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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Are insomnia and anxiety related?

    I've suffered from insomnia for a while now and am concerned that it could be the start of an anxiety disorder, are they related?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1

    Thanks

    Dr Louise Shepherd

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am a clinical psychologist with 15 years experience working with all sorts of goals and issues. I love working with people, helping them to … View Profile

    They can be related but not necessarily. It really depends what is keeping you from sleeping! One of the the key issues for people who have trouble sleeping is lying awake worrying. 

    It is not an easy answer to give without knowing the details really….it would probably be a good idea to chat to your GP or a clinical psychologist (who often deal with insomnia as well as anxiety disorders) and he or she will be able to help you figure out the best way to sort out your sleep. 

    There are a few obvious tricks - which most people have already tried - but if you are not sure google “Sleep hygiene” and you will find these…….they include watching your caffeine, not eating big meals close to bed time, exercising regularly but not too late in the day, not watching TV, arguing, etc in bed. A good guide is that bed is for sleep and sex (if relevant!!).

    I hope you find a good solution soon. If you need a clinical psychologist to help you sort this out we would be happy to help if we can!

  • Dr Belinda Barnes

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    My approach to therapy is warm and down-to-earth. I have clinical expertise in treating trauma, PTSD and complex trauma in adults and adolescents, as well … View Profile

    I agree with Louise in that there can be so many reasons for difficulty with sleep. And its so important!

    I have had quite good success with using “mindfulness” techniques and training with my clients, which tends to help us get more in touch with what our body is telling us on a physiological level. Once we start “listening” in to our bodily cues, we can manage the build up of stress and tension that happens in our lives so much these days. Its basically about being “in the moment” and getting out of our worrying/ruminating heads and more into our bodies.

    Many psychologists are using this approach to stress reduction and in a range of psychological problems today, and it has a strong emerging evidence base as well.

    Best wishes and happy snoozing!

  • My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    I think that Louise and Belinda have both offered you excellent advice.

    Using sleep hygiene methods has helped me to sleep well.

    Another approach which has helped me is what is called progressive muscle relaxation - essentially this means tensing and then relaxing each set of muscles in turn, which you can do while lying in bed.

    There is a description of it here:

    http://www.amsa.org/healingthehealer/musclerelaxation.cfm .

  • Jessica Cole

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am registered and endorsed as a Clinical Psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia, having completed a Bachelor of Psychology at University of Western … View Profile

    What often comes along with insomnia is increased worry and stress about not being able to sleep (e.g. ‘if I don’t get to sleep soon, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow’) which then makes it more difficult to actually achieve sleep. It easily becomes a vicious cycle and you can feel like you’ll never get back to sleeping easily.

    As Louise and Belinda have mentioned, it is important to look at what triggers and perpetuates the anxiety and insomnia. Often it can look a bit like a chicken and egg situation in that the anxiety might be leading to difficult sleep or vice versa. Meeting with a clinical psychologist can help tease out how the anxiety and insomnia might be related and look at the most effective way of treating them.

    As Belinda mentioned mindfulness is a great place to start. You might find the following books helpful if you’re after some more information:

    ‘Sleep Well, Live Better: 3 Steps to Good Sleep’ by Dr. Helen Wright and Professor Leon Lack,

    ‘Goodnight Mind: Turn Off Your Noisy Thoughts and Get a Good Night's Sleep’ by Colleen E. Carney and Rachel Manber

  • Renee Mill

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Empowering people is my passion and life work. I have been working as a Clinical Psychologist in private practice for over thirty years. I have … View Profile

    This is an excellent question because it highlights the fact that whatever initiated the insomnia, fear of not sleeping can exacerbate insomnia. This is what you need to watch out for.

    If you cannot sleep - what are you telling yourself? Are you getting worked up as the hours drag on? Are you dreading bedtime because you fear the sleepless cycle carrying on?

    Whatever sleep hygiene techniques you use, do not be afraid of not sleeping. See the insomia as a problem you need to solve and tackle it one day at a time without judegement or fear.

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