How do anxiety and stress affect insomnia?

Q:  I am battling insomnia right now, and have quite a bit of anxiety about it.  I assume my insomnia is caused at least in part by my anxiety about sleep.  Does anxiety cause insomnia?

A:  Short answer is yes, most definitely, but there can be much more going on.

To better understand this, it might be worthwhile to examine more closely what you mean.  For instance, is what you feel about insomnia stress or anxiety?

Stress typically has a well-defined source, such as the idea of sleep — or in the case of insomniacs, the lack thereof.  For an insomniac, the idea of sleep can be very stressful, no doubt.  This is understandable, considering how intensely negative the experience of lying in bed for hour after frustrating hour with little to no sleep can be.  So the very specific underlying source of the negativity and stressful thoughts is definitely known.

On the other hand, anxiety is much more of a generalized feeling that something terribly wrong may happen.  Compared to stress, anxiety is much more of a vague feeling that tends to just pop up without a specific trigger or definite root cause.

Anxiety, like stress, if left unchecked or unremitting for an extended period of time, most definitely can contribute to insomnia and potentially to depression.

Both anxiety and stress do share at least one commonality, however:  they both involve recurring negative patterns of thought.  And therein lies one potential solution to improve sleep:  identify those underlying negative thought patterns, and counter them rationally.  This is the basis of cognitive restructuring, one of the core tools in CBT designed for insomnia.

The negative thought patterns that underlie both stress and anxiety are potent fuels that perpetuate and prolong insomnia.  By learning how to cut off this negative fuel, sleep tends to naturally improve.  And once these methods are learned, the improvement tends to be permanent.

So the good news is effective methods are available to address both chronic stress and anxiety.  These nondrug cognitive methods, as part of a comprehensive CBT for sleep solution, will enable you to do address both of these issues.  In addition, CBT also includes powerful behavioral tools proven effective for better sleep.

When these methods combine and are used simultaneously, a virtuous cycle may ensue wherein everything gets better.

Explore posts in the same categories: anxiety, Insomnia, stress

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4 Comments on “How do anxiety and stress affect insomnia?”


  1. […] will help you fall back asleep if and when awakened during the night.  There are proven methods to manage stress that are drug-free, as there are ways to turn off a racing […]


  2. […] consist of some combination of stimulus control, sleep hygiene, consistent sleep timing, stress management, relaxation training, and control of anxiety.  Any of these issues, if not properly managed, can […]


  3. […] you have anxiety-caused insomnia, by learning how to turn off the anxiety-producing negative thought patterns cortisol levels come down — and better sleep […]


  4. […] you have anxiety-caused insomnia, by learning how to turn off the anxiety-producing negative thought patterns cortisol levels come down — and better sleep […]


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