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  • Writer's pictureMartha Lewis

Is anxiety causing your insomnia?

Many people tell me that they can’t sleep because of anxiety. Their anxiety is what’s keeping them awake at night.

And some you have been told by your doctors/psychiatrists that your insomnia and anxiety are all in your head.

I disagree.

I think that what’s causing your anxiety is also causing your insomnia. It’s not all in your head.

I’ve thought this for a while because I’ve learned of so many imbalances in the body that can lead to anxiety and insomnia.

Dr. Ellen Vora’s book The Anatomy Of Anxiety confirmed my opinion. She believes that there are 2 kinds of anxiety;

  1. false anxiety that’s from your body

  2. true anxiety that is your body and mind telling you that something is out of alignment in your life

Whichever type of anxiety it is, your body feels like there’s an emergency and so it enters the stress response to deal with it, making you feel anxious.

There are many physiological causes of “false” anxiety:

  • High cortisol or adrenaline

Your body releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline when there’s stress and inflammation. Gut pathogens, low blood sugar, food sensitivities, poor macronutrient balance and liver dysfunction all make your body release cortisol. Cortisol and adrenaline make your heart beat faster and your mind race and make you feel uneasy, the classic symptoms of anxiety.

When your blood sugar drops too low, your body releases cortisol to give your cells energy.

  • Poor macronutrient balance

Too many or too few carbs for your individual body can lead to anxiety.

Eating foods you’re sensitive to causes inflammation, leading to anxiety. Many people are sensitive to gluten, dairy, soy, eggs and corn and have no idea that it’s making them feel anxious.

  • Sleep deprivation

Your body releases cortisol when you’re tired to give it energy and because it’s stressed.

GABA is our anti-anxiety neurotransmitter and serotonin is our happy neurotransmitter. Up to 95% of these neurotransmitters are produced in the gut,

our second nervous system.

If your liver can’t handle all the toxins it’s supposed to detoxify, those toxins circulate around your body, causing inflammation, causing your body to release cortisol.

When calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium aren’t in balance with each other, you can feel anxious and have a hard time sleeping.

Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic, aluminum, etc. accumulate in the brain and the liver and can lead to feeling anxious.

Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are stimulants that make your body release cortisol.

When the gut is irritated it sends cytokines (inflammatory molecules) throughout the body causing inflammation which causes anxiety. Any inflammation in the gut is going to get to the brain through the Vagus nerve.

Low testosterone, estrogen and progesterone; low or high cortisol ; and low melatonin can lead to anxiety.

  • Medications

such as for thyroid, ADHD, asthma, seizures, and Parkinson’s and corticosteroids can all cause anxiety.

  • Too much time on social media

  • Being too busy and overworked

Not taking time to relax during the day puts you in a constant state of stress.

If you’re having a hard time going to sleep at bedtime or in the middle of the night, it’s likely because stress hormones are coursing through your veins, keeping you awake.

Anxiety isn’t keeping you awake; instead it’s the stress hormones that are making you feel anxious and keeping you awake.

“True” anxiety is a sign that something isn’t right in your life. Some possible causes of true anxiety are:

  • Unhappy relationship

  • Not liking your job

  • Being upset about injustices in the world

  • Lack of connection with people or with nature

Unfortunately, drugs for anxiety can make it worse in the long run. For example, benzos help you feel calm by sending a rush of GABA to the receptors. But since the body always wants to get back in balance, it shuts down the GABA receptors so you don’t have too much GABA. When the med wears off, you have the right amount of GABA but fewer receptors, so you feel anxious again. As Dr. Vora says, “You can think of benzos as a Band-Aid that leaves behind a bigger cut than the one it was being used to cover up.” I’ve worked with many clients who are addicted to benzos and sleeping pills and so I always recommend that people avoid these drugs if they can.

Instead of treating anxiety with drugs, you can change what’s causing the anxiety in the first place. You can work on managing blood sugar, optimizing your diet, doing exercises to calm your nervous system every day, not drinking too much caffeine, etc. And you can test for hidden imbalances such as hormones, gut health, liver function and more.

If you address these physiological imbalances and you’re still feeling anxiety, it’s time to investigate your life and happiness and see what’s causing you true anxiety.

As Dr. Vora wisely writes, “Instead of asking, How can I stop feeling so anxious?, we should be asking, What is my anxiety telling me?” Trying to push away and being afraid of our feelings only makes them worse.

You also don’t want to identify as an anxious person. Instead of saying, “I’m anxious” or “I have anxiety”, you can say “Hmm, I feel anxious right now, I wonder why.”

It’s not true that you are an anxious person, that it defines you-that would mean that you’re anxious all the time. Instead, you feel anxiety sometimes which is a normal part of being human and is your body and mind telling you that something is off.

Here’s the good news:

Anxiety can keep you safe and true to yourself.

And it’s preventable.

At the Complete Sleep Solution, my team and I will help you get to the root of your anxiety and insomnia.

We do functional lab testing to find what’s causing “false” anxiety.

And we’ll help you pinpoint where true anxiety could be coming from as well.

It’s a holistic program looking at both the body and mind so we find everything that’s getting in the way of a good night’s sleep for you.

Book a free consultation to get started so you can feel calm and sleep better soon.

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