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The often-missed link between anxiety disorders and sleep problems: 'There is still a lot to categorize'

The often-missed link between anxiety disorders and sleep problems: ‘There is still a lot to categorize’

The brain stays alert all night.

“We want to know two things,” says Eos van Sommeren, head of the Department of Sleep and Cognition at the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience. “Why do people sleep poorly in the first place, and why are people who sleep poorly more likely to develop an anxiety disorder?”

Van Sommeren suspects this is because their sleep is so interrupted. “They don’t sleep until those few hours when you add it all up, but their brains keep waking up and staying alert all night.”

active and inactive

The new research aims to find answers to what exactly is happening in the brain and where sleep problems and anxiety disorders meet.

“We’ll look closely at brain waves, among other things. We want to identify which parts of the brain are active during interrupted sleep and which parts are inactive,” Van Sommeren says.

The link between poor sleep and depression has been proven

Van Sommeren and his team have already conducted research in recent years on the link between poor sleep and the development of depression. “We now know there is a direct link. People who sleep poorly are twice as likely to develop depression than people who sleep well.”

“And it also makes sense: If you feel good about yourself and are stressed or stressed, after a good night’s sleep it’s often not that bad. If, on the other hand, you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, the opposite effect may be felt. Then the fears become Dark thoughts grow.

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“Think and treat a lot in boxes”

There appears to be a similar relationship in anxiety disorders. Of all patients with an anxiety disorder, at least 80 percent seem to have poor sleep. “We already know this, but very little work with that knowledge,” says van Sommeren.

“There’s still a lot of thinking and processing in boxes. People are either getting treatment for an anxiety disorder or a lack of sleep. Whereas it’s about one and the other.”

“People are at their wits end”

The lack of interest in sleep problems has a big impact, says sleep researcher Van Someren. “I see people who are very smart, and we have to do something about it.”

“There are cognitive and behavioral therapies that can alleviate sleep problems, and sometimes medications can help too. I think we’ve become very reluctant to take sleeping pills. Should we wait until the insomniac becomes depressed or anxious and then give them the pills?”