Sleeping Problems and, Anxiety and Stress—A Two-way Street

Sleep plays a vital role in an individual’s physical and mental well-being. It acts as a reset button that triggers body’s restorative processes and gives mind the time to process emotions in order to recognize and react appropriately. Regular good quality sleep is essential for proper brain functioning, repair of heart and blood vessels, and overall physical and emotional healing.

Sleep provides the nerve cells an opportunity to shut down and repair themselves meanwhile, without which they might get exhausted and start malfunctioning. In today’s fast paced world however, we often neglect our sleep just to meet the worldly demands and get things done. According to a 2014 survey, less than 50% of survey participants across the world claimed to be sleeping well at night.

Most healthy adults require seven to nine hours of sleep for healthy functioning, though the sleep requirement may vary from person to person slightly. Absence of adequate sleep often leads to impaired judgment, slower reaction times, and brain fog.

During the past few decades neuroscience has advanced a great deal but unfortunately sleep still continues to remain largely a riddle. However, what’s a known fact is that sleep like air, water, and food is indispensible for us. Sleep deprivation creates a sleep debt that our body is going to demand to have squared up with at some point.

Sleep Deprivation, Anxiety, Stress: Causes and Interrelation

Sleep deprivation may be caused due to various medical (painful ailments), environmental (light, noise, or extreme temperatures), or psychiatric (depression and anxiety disorders) conditions. The causes may be different, but sleep deprivation, indiscriminately, results in disruption of body’s natural slumber cycle in all cases.

Life stresses like job loss or change, passing away of a kith or kin, a temporary illness, or environmental factors usually trigger acute or short-term insomnia or sleeplessness. On the other hand, factors such as chronic stress, anxiety disorders (GAD, PTSD, etc.), depression, and chronic pain or discomfort at night, usually result in chronic or long-term insomnia that occurs at least three nights a week and continues for a month or longer. Ruminating in bed on daily basis about pending works, unresolved issues, and emotionally devastating long-term life-changes, or excessive worrying about future uncertainties are some of the common reasons leading to chronic insomnia.

Most people who experience persistent stress and anxiety or panic attacks on a daily basis report that they have trouble sleeping. While stress and anxiety interfere with sleep, sometimes it becomes difficult to tell whether one is having trouble sleeping because of anxiety, or one is anxious because one can’t sleep. Actually, it may be both. Whereas stress and anxiety can cause sleeping issues, or worsen existing ones, lack of sleep can also cause an anxiety disorder.

It has been demonstrated that sleep debt can have severe ramifications on one’s anxiety levels. A study has shown that grave sleep deprivation leads to an increase in one’s state of anxiety, depression, and general distress in comparison with individuals who had a normal night of sleep. According to another study, individuals who were sleep deprived reported a greater spike in anxiety during tasks and rated the likelihood of potential disasters as higher when sleep deprived, as compared to when rested.

The amount of sleep an individual gets each night also governs how well he or she can deal with anxiety and stress. When an individual is severely sleep-deprived, the deprivation acts as a chronic stressor that hinders brain functions and leads to an overload on the body’s systems, which in turn, contributes to brain fog, confusion, memory loss, and depression, making it harder for the individual to deal with stress. Also, sleep deprivation leads to an imbalance in the hormone levels that increases anxiety levels. Anxiety issues are also worsened because of

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Chronic sleep deprivation can result in a range of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, excessive daytime sleepiness, memory problems, weight gain, and increased levels of stress hormones.

Also read:

Five Tips for Better Sleep
Self-Help Techniques to Manage Anxiety
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Risk of Alzheimer’s May Rise Due to Stress

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Risk of Alzheimer’s May Rise Due to Stress

New research has shown that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease may be increased due to vital exhaustion, which is a marker of psychological distress.

Many factors such as age, family history, and genetic makeup may raise the risk of Alzheimer’s. Health conditions like cardiovascular disease or diabetes may also influence the probability of developing dementia as they impact the blood vessels. A new study has demonstrated that psychological factors especially psychological distress can also increase the chances of dementia. Vital exhaustion refers to a mental state of psychological distress that manifests as irritability, fatigue, and a feeling of demoralization and may be a response to certain life problems that are unresolvable and have been continuing for a long time. Vital exhaustion results when an individual is exposed to stressors for a prolonged period.

early-signs-of-dementiaEarlier studies have already indicated that vital exhaustion may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, premature death, and obesity, etc. The findings of this new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease have now suggested that vital exhaustion may raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well.

Data of almost 7,000 people who had participated in the Copenhagen City Heart Study between 1991 and 1994 was analyzed for this study. The participants were on an average 60 years at that time and were asked questions about vital exhaustion as a part of the survey.

Islamoska and her team clinically followed those participants until the end of 2016. The hospital records and mortality and prescription registers of those participants were examined in search of diagnoses of dementia.

The findings revealed a dose-response connection between vital exhaustion in midlife and the development of Alzheimer’s later on. Islamoska reported that for each additional symptom of vital exhaustion, they found that the risk of dementia rose by 2 per cent.

The study showed that participants reporting five to nine symptoms vital exhaustion had a 25 per cent higher risk of dementia than those with no symptoms, while those reporting 10 to 17 symptoms had a 40 per cent higher risk of dementia, compared with those not having the symptoms.

The team further added that the results are unlikely to be due to reverse causation, that is, it is improbable that dementia causes vital exhaustion, rather than the other way around.

The researchers opined that excessive levels of the stress hormone cortisol and cardiovascular changes could be the potential reasons for these findings. “Stress can have severe and harmful consequences, not just for our brain health, but our health in general. Our study indicates that we can go further in the prevention of dementia by addressing psychological risk factors for dementia,” said Islamoska.