Sleep Problems, Insomnia and Anxiety

woman sits on bed bend forward face on knees finds difficult to fall asleep
by Beatrix Schmidt

Here’s a question to consider… What comes first; anxiety or sleep problems?

When I work with clients who experience both anxiety and sleep disturbances, they will often ask me which of these two things to start working on first.

It can feel like a ‘chicken or egg’ scenario’, leaving you wondering which came first. And even in the world of sleep research, we don’t quite know the answer yet. But these two things tend to be tightly linked. 

When we don’t sleep at night, our anxiety can increase. And equally if you have already experienced anxiety, this can impact your sleep, which can often cause further sleep disturbances.

Here are a few things for you to consider:

  1. Timeline of Problems
    Start by looking at when and how your problems started. This way you can see which came first for you. Perhaps you will find that you had sleep problems before you were aware of any anxiety. Or perhaps there was a significant life event, which brought on anxiety first. Figuring out which condition—the sleep problems or the anxiety—came first, allows you to pursue the right kind of professional help.
  2. Treat it as More than One Problem
    While the anxiety and sleep problems can be treated quite differently and should be, I would also add to not make too many other changes in your life. Put simply, changes can be a trigger for anxiety too. Building a new routine to cope with one problem or the other can be overwhelming. So what I’m suggesting is to be gentle with yourself, and don’t go full-on with a new life routine for the sleep problem if you find that the change is adding to your anxiety.
  3. Practical Steps
    A great way to get through tough periods of anxiety is to have practical tools and techniques you can use. But it’s not just about having them, or knowing they are there. It’s about having the resolve to use them when you need them. I know from my client work that people tend to let go of their tools and routines when they are the most stressed—but this is when we need them the most. Resolve to put your self-care and sleep strategies in place when you don’t feel like it, as that is when there is typically something wrong.

There are a great many ways to improve anxiety, and I would love to hear your tips too. Please do leave a comment if you would like to share something from your own experience.

To learn more about sleep see: The 10 Day Sleep Challenge

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1 thought on “Sleep Problems, Insomnia and Anxiety”

  1. Rose Jones

    When I really can’t sleep, I often write down every single thing that is bothering me and then close the book in an effort to close the thoughts. Or scrunch up the page and throw it out. More often than not it works.

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