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The link between poor sleep and anxiety
Sleep Well, Feel Well
30 July 2008 03:16 am
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How much sleep did you get last night? How do you feel today? Have you thought about how sleep (and lack of it) may affect how you feel, both physically and mentally? If you have, do you know how you can improve your sleep routine?

If you're not getting enough sleep, you're not alone. Dr. William Dement of Stanford University quotes a Gallup Poll in which "56% of the adult population" have a problem with feeling drowsy during the daytime. Dement emphasizes that "drowsiness is a red alert." If you are feeling drowsy in the daytime, you are not getting enough sleep, and you may be close to doing something disastrous, like falling asleep while driving.

Besides the obvious dangers of sleep deprivation, there is the ongoing effect it has on your mental health. If most people are not getting enough sleep, why should you? Most people are not trying to recover from anxiety disorders. According to The National Institutes of Health (NIH), "sleeping problems occur in almost all people with" psychiatric disorders (emphasis added). If you have an anxiety disorder, you are more likely than the general population to have a sleep problem. Additionally, the lack of sleep may be aggravating your disorder. As the NIH states, "the amount of sleep a person gets also strongly influences the symptoms of" psychiatric disorders. Sleep deprivation may cause irritability, poor memory, poor concentration, and mood swings -- and that's for people without anxiety disorders. Imagine how sleep deprivation may affect people with anxiety disorders!

If you are not getting enough sleep, you probably already know, but if you are not sure, you might try an online sleep test. These tests are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and care, but they may give you some idea of your current sleep status. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a short test to help you determine whether or not you're getting enough sleep. The Simmons Sleep Deprivation Quiz contains 15 questions which are meant to help you figure out if you are getting enough sleep.

If you are concerned about sleep, you should talk to your treatment providers as soon as you can. You will want your doctor to rule out any problems which might be causing poor sleep and/or help you decide what you can do if you are not getting enough sleep. If you do have a sleep disorder, you should know that it is treatable, so it is important to get help for it as soon as possible.

In the meantime and beyond, you may take a number of steps to improve your sleep. On a personal note, I've found sticking to a strict sleep schedule to be the most effective way for coping with poor sleep. A sleep schedule means going to bed and getting up at the same exact time every day, including weekends. It's not an easy habit to keep, but I've found it more effective than sleep medications. Caffeine also affects me, so I try to avoid it.

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