Anxiety, Insomnia And Sleep: How to Sleep When You’re Anxious


Hey everyone, it’s Devin Burke, the founder of Sleep Science Academy and the bestselling author of The Sleep Advantage. And in this video we’re going to be talking about sleep, anxiety, insomnia, and how you can get better sleep when you feel anxious. So first I want to talk a little bit about sleep. So what controls sleep? There’s really two biological processes that control sleep, sleep pressure or hunger or desire for sleep, and circadian rhythm, which is our body’s natural rhythm. These two systems control our wake cycles and our sleep cycles.

Now, what is anxiety? Anxiety is fear of the future. I like to say it’s praying for what we don’t want. It’s really a collection of uncomfortable emotional sensations that are usually triggered from thoughts. Okay? Really important to understand. If you have anxiety about sleep, chances are you’re also experiencing what we call insomnia.

So there’s a couple different types of insomnia. There’s onset insomnia, which is for those people who have difficulty initiating sleep. This is called onset insomnia. There’s maintenance insomnia, which is really for people that have issues staying asleep, and then there’s different types of insomnia. So transient insomnia is the most common. Most people experience this. It’s having a one or two nights of not being able to get or stay asleep, which then can become acute insomnia, which can last a couple of weeks, which then if not addressed, can lead to chronic insomnia, which is defined as having three or more nights a week for longer than three months where you have issues either initiating sleep or staying asleep.

Now, most insomnia is actually psychophysiological insomnia, which is a fancy way of saying it’s learned insomnia. So what can happen is we have one or two nights of poor sleep. Usually it’s from some kind of stressful event in our life. Maybe it’s a loss of a job, maybe it’s a loss of a loved one. Maybe it’s actually you’re excited, you have a wedding coming up, or you have a big event or presentation coming up, and that excitement has created some hyper-arousal where you have some poor sleep.

But then what can happen is, that poor sleep can trickle into anxiety about the sleep. That can trickle into bad behavior and habits or bad sleep hygiene, like compensating with caffeine or using alcohol or managing it in other ways that are not conducive to sleep, which then can lead to chronic insomnia. So this is how this can happen.

So how do you get better sleep when you’re anxious? So really, number one, it’s you need to understand how to uncover or discover the unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that are creating the physical manifestation of anxiety. Really important, without understanding what is the thinking that’s creating the anxiety, it’s very difficult to solve insomnia, learned insomnia. The second thing, once you identify those thoughts, is actually working through the thinking. So once… Maybe for you it’s, “Oh my God, if I don’t sleep, I’m going to lose my health, or lose my job.” Usually it’s related to loss or that which then can be catastrophized into, “then I’m going to end up on the side of the road, I’m not going to be able to pay my bills,” or, “I’m going to end up with cancer,” or whatever it is. These thoughts can build and build and build and become bigger and bigger and bigger and create more anxiety. And then that anxiety gets anchored to the bed and bedroom, which is not what we want.

So using cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia techniques, mindfulness is a incredible, incredible tool for understanding how to become aware of the unhelpful thoughts and beliefs and patterns. And then also acceptance and commitment therapy techniques. So understanding that what we resist persists. So actually, through accepting the uncomfortability, through accepting the anxiety, through accepting the insomnia, can be a path out of the suffering, which then puts your body in a state that it can then get the sleep that it needs.

Seek support. Trying to do this by yourself is very challenging. So really, really important. If you’re somebody right now who has chronic insomnia, who has anxiety about sleep, and you don’t have somebody, a qualified expert to help you, you want to seek out someone that can help you. It’s really, really important. Trying to do this by yourself is very challenging. At Sleep Science Academy, we help people all over the country who have chronic insomnia, who are taking sleeping medications or don’t want to take sleeping medications.

We help them use some of the tools, like based in cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy, and a lot of other techniques that we use as well, to help people understand their thoughts and beliefs. To understand their anxiety so that they can escape that paradox and reset their sleep system. Those two biological processes that get out of whack when our mind gets in the way of the body.

I hope this video was useful. I hope that it opened your eyes to a possible solution. And if you like this video, please like it, please subscribe to the channel, and if you know somebody that has insomnia, send them this video. And if you yourself are having issues, reach out to us at Again, I’ll put a link in the description below. And you can speak with myself or someone from my team to see how we might be able to support you. Okay, I’ll see you in the next video. Take care.

Do you or someone you care about have anxiety about sleep?

In this 6-minute video training, you’ll learn:
1. How to get a better sleep when you feel anxious.
2. About the different types of insomnia
3. Some very powerful techniques to start your journey to less anxiety and better sleep.

★ Can’t sleep? Get more support​ ★

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