OCD can cause a wide variety of symptoms, one of the most common being sleep disturbances. Treating your OCD can help improve both your mental health and sleep schedule.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that causes two main types of symptoms: obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions in OCD are intrusive thoughts, sensations, or urges — typically following one or more “themes” — that cause significant anxiety and distress. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that someone with OCD does to alleviate or get rid of their obsessions.

Insomnia, and other sleep-related issues, are common in people with OCD. In fact, research suggests that people with OCD are more likely than those without the condition to have insomnia or other sleep issues and disorders.

Below, we’ll discuss the possible connection between OCD and insomnia, including treatment options for both and tips for getting better sleep when you have OCD.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can have a huge impact on not only someone’s ability to function but also their overall quality of life. Some people with OCD, especially severe OCD, spend hours every day experiencing obsessions and engaging in compulsions.

OCD symptoms can also have other negative effects on someone’s physical and mental health, leading to issues like sleep disturbances and even insomnia.

In one smaller study published in 2021, researchers measured sleep quality in people both with and without OCD.

Study results showed that participants with OCD were more likely to experience poorer sleep quality and more frequent sleep disturbances than those without. Additionally, more severe depression and anxiety in OCD participants were also associated with worse sleep quality.

A review from 2022 explored the various co-occurring conditions associated with OCD, including sleep conditions. Some of the notable sleep issues mentioned included:

  • reduced sleep latency, or time to fall asleep
  • reduced sleep duration, or time spent asleep
  • higher rates of insomnia
  • higher rates of delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD)

Another newer study from 2022 found that insomnia was strongly associated with multiple mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and OCD.

Is insomnia common in those with OCD?

Statistics from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America show that roughly 2.5 million American adults live with OCD — approximately 1.2% of the population. And many of those affected by OCD experience sleep issues or co-occurring sleep disorders.

According to the same review mentioned above, one study suggests that over 42% of people with OCD live with insomnia. When compared to the rate of insomnia in the general population, people with OCD appear to have a 7x increased risk of developing the condition.

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Insomnia causes a wide range of sleep issues, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, that have a significant effect on someone’s daily functioning. In people who have both insomnia and OCD, poor sleep due to insomnia often leads to a worsening of OCD symptoms.

One earlier study from 2017 explored the impact of having a later sleep time on control over obsessions and compulsions in participants with OCD. The results of the study found that disruptions in sleep timing and circadian rhythm can make OCD symptoms worse.

Sleep hygiene refers to all of the behaviors that we engage in to get better sleep. If you live with OCD, outside of treatment, here are a few steps that you can take to improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Create a comfortable sleep environment: Sleep environment plays a role in sleep quality, and a poor sleep environment can make it harder to get good sleep. Some important factors to consider include your mattress, the room temperature, and even the amount of light.
  • Create a consistent sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day can allow your body to create a healthy circadian rhythm. Learn more about creating a good schedule for you here.
  • Limit caffeine and electronics before sleep: Caffeine is great for a boost of energy during the day, but once the afternoon hits, try to reduce how much caffeine you’re consuming. Blue light from electronics can also keep you awake, so try to limit how much you use your phone or TV before bed.
  • Exercise or move more throughout the day: Exercise doesn’t just benefit your heart and muscles — it’s also one of the best ways to improve your sleep at night. Even if you aren’t spending an hour in the gym every day, simply moving your body more each day can lead to better sleep.
  • Explore treatment options for symptoms: Obsessions and compulsions can cause significant anxiety, distress, and even depression, all of which can make sleeping more difficult. By treating your symptoms, you’ll improve not only your day-to-day functioning but also your nightly sleep.

It’s also helpful for people with OCD to find ways to engage in routine self-care. Whether that’s through therapy sessions or engaging in hobbies, every small step can help you better manage your symptoms, which can ultimately help improve your sleep.

Treatment options differ between OCD and insomnia, but treating both conditions together can help you manage your symptoms in the long term.

Treatment for OCD

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most commonly used approach for treating OCD symptoms. Experts consider exposure and response prevention (ERP), a type of CBT, the most effective therapy option for addressing the symptoms of OCD.

Learn more about the best types of therapy to treat OCD here.

Antidepressant medications, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can also help some people with OCD manage their symptoms. Some of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs for OCD are:

Treatment for insomnia

Outside of using CBT for OCD symptoms, experts also recommend another type of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, called CBT-I. Commonly used CBT-I approaches include sleep restriction therapy, stimulus control therapy, and bright light therapy.

Medications can also be helpful for improving insomnia symptoms, as some medications can make it easier to fall asleep or stay asleep. Some of the most commonly prescribed medications for insomnia include:

Some people with insomnia also notice benefits from over-the-counter options, such as sleep aids like melatonin and other herbal supplements.

Keep learning about OCD

If you’re one of the millions of people who live with OCD, you’re not alone. Below, we’ve compiled a few of our top Healthline resources that you can check out to learn more about OCD:

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OCD and sleep issues often co-occur, with some statistics suggesting that OCD may cause a 7x increased risk of insomnia.

Some of the possible reasons for this relationship include the impact of severe OCD symptoms and the effects of other mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety.

If you live with OCD and have noticed that it’s become harder to fall asleep or stay asleep, consider reaching out to your doctor with your concerns. With the right treatment, you can get your symptoms under control and improve other areas of your life, too — including your sleep.