Many people find they can manage some of the mental symptoms of anxiety, like their worries and stresses. 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.
That's one of the main issues with drowsiness. 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.
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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. Make sure that you've taken my anxiety test to find out as much as possible about your own anxiety.
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 you may find yourself drowsy from anxiety:
- Sleepiness The elephant in the room is that you may simply be sleepy. Anxiety and stress can make it very hard to have a restful night's sleep. Some people have trouble falling asleep, while others wake up during the night or fail to reach the full stages of sleep. That causes sleepiness and sleep debt, and of course that sleeplessness leads to feeling drowsy. Simply missing sleep is a common reason that people struggle with being drowsy, and interestingly it can also contribute to anxiety.
- Physical Exhaustion Anxiety is also physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Anxiety itself is the activation of your fight or flight system, which is your body's response to danger. Your body is expecting you to be running away from a predator, and essentially treats you like you're in danger all day, flooding you with adrenaline. That's exhausting to your muscles and organs, and makes your whole body need rest.
- Damage Your body also experiences damage from stress and the hormone it releases (cortisol). Your body generally tries to repair damage when you're asleep, so it may be making you tired in order to give itself more time to work.
- Hormone/Neurotransmitter Imbalances Your entire body is run by hormones and brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Anxiety is both the result of and causes a lack of balance in these body chemicals. It's very likely, of not probable, that you're experiencing the effects of poor chemical balance, resulting in parts of your body simply not working as efficiently.
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 causing yourself more stress. They can also make it harder for you to get the energy you need to exercise or spend time out, which are both important parts of stress coping.
How to Overcome Stress Drowsiness
Drowsiness is something you overcome from sleeping. Caffeine can work, sort of, but some people find that caffeine increases their anxiety symptoms. You should also avoid all drugs, sugary energy drinks, etc., since these can not only create more anxiety - they also tend to have a huge crash afterward which makes drowsiness even worse.
One thing you can consider is the following:
- Journal Writing at Night If you are drowsy because you can't sleep as a result of anxious thoughts, stress, or recurring thoughts (even if they're not anxious), journal writing may be a great anti-anxiety tool. Writing down any and all persistent thoughts in a journal appears to have a strong stress reduction effect, likely due to the brain relaxing its need to focus on these thoughts because it knows they're in a permanent place.
- Exercise Exercise can actually cause drowsiness at first, but over time it has a very powerful effect on energy. Exercise gives the body more natural energy, and also has a very strong stress reduction quality that makes it ideal for combatting anxiety.
- Healthy Eating Healthy eating is unlikely to have much an effect on anxiety. But it does affect energy. With sensations like drowsiness, every little bit makes it worse. So even if anxiety is causing your drowsiness directly, unhealthy and fattening foods also cause drowsiness, and so cutting out those foods should reduce the fatigue you experience.
- Light Therapy The body is actually programmed to stay awake when confronted with light. You may want to look at light therapy tools, and spend as much time in sunny outdoors as possible.
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 a few weeks.
I've also helped thousands of people overcome anxiety drowsiness starting with my free 7 minute anxiety test. This test is a great tool for looking at your anxiety symptoms and discovering how to cure them.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.