The Anxiety and Sleep Cycle – Hypnotherapy in Ely and Newmarket
We’ve all experienced it. There’s something from your day that is causing anxiety, stress or worry and that has been on your mind. You might feel shattered and exhausted from thinking about it and trying to handle it. And then you go to bed and that little voice in your head, and the troublesome scenarios, just keep going around and around inside of your mind. You just want to switch off and sleep yet it’s like your brain has other ideas.
If you are just dealing with something that will get sorted the next day, like an upcoming important meeting or interview, then your night time restlessness may be short lived. You struggle to sleep well for a night or two, the situation or event passes, and things return back to your normal sleep pattern.
And of course, your anxiety and sleep disturbance may stop you getting to sleep easily when you first close your eyes, or it may be that you wake in the night (from anxiety or from something like needing the loo, the kids disturbing you or you other half snoring) and then in an instant your brain is whirring away and you start thinking all sorts of negative things. At night those thoughts can often be very negatively distorted and things can seem a lot worse than they actually are. The whole time you lie there awake and thinking and you may be very conscious of time passing, your opportunity for some sleep reducing and the growing likelihood of needing to cope with the next day whilst feeling exhausted.
And that’s all just where there is something short term and specific to deal with. When you struggle with more persistent and enduring anxiety or insomnia, you can quickly get drawn into a cycle where your tiredness exacerbates your anxious thoughts and feelings, and your anxiety strengthens your sleep issues.
The Anxiety and Sleep Cycle
Anxiety and sleep issues are often closely associated and can definitely create an ever more detrimental cycle where each negatively influences the other. When working with a client who presents with anxiety issues, I will always check upon their sleep duration and quality, due to the often negatively exacerbating interaction between anxiety and sleep. The same also applies in reverse and if you come to me seeking help with sleep issues, I will also check on your levels of anxiety, stress and worry.
Anxiety can lead to sleep issues, and sleep issues can increase anxiety issues. If you have anxiety, you may struggle to get to sleep at night due to your heightened state of emotional arousal, worry and overthinking when in bed at night. You may find that you can get a little sleep (almost as if your body shuts you down for a couple of hours) but then you wake in the night and lie there, sometimes for many hours, worrying and thinking. Anxiety is potentially increased in these night time waking hours because there are no distractions, your ability to reason clearly is hampered by tiredness, and there may be a growing sense of stress and frustration around being awake when you just want to be asleep (along with more worry about how you will cope with the next day with so little sleep).
This sleep deprivation can increase, or lead to, more daytime anxiety. You may struggle with thinking, focus and concentration leading to work or study worries. Your tiredness may lead you to withdraw socially and from doing the things you usually enjoy (creating even more anxiety and lowness). And your mental and physical tiredness makes it harder for you to handle, deal and cope with your own stream of anxious thoughts that ceaselessly race through your mind.
On the flip side, this circular relationship between anxiety and sleep means that, in many cases, if you can improve sleep or anxiety with hypnotherapy then that improvement of one of these issues can cause the other issue to also improve. And so if you reduce your anxiety, you find that your sleep improves as a result and so your anxiety becomes further lessened. And if you improve your sleep, so that you get enough good sleep, you will feel more able to lessen your daytime anxious thoughts and feelings.
As well as hypnotherapy for anxiety and sleep, many of the behavioural changes you can make will also benefit both things. Steps that can help improve anxiety (or at least not add to those unwanted thoughts and feelings) can also help with sleep, and vice versa. This can include things such as reducing nicotine, caffeine and alcohol, as well as getting enough exercise. All of these things are generally helpful for your mental health and well-being and can be helpful to act upon to help you feel better (although these aspects won’t necessarily solve everything and so you will still benefit from some additional therapeutic support).
Alcohol and Sleep
If you have been struggling with anxiety or with sleep problems, then one of the things you may have considered is to have a drink or two in the evening. You may have previously found that alcohol seems to relax you a bit and slow down your runaway anxious thoughts. You may have also found that after a drink or two, you seem to be able to get to sleep a little easier at night.
Alcohol seems to offer the hope of some initial, even if short term, help for tackling your seemingly stuck anxiety and sleep cycle. You know it probably isn’t the healthiest choice yet you may feel you just need to do something to try and get some relief, no matter what the other side effects and impacts of alcohol may be. Struggling with insomnia is so awful that anything that helps you to get to sleep has to be better than that, right?
Yet if you have turned to alcohol to try and break the sleep and anxiety cycle, then as well as worries about the impact on your health and about becoming dependent upon it, you’ll have spotted that it has an overall detrimental impact upon the quality and quantity of your sleep. And, like any drug, you can easily find that you need that little bit more of it over time to get the same result as before. As well as impacting upon your health, you can start to add a sense of alcohol dependency to your anxiety and sleep issues and end up just adding to your own problems.
Alcohol creates an imbalance in the type of sleep you experience. There is a disproportionate amount of deeper sleep during the first half of the night (as the alcohol is processed), and a disproportionate amount of lighter sleep in the second half of the night. Further alcohol related issues with getting a good nights sleep can arise from waking needing the toilet (because alcohol is a diuretic), or from dehydration or increased snoring. Excessive drinking can lead to
feelings of illness and/or vomiting that interfere with sleep. Even without the unhelpful changes to your sleep cycle, if any of these other things happen you may struggle to get back to sleep.
The changes to the normal sleep pattern from drinking alcohol can then lead to next day tiredness, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, lack of focus and low mood. This can make the next day seem much harder for you physically and cognitively, adding to your anxiety and leading to a perceived need for an alcoholic drink to relax at the end of the day as you try and switch off yet again from the day’s anxiety and stress. You end up increasing your stress and anxiety levels by using alcohol to deal with your thoughts and to get to sleep and you find it harder to deal with your own thoughts and feelings the next day. You end up more and more stuck in a cycle of anxiety, drinking and poor sleep that only makes your mental health and well-being worse.
Ending The Negative Anxiety and Sleep Cycle
Hypnotherapy has a strong evidence base supporting how it can be used to effectively tackle anxious thoughts and feelings. And as being mentally calm and physically relaxed are easily incorporated into hypnotherapy approaches, it can help you with dealing with sleep issues and insomnia too.
By learning to calm your thoughts and feelings you will find it easier to handle, deal and cope with whatever comes your way through your day, or in being able to calm down the things that just go on inside of your own mind and within your self-talk, imagination and focus. And being able to become more mentally calm and physically relaxed means you are better equipped at night to switch off from the day and from thinking and to calmly and comfortably let sleep happen naturally. You feel more calm, confident and in control by day, and more safe, comfortable and relaxed by night.
When you struggle with anxiety or insomnia, you can quickly get drawn into that habitual cycle where your tiredness exacerbates your anxious thoughts and feelings, and your anxiety contributes to your ongoing sleep issues. As any cycle is a series of thoughts, feelings and behaviours repeated until they become a pattern, it is very possible to interrupt it, change things and to get it all moving towards how you want that pattern to be. You can start to feel better and sleep better.
And if you need some support to help you make some positive changes, reset your sleep and take control over your thoughts and feelings, then do get in touch and we can work together to get things improving and to help you get what you want to be doing and how you want to be doing it to be exactly how you want it be.
To your health and happiness,
Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
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