Anxiety Brings Long-Term Sleep Trouble

Stress and anxiety may lead to more than just a night or two of trouble sleeping. A new study shows anxiety can cause a long-term sleep issue.

It's no surprise that major life stresses, such as death, illness, divorce, or money problems can cause trouble sleeping. But researchers found anxiety-related lack of sleep problems can last for up to six months after the stressful event.

In addition, people who are more anxious to begin with are more likely to suffer from trouble sleeping.

"This five-year follow-up showed that exposure to severe stressful events can trigger sleep disturbances in people with undisturbed sleep before the event," says researcher Jussi Vahtera, MD, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, Finland, in a news release. "Those liable to anxiety before the event seemed to be at a higher risk of post-event sleep disturbances compared with those not liable to anxiety."

Anxiety Sleep Troubles

The study, published in the journal Sleep, involved nearly 20,000 men and women followed for five years. Researchers measured the participants' anxiety levels and tendencies at the start of the study, and stressful events, such as death, divorce, and violence, were tracked throughout the study.

The results showed that people who were more likely to become anxious and those who experienced stressful life events were both more likely to suffer from lack of sleep.

Overall, men with more anxiety and stress at the start of the study, who then experienced a stressful event, were more than three times as likely to have trouble sleeping within six months of the event as men who weren't anxious at the beginning of the study.

In addition, men and women with anxiety issues were more than twice as likely to suffer from sleep troubles up to six months after divorce compared with a 47% increased risk among those without anxiety issues.

Experts recommend that adults get an average of seven to eight hours of sleep each night for optimum health.

By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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