Sleep Disorders, Anxiety, and YouLast Updated: November 17, 2018
If you're struggling with even occasional insomnia, you're not alone. But your sleep troubles may be complicated by an even more troublesome problem: anxiety and chronic stress. Over half of all adults (a total of 61%) have reported sleep troubles that are commonly associated with chronic stress and anxiety. These include:
- Sleeping fewer than 7 hours each night
- Not feeling well-rested upon waking
- Having trouble falling asleep in the first place
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Missing work due to sleep problems
Poor sleep quality is even worse for women and adults over the age of 45. The majority of women report that their anxiety levels often result in sleep problems, whereas only 45% of men admit that their daily stress has a negative impact on their sleep quality. Likewise, anxiety and stress are escalating among senior populations in record numbers. If you fit into either (or both) of these groups, then keep reading. There are safe, natural solutions that can help you lower your daily anxiety and stress levels for a sounder, higher-quality level of sleep.
Lower Your Stress Levels - Naturally
There are a variety of ways you can take control back from your high-stress life. If you haven't already, consider incorporating any of the following into your daily routine:
- Meditation. Meditation, especially guided meditation which focuses on breathing techniques, is a great way to calm the mind and reduce your overall feelings of stress and anxiety. Recently, scientists have discovered that mediation has the power to physically rewire the human brain over time to be more resilient against stress and anxiety. And when your brain isn't spending all of its time worrying about this and that, you'll have fewer problems getting sound, restful sleep at night.
- Natural Sleep-Inducing Supplements. Emphasis on natural. Things like Melatonin, 5-HTP, hops extract, and citrus oils are all great for promoting restful sleep. Additionally, they're non-habit forming and much less likely to have a bad reaction with any medications you're currently taking.
- Exercise. But try to get your exercise in earlier during the day. Getting yourself worked up with a vigorous workout close to bedtime may have a counterproductive effect on your restfulness. Even a 30-minute walk in the morning or early afternoon, 3-4 times per week, has been shown to help lower anxiety and promote better sleep.
- Avoid stimulants, or eliminate them from your diet entirely. Coffee, strong tea, and cigarettes should never be consumed before bedtime. Even alcohol, although it feels like it helps you sleep, actually hinders sleep quality and leaves most people feeling ill-rested (or worse, hung over) the next day.
Natural Remedies, Prescription Drugs, and Sleeping Pills
If you've already tried or are already trying some of the stress-reducing remedies above and feel like you need extra help, you may be tempted to take something at night to help you feel sleepy. For the most part, there are three options: natural sleep remedies, over-the-counter sleep aids (such as sleeping pills), and prescription drugs. We'll discuss the pros and cons of each option below. It's important to know the facts about each particular option - especially since some sleep aids are not as innocent as they may seem at first glance.
Prescription Drug Sleep Aids
Let's discuss the worst option first: prescription drugs sleep aids. Yes, they're very popular and frequently prescribed by doctors to help people who are having moderate to severe problems getting a healthy night's sleep. However, there are some serious risks that most patients either don't know about, or aren't properly informed about. It's important for you to know all of the risks (as well as alternative options to prescription drugs) so that you can make the best decision for your health.
- Risk #1: they're expensive. For most people, prescription drugs are one of the most expensive options out there. This is especially true if you don't have a very good health plan or if you are paying for your prescription medications 100% out-of-pocket.
- Risk #2: dangerous side effects. The side effects of many prescription sleep medications are downright scary. It's not uncommon for people on these medications to perform tasks, such as eating, having a conversation, starting fires, suffering severe injuries from falling, or even driving a car, all while actually still asleep. And if your body is up and moving around, whether you are consciously aware or not, your brain isn't getting the restorative sleep it needs to stay healthy.
- Risk #3: they react badly with other drugs. Dangerous side effects from prescription sleep aids aren't limited to the drug alone. Most americans over the age of 45 are on at least one prescription medication other than a sleeping pill. And these sleep aids, when combined with other prescription drugs, are much more likely to cause unpleasant or dangerous side effects. This is especially true if you are one of the millions of americans taking prescription drugs for hypothyroidism or nerve pain. Some of these reactions include dizziness, severe drowsiness, lack of coordination, fainting/falling, memory loss, reduced cognitive function, and insomnia.
- Risk #4: dependency. Whether physiological or psychological, people who start taking prescription drugs often become dependent upon them in order to sleep at all. And given both the expense and the dangerous side effects of these drugs, becoming dependent upon them on top of everything only compounds their potential risk.
As you can clearly see, prescription drugs should only be used if every other option has already failed you.
Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids
OTC sleep aids seem like a much better option than prescription ones. After all, they're usually cheaper and much easier to obtain because they don't require a prescription. But the truth is that you should also be wary of over-the-counter sleep aids. Not only can they conflict with your current medications, but they may not be safe for long-term use even when taken by themselves.
With OTC medication, the body develops a tolerance quickly - sometimes in as little as three days or less. On top of all that, claims that these medications are "safe" and "non-habit forming" have not been thoroughly investigated. It's not uncommon for people, especially older adults, to become just as dependent on OTC sleeping pills as their prescription counterparts. Lastly, there is some research to suggest that OTC antihistamine sleep medications have a connection to memory problems and dementia in the elderly.
Natural Sleep Aids
We've saved the best for last. Why focus on a natural sleep remedy instead of a prescription or a drug store sleeping pill, you might be asking? Well, for starters, the average person is already taking one (or several) prescriptions by the age of 45. Coincidentally - or maybe not so coincidentally - people are more vulnerable to stress-induced sleep problems as they get older. And the more medications you pile on, the more likely they are to conflict with one another.
Natural sleep supplements, however, don't have any of these negative consequences. Herbal sleep aids, especially those containing the ingredients mentioned earlier in this article, have very few (if any) side effects or interaction warnings. If you've been searching for natural sleep remedies and keep coming up short, we might have some recommendations for you to try. Learn more.