June 27, 2013
Sleep Deprivation Boosts Anticipatory Anxiety

If you find you are especially anxious, nervous, and flustered following a rough night’s sleep, you are not imagining the symptoms. Sleep deprivation can incite a stress disorder, according to new research.

Anxiety is an unpleasant state of inner turmoil and apprehension, often accompanied by nervous behavior, somatic complaints, and rumination.

Somatic symptoms include an upset stomach, shaking, or even a full blown panic attack where the sufferer endures another host of symptoms like shortness of breath, sweating, chest pain, nausea, palpitations, dizziness, and paresthesias. Based on severity, it can last for minutes or hours.

Prolonged bouts of anxiety and stress can lead to further, more chronic, health complications.

Anxiety can be characterized by excessive, seemingly uncontrollable irrational levels of worry and fear about everyday things that is disproportionate to the actual source of concern. This is often diagnosed as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and can occur without an identifiable trigger.

Sufferers of anticipatory anxiety preoccupy themselves with negative predictions about an unknown outcome – worrying excessively over something that hasn’t yet occurred. This condition is common among people with phobias.

University of California, Berkeley researchers have found a lack of sleep may play a key role in ramping up the brain regions that contribute to excessive worrying, reports Science Daily.

Neuroscientists suggest, based on the study data published in the Journal of Neuroscience, sleep deprivation amplifies anticipatory anxiety by firing up the brain's amygdala and insular cortex – regions associated with emotional processing. Inadequate sleep mimics the abnormal neural activity seen in anxiety disorders.

Therefore, innate worriers, people who are especially anxious by their very nature, are more likely to develop a full-blown anxiety disorder and are acutely vulnerable to the impact of insufficient sleep.

Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and senior author of the paper says, “These findings help us realize that those people who are anxious by nature are the same people who will suffer the greatest harm from sleep deprivation.”

Neuroscience News states, the results indicate that people suffering from such maladies as generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder may benefit considerably from sleep therapy.

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