Why Can’t I Get A Good Night’s Rest?: The Relationship Between Anxiety and Sleep

Why Can’t I Get A Good Night’s Rest?

  • Do you have trouble sleeping because of anxiety?
  • Does it feel like every time you lie down to get some sleep, your brain starts running through every possible worry from the day?
  • Are you waking up in the middle of the night and can’t seem to shut off your brain?


Anxiety is a common causes of insomnia. With so much going on in our lives during the day (school, work, family, friends, bills, chores, etc), there is not only a lot to think about but also very little time to think about it…that is until our head hits the pillow at the end of the day. No matter how tired we may be, stress and anxiety seem to find a way to perk us and leave us sleepless. Understanding the impact of anxiety on sleep (and vice versa) is the first step to making changes that can lead you to a good night’s rest.

The Reciprocal Relationship of Anxiety and Sleep

Sleep difficulties are a common side effect of anxiety. A survey conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that of the one third of adults in the United States that report persistent issues with anxiety, 7 out of 10 of them also report having sleep trouble. Conversely, sleep difficulties can also lead to increases in anxiety. According to the same study, three fourths of the individuals surveyed reported that their sleep trouble has also increased their stress and anxiety.

Why Does Anxiety Affect Our Sleep?

So what exactly is happening with our anxiety that makes getting a good night’s rest so difficult? As discussed in a previous blog post, anxiety is associated with our body’s fight or flight system. In other words, when we are feeling anxious, our body is on high alert in anticipation of a potential threat. Imagine trying to fall asleep with a mountain lion wondering through your house. It would be pretty challenging, right? Whether this “high alert” state is warranted by our daily anxiety or not, our body does not differentiate between current threats (aka the mountain lion) and potential threats (for example, trying to figure out how you will pay all of your bills this month) so the results are the same: racing thoughts, physiological distress, and no sleep.

Consequences of Sleep Difficulties

If you suffer from sleep difficulties, you are all too aware of the consequences of lack of sleep. While a few nights of poor sleep can result in side effects such as tiredness, low energy, poor attention and concentration, and decreased performance ad work and school; long term side effects can be more severe including health risks (such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity), threats to the safety of self and others (for example, falling asleep while driving) and emotional disorders (such as anxiety and depression).

What Can I Do To Stop Anxiety From Interfering With My Sleep?

Given the severity of the potential consequences of sleep difficulties, addressing such issues is vital. Fortunately, there are well-established treatment approaches that can help you to not only improve your sleep but also address the anxiety that may be at the root of the sleep-disruption. As a leading treatment in both sleep difficulties and anxiety disorders, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a great option for addressing your nocturnal woes.

To learn more about the relationship between sleep and anxiety, or to find out if CBT treatment for anxiety or insomnia may be right for you, please contact us to schedule a consultation. You can also check out books such as All I Want Is A Good Night’s Sleep and Overcoming Insomnia to learn more about managing sleeplessness.

Anna L. Lock, Psy.D, Director of Training | Behavioral Associates Los Angeles

Behavioral Associates Los Angeles is a group of cognitive-behavioral therapists specializing in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. To find out more, contact us by phone at 310-205-0523 or by email at treatment@behavioralassociatesla.com.

You can also request an appointment with a Behavioral Associates LA psychologist by submitting a brief patient assessment form on our Website. Our clinical staff will follow up with you within 24 hours of submission.