It’s like a vicious circle that is hard to break: sleep problems are a common symptom of anxiety disorders, and lack of sleep leads to even more anxiety.
According to research, sleep deprivation correlates positively with anxiety, as well as tension, nervousness and irritability.
One recent brain study found that sleeping less than eight hours can exacerbate recurring negative thoughts and make it harder to get rid of negative things – symptoms characteristic of anxiety. Deep sleep helps to cope with anxiety disorder without medication – this has been proven by brain scans. This is stated in a study by the University of Berkeley.
Why is this important?
One sleepless night increases the level of anxiety by 30%. At the same time, even one night of deep sleep helps to cope with stress and reduce anxiety. Researchers at the University of Berkeley conducted a study to find out how the level of anxiety depends on the amount of sleep. The experiment involved 18 people. They watched emotional videos after sleeping through the night and then after a sleepless night. Researchers determined participants’ anxiety levels using a special survey and a brain scan using functional MRI.
A brain scan after a sleepless night showed that the part of the brain that helps control anxiety was turned off, and the deeper emotional centers of the brain were overactive. After that, the participants’ brain activity was measured throughout the night. During the night, their anxiety levels dropped sharply, especially in those who were in the deep sleep phase longer.
The lead author of the study, Professor Matthew Walker, said: “We have found another function of deep sleep – reducing anxiety during the night by reorganizing the connections in the brain. Deep sleep is a natural way to reduce anxiety if we get it every night.
The conclusion of scientists
Deep sleep restores the mechanism in the brain that regulates our emotions, reduces emotional and physiological reactivity and prevents the exacerbation of anxiety.
Recommendations of scientists
1. Start by replacing the light bulb in the room – turn on the “warm” light. It soothes and promotes the release of melatonin. Experts advise turning off the “cold” light (in particular, from mobile or computer screens) a few hours before bedtime, or at least 40 minutes;
2. Buy dark heavy curtains, especially if you live in the city;
3. If necessary, change the mattress, pillow and blanket if you feel uncomfortable;
4. Do not do anything during the day that can interfere with a good night’s sleep: avoid midday nap, alcohol, coffee in the afternoon, overly satiated dinner;
5. Daily rituals will help you adjust to sleep: making the bed, hygienic procedures (including a hot bath), reading a book, listening to relaxing music, breathing exercises, meditation;
6. Try to sleep 8 hours a night;
7. Try to go to bed around 22:00 and no later than midnight;
8. Avoid eating three hours before bedtime;
9. If you have sleep disorders, start a sleep diary.
If you feel anxious for more than 6 months – be sure to consult a specialist.