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Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia

“If only I could get some sleep at night, I think I would get better.”

Almost every mental health professional has heard a patient say these words, or something to the same effect. Many individuals suffer from debilitating worries or low moods that interfere with their daily lives; including their sleep schedules. The worries tend to be more frequent and more severe than the situation might warrant, plaguing them with recurring anxieties that feel out of their control.

For others, life has become hopeless and they feel unable to change their situation. This can often occur after a significant event in their life such as a major trauma or the loss of a loved one. Their moods have hit an all-time low and nothing they’ve tried has been able to overcome the weight of their despair. They’re in a rut, and their sleep is suffering.

Of course, the common denominator between all of those experiencing these altered mental states is an inability to sleep at night. Their bodies and minds seem to have an energy all their own—an abnormally active drive that never calms down.

Beginning in the brain

Decades of sleep research have shown that the medical disorders of anxiety and depression are intimately linked with a person’s ability to sleep at night. Sleep studies reveal that these individuals often take longer to fall asleep, have multiple middle of the night awakenings, and can often awaken much earlier than they would like.

The basis of these mood and anxiety disorders in the brain has been shown to overlap significantly with the neurological basis of sleep and arousal. Unsurprisingly, anxiety and depression can activate the basic arousal centers of the brain. This creates a heightened state of awareness to allow the individual to cope with what seem like overwhelming stresses. When under “attack”, one wants to be more alert, and the brain gears itself up for the challenge.

But unlike in healthy individuals, for these individuals, the brain has trouble calming the arousal centers again. Rest never comes; something has gone awry. The brain seems to have kicked itself into a higher gear that opposes sleep and rest.

Taking back your sleep

No one can sustain this state indefinitely, and sooner or later, fatigue sets in. These individuals can be both over-aroused and fatigued at the same time. This is not a healthy functional state to live in, and they may continue to feel like they’re losing ground in their lives as their level of sleep deprivation increases.

Many recall times when they did sleep well, and how refreshed they felt after a good night’s sleep. Naturally, they tell their doctor,

“If only I could get some sleep at night, I think I would get better.”

They believe their lack of sleep must be to blame for the way they feel. If they can just fix their sleep problem, they think, everything else will go back to normal.

From a treatment perspective, this is partially, but not completely true. Individuals with anxiety and depression require a comprehensive approach to achieve true relief. The response must address every facet of their disorder, their mood, their anxiety, and their sleep. The focus of treatment is bringing all these forces back into alignment with solutions that target each component of their condition. Application of medicines, medical devices, and behavioral treatments such as psychotherapy, should be woman sitting on bed, smiling.used together to effectively bring all these disorders back into alignment. Consulting with your physician or specialist about the right treatment plan is important.

Eventually, the fog lifts, their joy in life returns, the worries recede into the background, and the individuals find themselves sleeping soundly through the night. It happens gradually, addressing each issue in a concerted effort, often without any one instantaneous “quick fix”. Yet, over time, life begins to return to a new level of normalcy.

They’ve taken back their sleep, and now they’ve taken back their life.


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