Anxiety and sleepwalking: how to overcome a stress sleep disorder

Sleep is one of the most interesting phenomena to understand. And it is that despite the fact that it has been studied for centuries, there is still an aura of mystery that accompanies it. There are many unresolved unknowns that the dream universe poses for us.

Every day more answers are revealed and more links are found between sleep and health, not only physical, but also mental. For many people who suffer from sleep disorders such as sleepwalking, it will be easy to say that their anxiety levels are significant.

And it is that there is a direct relationship between anxiety (or at least, high levels of anxiety) and alterations in the sleep and wake cycles. But what relationship between anxiety and sleepwalking do we find? What to do if we suffer from anxiety and sleepwalking? If you want to know a little more about the subject, continue reading and you will discover how to overcome a stress sleep disorder.

What is anxiety?

Before getting into the matter, let’s define what, understanding that it is not something strictly negative, since it is an absolutely adaptive and natural reaction that allows us to face stressful situations. However, it can become maladaptive and distressing when it appears when it should not, or when it is excessive.

Thus, anxiety is a set of psychophysiological reactions that activate our nervous system to respond to a possible threat. The bad thing happens when these reactions are present frequently and our mind and body are in a state of constant hyper-alert to threats that may or may not be real.

For this reason, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5, in its latest version, includes anxiety disorders, with their proper classification. It should be noted that this type of disorder has been present in this manual for many years and previous versions.

What is sleepwalking?

It is defined as a parasomnia, disorder that involves behaviors or actions carried out unconsciously (unwanted) by a person during their sleep phase. Sleepwalking usually occurs within a few hours of falling asleep and very rarely during late sleeps stages.

There is no single reason that explains sleepwalking, since several factors are required  for its appearance. However, there are some elements that can be aggravating and/or causing its appearance, such as having been deprived of sleep for long periods, time changes, feverish states, stress and.

There are risk factors such as genetics, since it is known that many people who suffer from it have family histories of sleepwalking. Age is also an important element to consider as it is a disorder that generally occurs in childhood.

In the cases of adults who develop sleepwalking, it is usually associated with comorbid factors such as physical or psychiatric illnesses, the use of medications, and consumption of narcotic substances or high levels of stress.

Relationship between anxiety and sleepwalking

Human beings have different aspects of our lives that are closely interrelated and influence each other. As bio psychosocial beings, the direct incidence of the mind in the body and vice versa cannot be denied. For this reason it is easy to understand that a high level of anxiety can have a direct and negative influence on the performance of the normal functions of the organism.

Disorders indicate variations in the activation of the sympathetic system, with a higher level of reaction to stimuli that are perceived as threats than people without problems falling asleep, activations that occur when anxiety levels are significant.

Within the international classification of sleep disorders of the Association of Sleep Disorders Centers, anxiety is identified as one of the mental health problems associated with various sleep disorders.

Some research has even managed to determine that there is a correlation between high levels of anxiety and other sleep disorders such as night.

Tips for coping with sleepwalking and anxiety

We know that having sleepwalking and anxiety can be uncomfortable and annoying. But there are some things you can do to improve the situation; you can try the following recommendations:

  • Avoid alcohol and drug use.
  • Consult your doctor if you are taking any medication to rule out that it is not the cause.
  • Have security measures such as picking up cables, moving furniture or any other item with which you can hurt yourself.
  • Investigate and train yourself in self-hypnosis, it is usually very effective.
  • Reduce your anxiety levels. Do activities that you like and that allow you to express yourself and/or be aware of your body such as Yoga, Tai Chi, painting, drawing, writing, singing, etc.
  • Seek psychological support. Professional will be of great help to reduce anxiety levels. Also to dig deeper into the causes of your sleepwalking.
  • Adjust your sleep schedules. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Avoid long periods of sleep deprivation. Fatigue can be exacerbated anxiety and cause you to have more sleepwalking episodes.

There is no specific drug treatment for sleepwalking, but in some cases tranquilizers and even antidepressants are used to reduce the anxiety that may be triggering the episodes. You can also try doing what is known as an early awakening.

Usually sleepwalking has a pattern within the dream (usually within the first 2 hours after falling asleep). You need to know when the “awakening” happens. For this you can ask someone who lives with you for help or place a camera that allows you to know what the pattern of your sleepwalking is.

Once you have determined how long after sleep these episodes happen to you, what you should do is set an alarm or asks someone to wake you up before this happens. Wait a moment and go back to sleep. In most cases this technique turns out to be very effective.

Psychological therapy to combat anxiety and sleepwalking problems

Remember that your body and your mind are united, and that you need harmony between the two to have comprehensive well-being. Take care of your physical part as well as your emotions and thoughts and you will be able to notice the improvement.

If you have doubts or problems related to sleep and/or anxiety, do not hesitate to consult a specialist in neurology or psychiatry, who will help you evaluate your case and offer you treatment.

And above all, it complements the treatment with psychological therapy so that you can generate new strategies that allow you to manage anxiety properly and also find the cause of what is happening to you.

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