I often have sleep anxiety on nights before I have to work, tossing and turning complete with all the racing thoughts. Sleep anxiety used to really plague me at my last hospital job a few years back. I remember in the beginning few months of that job it was very hard to get a good night’s rest. And I remember on more than one occasion not sleeping at all. Not fun.
With my present job and the adjustment period there, the sleep at night is getting better. I still have trouble, but I have kind of gotten to the point of acceptance- that I’m going to have a crappy night’s sleep anytime I have to work after having a few days off.
But today I wanted to mention 2 good things I notice after feeling exhausted from lack of sleep and why it’s not so bad after all.
I think being over tired from lack of sleep can be a good thing sometimes- at least as far as anxiety and panic attacks go. When I’m really tired and dragging, it makes it easy to ignore anxiety symptoms and, as the paradox goes, then the symptoms go away.
This happened to me recently with a weird sensation I had for about 12 hours that my throat was closing up. It was making me anxious- part of me was wondering if I would die in my sleep. The rational part of me knew it was just some freaky anxiety symptom brought on by the scratchy throat that comes with the beginning of a cold.
But the irrational anxious part of me me was convinced it was something more. And that, coupled with the fact that I had to work the next day, made for a very restless night.
By about 3am I got so tired of thinking about my throat closing up I decided “Ok, fine, If I’m gonna die, whatever, I’m too tired to give a crap right now…”
And then- Bam! I fell asleep. I woke up breathing just fine of course- disturbing anxiety symptom and thoughts all gone.
I was reading a similar story recently where Paul from the Anxiety Guru learned to ignore his palpitations at night.
So in regards to being overtired from lack of sleep, it’s important to remember a few important points:
Sleep anxiety is a phase. Once I am more comfortable and acclimated at my job, the restful nights will come. The evidence I have of this is the pattern I have noticed in past adjustment periods with new jobs. So it definitely does get better.
If you are going through a stressful few weeks or months and you’re having a lot of sleep anxiety, know that once the event passes, your sleep patten will normalize. (And for tips to help, please see Anxiety and Sleep: Tips That Really Help )
A few bad nights won’t kill you. It’s ok if I have am more tired than usual during this job acclimation process. I refuse to get anxious over lack of sleep. My new job is a big change for me, learning the ropes and fitting in with all the personalities.
For now I can cut myself some slack and know that being tired is just not that big a deal. In fact, it makes it easier to ignore symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety, both at night and during the day.
So the next time you’re dragging from lack of sleep, use the exhaustion for what it is- a little anxiety reprieve. When you’re really really tired, those anxious thoughts and symptoms may come, but it will be that much easier to just ignore them.
And once those disturbing symptoms ans thoughts can be ignored, they have NO power over you. Win!
I wish you peace,