Ending the Anxiety, Insomnia, and Sexual Dysfunction Cycle

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

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.

For those who are experience excessive exhaustion makes it difficult to relax. Partners may become frustrated or irritable due to extreme tiredness. The insomnia sufferer may feel guilty and may worry about doing anything including 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, often becoming a vicious cycle which all can influence each other.

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. But what if you could turn this around and trust your body knows how to relax, sleep, and experience pleasure.

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 Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.