Insomnia is the result of those agonizing nights when we restlessly toss and turn because something weighs heavily on our minds. Because we have all “been there”, it should come as no surprise that there is a well-known connection between anxiety and insomnia. The two conditions are often linked together in a catch-22 style that can make life more than difficult for the person who is affected.
To fully appreciate how insomnia and anxiety can result in a sleep anxiety disorder, one needs to understand the different levels of insomnia. Insomnia is the inability to sleep adequately for extended periods of time when one desires to do so. It is characterized by three different levels: early, middle, and late insomnia.
Early insomnia exists when someone consistently has trouble falling asleep. This often occurs because of anxious thoughts that cause the person’s mind to continuously work over their concerns. Early insomnia is what you experience when you stress over upcoming tests or family disputes.
Middle insomnia causes a person to frequently wake throughout the night. Middle insomnia is the culprit when you awaken to a nagging thought, and then stare at the ceiling, seemingly forever, while trying to fall back to sleep. The resulting rise in your stress level keeps you wide awake.
Late insomnia, on the other hand, occurs when a person often wakes up earlier than they intended. No matter how tired they are, they awaken long before the alarm goes off. As in middle insomnia, stress keeps you from falling back to sleep.
Both of these last two levels happen when a person is flooded with anxious thoughts the moment they open their eyes. This anxiety produces other physiological responses, such as a quickened heart beat and a sense of restlessness, thereby increasing the insomnia at the same time and setting a vicious cycle in motion.
By now it should be a little more obvious how insomnia and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. In fact, insomnia is one of the most common symptoms mental health professionals look for when diagnosing a generalized anxiety disorder. The more anxious a person is the more likely it is they will experience some form of insomnia. It follows then, that the more insomnia the person deals with, the more likely it is that their anxiety will rise.
The good news is that insomnia and sleep anxiety disorder can very often be treated successfully. For more information, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen today.