Sleep, Circadian Rhythms, and Anxious Traits

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2015 Sep;17(9):73. doi: 10.1007/s11920-015-0613-x.


Anxiety is adaptive and plays an important role in keeping us safe. However, when anxiety becomes too extreme, it can cause significant disruptions and distress. Understanding the mechanisms underlying excessive anxiety and how to best treat it is a priority for researchers and clinicians. There is increasing recognition that disruptions in the amount and timing of sleep are associated with anxiety symptoms and characteristics. In the current paper, we explore the intersections between sleep, circadian rhythms, and anxiety. First, we review accumulating evidence that anxiety is associated with disruptions in sleep and circadian rhythms in both clinical and nonclinical samples and across ages. Next, we discuss the data linking sleep disruptions with anxiety-related traits (anxiety sensitivity, neuroticism, and perfectionism) and patterns of cognition and emotion. Finally, potential treatment implications are highlighted. Overall, these data suggest that delineating the role of disruptions in the amount and timing of sleep holds promise for improving the lives of individuals with heightened anxiety.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Anxiety / complications*
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Cognition
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Neuroticism
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / psychology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology*
  • Sleep*