For those who struggle falling or staying asleep, the frustrating hours spent lying awake can feel endless. Tossing and turning often goes hand in hand with anxiety about not sleeping, perpetuating a vicious insomnia cycle.
This sleep dread differs from somniphobia but has similar symptoms like bedtime anxiety, wakefulness when tired, and daytime irritability. According to psychiatrist Alexander Obolsky, some people get anxious because they worry about inadequate sleep. Harvard professor Daniel Wegner calls this “the ironic process of mental control.”
The less sleep obtained, the more on-edge one becomes as the body is deprived of needed rest. Neurochemically, sleep regulates biological processes like appetite and mood. Anticipatory stress about sleep loss can exacerbate issues. This “stress-sleep cycle” intensifies both problems.
Besides duration, sleep quality is key. Non-REM sleep relaxes the body and mind properly. Without reaching the deepest non-REM stages, one may experience concentration issues, heart disease, and stroke risks. Worrying prevents the relaxation needed for quality non-REM sleep.
Recognizing sleep worries is the first step to improvement. Lowering expectations gradually rather than medication may work better long-term. Helpful measures include a consistent sleep routine, peaceful bedroom environment, avoiding pre-bed technology and caffeine, trying relaxation techniques, and limiting nighttime food and drink. If problems persist, see a doctor for guidance. Acknowledging fears and making gradual lifestyle changes can help break the stressful sleeplessness cycle.