringing positive changes to your way of living promotes a sense of satisfaction that ultimately helps you sleep better. Moreover, these changes also help reduce anxiety.

Here are some ways to improve your overall lifestyle.

  • Avoid Sleep Inhibitors at Night: There are certain foods and beverages, including coffee, tea, alcohol, nicotine, etc., that stimulate sleeplessness should be avoided close to bedtime. They affect your body’s rhythm and keep you awake all night.
  • Follow a Bedtime Schedule:  Going to bed and waking up at a fixed time every day can hugely help you get rid of sleep deprivation. In addition, try to avoid taking a nap during the daytime so that your body feels tired at night.
  • Avoid Screen Before Sleeping: Ideally, you should turn the tv and mobile off at least an hour before sleeping. Being in front of a screen till late will disrupt your sleep cycle. Resultantly, the lack of sleep will lead you to be anxious the next day.
  • Read a Book:  Setting bedtime rituals such as reading a book or taking a hot shower are great sleep stimulants. Reading a book will take your mind off the daily stress and relax it. In addition, a calm mind will help you sleep much faster.
  • Create a Sleeping Environment:  Your room’s vibe at bedtime is also an important factor that helps you fall asleep. For instance, you can light up a candle at your bedside, make your room cool and dark, put on light and relaxing music, etc. 

These things also distract you from worldly stressful thoughts that are the main reason behind your sleep deprivation.

Alternative Therapies

Apart from improving living habits, multiple alternative therapies help you improve sleep and reduce anxiety.

Using CBD

CBD oil in a bottle.

A study observed the condition of adults with sleep and anxiety after CBD administration. The researchers found that around two-thirds of adults depicted positive changes in their sleep and anxiety over a period of three months.


Meditation is a vital and effective tool for curing sleep problems and anxiety. When you meditate, your ability to focus on positive thoughts enhances. Also, it involves breathing exercises that help you calm and relax.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT aims at teaching you the factors where your sleep issues and anxiety may initiate. For instance, it helps you recognize your negative thought patterns. 

Once recognized, you’re then able to replace those destructive thoughts with constructive and more positive ones. Consequently, your sleep and anxiety issues reduce as you no more cling to the adverse thought processes.

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Adequate sleep is integral to a healthy brain. Most of the time, lack of sleep leads to harsh outcomes such as anxiety. By and large, sleep and anxiety are interlinked, with one leading to the other. 

If left untreated, anxiety due to sleep deprivation can assume the shape of a more severe issue like depression.

However, there are effective treatment methods to cure them. In worst-case scenarios, talking to a doctor is inevitable.

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