It is natural to show emotion. We relate to others and react to life events by expressing our feelings. Anxiety is part of life and is nature’s way of keeping us prepared for the unexpected or events that need our heightened attention.
We experience anxiety from childhood. That feeling of tension and apprehension before an exam, an important party or real or imaginary danger. In healthy people these feelings wear off after the event and the body and mind returns to its normal state. For others, these feelings may persist and affect their physical and mental health.
Many people experience stress on a daily basis. Trying to cope with too much and feeling rushed and unable to cope it is easy to understand why we lose the ability to return to our normal state. Anxiety is no longer a short lived emotional response to a particular demand or event, but a constant feeling of tension, worry and feeling under threat.
Anxiety Affects Sleep
Anything that affects your life will also affect your sleep. We all know that worry doesn’t resolve anything. But even when we manage to fill our days with work and distractions, the night can be a haven for unresolved problems and nagging doubts.
Life changes such as moving home, marriage or divorce, a new baby, death and illness are all challenges that cause stress and anxiety. It is natural to worry at these and other times and it is likely that our sleep will be affected until life settles down again.
Sometimes life can be stressful for a long time. One event following another. These can be good or bad, sad or joyful – whatever they are they will mean adapting to events and circumstances and may affect how you sleep.
There are many types of anxieties. Some such as fear of flying or fear of heights can be so severe that life is restricted. Milder forms of stress are often seen as part of everyday life associated with a busy lifestyle. Like lack of sleep they may go unrecognised and untreated for a considerable time until they start to affect your health and wellbeing.
Stress and anxiety can result in an inability to relax and ‘switch off’. This may result in increased alcohol consumption, addiction to prescribed and un prescribed drugs, and other ways of coping – factors that can also interfere with sleep. Lack of sleep can also cause anxiety, irritability and depression escalating an existing problem.
Depending on the level of anxiety, there are a number of ways to help. Learning how to identify the reasons for the anxiety may help you make changes in your work or home life. Many people find it difficult to share concerns and ask for help believing it will be seen as a sign or weakness. Knowing your abilities and your limitations will make you more effective and better able to cope with life’s demands. Delegating is a skill, not a weakness.
Try and find the time to learn how to relax. You may feel tired, edgy and exhausted but that does not mean you are relaxed! A few moments of relaxation will help you make sense of the day and make you better able to cope.
Skills for Sleep
It is important to identify the relationship between mood and sleep. If you are excited or dreading a future event, it is natural to have a few sleepless nights. Children will stay awake on Christmas Eve and wake early on Christmas Day. You may find it impossible to sleep before an important interview or if a loved one is ill or in danger. These are all times when worry and anxiety will affect your ability to sleep.
Constant anxiety can affect the body causing high blood pressure, sweating, breathing problems, digestive problems and other disorders that will also affect your sleep.
Many people find that by learning breathing and relaxation techniques they are able to improve their ‘stress response’. This will help slow down breathing and lessen some of the tension and distress that sufferer’s experience. These skills can also be used to help you sleep, producing a feeling of calm that will help the mind and body relax.