Anxiety causes a hormonal rush that can leave you feeling drained and tired. The crash is probably temporary, but the feeling of exhaustion can last even after you’ve gotten some rest.

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If you often feel anxious, you may recognize this emotional pattern: Something stresses you, a test, a bill, a conflict — and the anxiety begins.

It builds and builds while the physical symptoms — the racing heart, the quickened breath — intensify. And as soon as the stress stops, CRASH. You’re suddenly so tired you could collapse and sleep right on the spot.

Even when anxiety is low-grade or long-term rather than the peak-and-plummet kind, it’s often accompanied by a feeling of exhaustion.

Are anxiety and fatigue interrelated somehow? Here’s what science says about the connection between the two.

Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, or apprehension. It can be brought on by a stressful event or by the way you think about an event. Sometimes people feel anxious even when there doesn’t seem to be an external trigger at all.

When you perceive a threat, your hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands release a torrent of hormones to prepare you to fight, flee, or freeze. In response, you might feel any or all of these physical symptoms:

  • shaking
  • quickened heart rate
  • chest pain
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • dry mouth
  • muscle tension
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

Given the surge of hormones and the intensity of these symptoms, it isn’t hard to imagine why you’d feel tired after a bout of anxiety. You might feel relieved, drained, or even exhausted.

Most of the time, a good night’s sleep is enough to restore your energy levels. Sometimes, however, the tired feeling doesn’t go away as quickly as you’d like.

Fatigue is a persistent feeling of being either mentally or physically tired. It may feel like a lack of energy, a lack of motivation, or a lack of strength.

The National Health Interview Survey put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that women report feeling fatigued more often than men.

It can be brought on by any number of physical conditions, including:

  • cancer
  • arthritis
  • diabetes
  • sleep disorders
  • stroke
  • infections

Fatigue is also associated with a fair number of psychological conditions, including:

  • grief
  • work-related or financial stress
  • depression
  • anxiety
Is it adrenal fatigue?

The term adrenal fatigue is sometimes used to describe a feeling of tiredness that comes from chronic stress and anxiety. Some claim that your adrenal glands (two small glands that produce stress hormones) can become worn out by all the upheaval.

A 2016 review of 58 studies concluded that there’s no current research to support the existence of adrenal fatigue. That doesn’t mean your feeling of exhaustion isn’t real. It simply means the reason may not be that your adrenal glands are depleted.

Anxiety can cause you to lose sleep, either because you have trouble falling asleep when you first lie down, or because worries wake you up when you’d otherwise be sleeping. If that’s the case, you may be feeling extra tired during the day.

The relationship between sleep and anxiety is complex. Anxiety can disrupt your sleep and the lack of sleep can eventually make you more anxious. In a 2019 study, people with insomnia were 9.8 times more likely to have anxiety than the people in the study who didn’t have insomnia.

The night shift and anxiety

Studies show that people who work the night shift are at a high risk for sleep problems because their sleep cycles (circadian rhythms) are disrupted. The disturbed sleep pattern makes shift workers more vulnerable to anxiety disorders.

Chronic exposure to stress changes your brain and your body in mostly negative ways. Researchers have found that when you’re exposed to long-term stress and anxiety, it can:

  • harm your memory
  • affect your judgment
  • lead to mood disorders
  • suppress your immune system
  • cause heart problems
  • disrupt your gastrointestinal system

Long-term anxiety and distress are also associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that makes you feel tired no matter how much rest you get.

If stress and anxiety have left you tired, there are remedies and activities that may help revive you. Here are a few:

  • Try revamping your sleep practices. A cool, quiet sleeping space, a regular bedtime, limited naps, and relaxation techniques are key — along with curbing your caffeine and powering down your screens an hour before bed.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise reduces anxiety sensitivity and promotes healthy and restorative sleep.
  • Meditate. Relaxation techniques like meditation and mindfulness can help quiet your mind, regulate your breathing, and lower the amount of stress hormone in your bloodstream.
  • Trim the crash-causing foods from your diet. Whole, unprocessed foods, such as lean proteins, bright fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, and complex carbs, can give you sustained energy. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar are associated with higher anxiety levels, studies show.
  • Talk to a therapist. A psychologist or counselor may be able to help you identify your anxiety triggers and develop coping skills that lead to less anxiety and greater relaxation.
  • Consider medication. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether your symptoms warrant treatment with anti-anxiety medication.
When to seek medical help

If anxiety is interfering with your sleep, your relationships, or your ability to function throughout the day, it’s probably time to talk with a healthcare provider about it. Anxiety can cause serious health problems if left untreated too long, so it’s a good idea to reach out to a health professional to help you identify any underlying causes and come up with a workable treatment plan.

Chronic anxiety and fatigue go hand in hand. Anxiety could interfere with your ability to sleep at night, which can worsen your daytime sleepiness and could lead to other health problems.

To help your body recover from short-term or long-term anxiety, you may want to try relaxation techniques, regular exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep hygiene practices. A healthcare provider may recommend psychotherapy or medication if you just can’t shake that post-anxiety malaise.