Worry is a major inhibitor to sleep. You might be worried about falling asleep, staying asleep, or what will happen if you don’t sleep. You may dread going to sleep even hours before you’re in bed because you anticipate it to be a negative experience.
You may worry about other things as well, like your job, relationships, health, money and the economy. Many people worry about the fact that they’re worrying. All this worry creates anxiety. And anxiety is the enemy of sleep.
Worry is a concern that something negative or threatening will happen in the future. “What if I fail?” “What if say something stupid?” “What if the plane crashes?” are all worries. Worry is future-focused fear. The thing you’re worried about hasn’t occurred yet, but the expectation of it causes anxiety. Worry is a thought, and anxiety is the emotion that comes from the thought. Common worries about sleep include: “I’m not going to sleep again tonight,” “What if I don’t get enough hours—I’ll feel awful tomorrow,” or “I’ll never get over my insomnia.”
These are all negative expectations that cause anxiety—increased alertness, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, upset stomach, muscle tension, and other symptoms. Your anxiety is preparing you for something negative (i.e., not sleeping), and the physical changes that result keep you awake.
If you have insomnia, you’ve encountered many difficult nights of sleep and have justifiable reason to believe you won’t sleep again. However, this thinking can result in an endless cycle of worry, anxiety, poor sleep, then more worry, anxiety, and poor sleep. To stop the cycle you must defeat the worry (which will also eliminate the anxiety).
In future posts, I’ll share several ways to defeat worry and reduce or eliminate your sleep anxiety.