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How Anxiety Causes Drowsiness

Daniel Sher, MA, Clin Psychology
How Anxiety Causes Drowsiness

Many people find they can manage some of the mental symptoms of anxiety, like their worries and stress. But where they really struggle is with the physical symptoms, because even when they're not feeling too anxious the physical symptoms can make it harder for them to live their lives.

Drowsiness is a common symptom of anxiety, and unfortunately it's the type of symptom that just doesn't seem to go away very easily - at least not while you're still suffering from anxiety. 

Degrees of Drowsiness and Anxiety

Some people experience drowsiness while they're feeling anxious. Others feel wide awake while they're anxious, but feel drowsy after extreme anxiety or an anxiety attack. 

The Causes of Drowsiness From Anxiety

Some of the causes of drowsiness and fatigue from anxiety are well known. Others are actually still being studied even today. Below, we'll look at some of the most common reasons to explain why you may find yourself feeling drowsy from anxiety:

Drowsiness and fatigue can be a very real problem. They can make it harder for you to complete daily activities, which unfortunately increases the likelihood of more stress. They can also make it harder for you to muster up the necessary energy you need to exercise or spend time out, which are both important tools for coping with stress.

How to Overcome Stress-Related Drowsiness

Drowsiness is something that can be overcome if you get enough sleep. Caffeine can provide temporary relief from drowsiness; however, many people find that caffeine increases their anxiety symptoms. You should also avoid sugary foods/drinks and drugs or medications with stimulant properties (unless prescribed). These can exacerbate your anxiety and they also tend to cause a huge “energy crash” afterwards, which makes drowsiness more likely.

Some solutions to consider are: 

These are all tools you can use to control your anxiety as well as your drowsiness, and they should have a noticeable effect if you stick with them for at least a few weeks. If you find that these tools aren’t sufficient, however, there’s no shame in looking for further support from a therapist or anxiety-treatment program.

Article Resources
  1. Maier, Steven F., and Linda R. Watkins. Stressor controllability, anxiety, and serotonin. Cognitive Therapy and Research 22.6 (1998): 595-613.
  2. Mathew, Sanjay J., Rebecca B. Price, and Dennis S. Charney. Recent advances in the neurobiology of anxiety disorders: implications for novel therapeutics. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part C: Seminars in Medical Genetics. Vol. 148. No. 2. Hoboken: Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company, 2008.
  3. Samaranayake, Chinthaka B., Antonio Fernando, and Guy Warman. Outcome of combined melatonin and bright light treatments for delayed sleep phase disorder. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 44.7 (2010): 676-676.
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