How to Fix the Cycle of Anxiety, Insomnia, and Sexual Dysfunction

Patient Expert

Insomnia has many causes, from medical conditions, medication or supplement side effects, or poor sleep hygiene. It is also a common side effect of those suffering from generalized anxiety disorder.

What is generalized anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent, excessive and uncontrollable worry, often irrational. This excessive worry makes it difficult to complete every-day tasks.

The worry can become obsessive and involve conjuring up worst case scenarios about money, career, health, relationships, world events, friends or family. It can be a debilitating and often-misunderstood mental illness.

What are the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder?Among the physical symptoms of anxiety are fatigue, restlessness, numbness in hands and feet, muscle tension and pain, hot flashes, poor concentration, breathing and stomach difficulties, and insomnia.

For many anxiety sufferers, sleep is a major issue. Thoughts ruminate and swirl in an anxious person and can intensify when trying to sleep. Sleep is often interrupted with nighttime awakenings, making a return to sleep difficult. Racing thoughts, irrational fears, and an inability to "turn off" the mental intrusions also make for frequent restless nights.

How to improve sleep when suffering from generalized anxiety disorder

Fortunately, there are a number of effective medications that, along with therapy, can lessen the crippling effects of anxiety.

The most common type of anti-anxiety medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. While these medicines are helpful, one of the most common side effects is sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction and the loss of desire.

How insomnia affects your sex life

Insomnia has many damaging side effects as well. Fatigue, low energy, increased tension and sleepiness frequently lower libido in insomnia sufferers.

Excessive tiredness makes it more difficult to relax and that difficultly rises as energy decreases. Partners may become frustrated or irritable. The insomnia sufferer may feel guilt... but also worry about doing anything like sexual activity that might disrupt a sleep routine.

This pattern in turn can lead to more difficulty sleeping. It becomes a vicious circle. Insomnia can eventually lead to depression and anxiety, creating yet another vicious circle.

The anxiety makes you worry about sleeping. You can't sleep. Your partner is upset at the lack of interest in sex. You worry about it. You have trouble sleeping. You become less interested in sex. It can seem never-ending.

One of the keys to addressing these three interrelated areas is to talk with your doctor. None of these are subjects to be ashamed about. Your medical provider can determine what treatments will help and whether medication needs to be added or changed.

Talk therapy with a trained social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist can help you sort through the underlying causes of the insomnia, generalized anxiety disorder, or sexual dysfunction.

These connected disorders are challenging but can be overcome.

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free online sleep training for insomnia. If you can’t sleep, his course is there to help. Over 4,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 97 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.

See more helpful articles:

How Relationships Affect Sleep

Override Insomnia with Positive Sleep Thoughts

What Are the Best and Worst Medications for Insomnia?