Is Lack of Sleep Causing Your Anticipatory Anxiety?

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Have you always thought your anticipatory anxiety is causing you to lose sleep every night since you can’t seem to shut off your brain? Maybe not! A new experiment is demonstrating that it may be the other way around.

A new study from UC Berkeley has found that sleep deprivation may contribute to turning on the brain areas that contribute to anticipatory anxiety or excessive worrying. This experiment was performed on 18 healthy young adults who reported a wide range of baseline anxiety levels, but none fit the criteria for a clinical anxiety disorder.

lack of sleep and worry

Here are some of the findings from the study:

– By provoking the brain’s regions correlated with emotional processing (amygdala and insular cortex), lack of sleep magnifies anticipatory anxiety even in healthy adults.

– Innate worriers are naturally more anxious and more likely to develop a full-blown anxiety disorder – are extremely vulnerable to the effect of insufficient sleep and will suffer the greatest harm.

– People suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder may benefit substantially from sleep therapy, which has garnered encouraging results with patients who have depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.

– Although previous research has indicated that sleep disruption and psychiatric disorders often occur together, this study is the first to show that sleep loss activates extreme anticipatory brain activity associated with anxiety.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, and the paper was published on June 26, 2013 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Authors of the study: Matthew Walker, Allison Harvey, Stephanie Greer and Jared Saletin at UC Berkeley; Jack Nitschke at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

How many hours of sleep do you get every night? Do you feel anxiety causes you to lose sleep or is your lack of sleep firing up or anticipatory anxiety?


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