It turns out anxiety leads to insomnia. It also turns out that insomnia leads to anxiety. This is what we call a vicious cycle.
Researchers are now hard at work trying to decipher which of these symptoms should be treated in order to also treat the other. Basically, should anxious people be treated with sleep therapy? Or should insomniacs get help for their worrisome thoughts? This chicken-or-the-egg problem needs to be cracked so that the millions who suffer from both of these conditions can better get the help they need.
Scientists currently have their bets on curing sleep disorders first, possibly because that is an easier problem to remedy. Even without medication, anxious people can be taught ways to increase their amount and quality of sleep. Placing a good night’s rest as a top priority is more likely to be successful than encouraging people to not worry so much.
In a study published for the Journal of Neuroscience, 18 subjects were tested for anxiety levels after being shown a number of pictures – some disturbing. The subjects were then tested again after a full-night’s sleep, and then after a sleepless night. The sleepy subjects uniformly showed higher levels of stress and anxiety than the other groups did.
“This discovery illustrates how important sleep is to our mental health,” said a lead researcher of the study.
These researches are now likely to reverse their experiment to see how anxiety affects sleeping patterns. Once those results come out, we as a stressed-out, sleep-deprived society can confirm our fears that we’re all totally screwed.