Most people don’t know it, but in 2002, Jennifer Lopez paid a visit to her doctor and realized she needed to make a life change. The actress, who is now 45, was balancing her movie and music career at the time, sleeping less than 5 hours a night and working for weeks without a day off.
In her tell-all new book, True Love, Lopez explains she started having severe anxiety while working on the movie Enough in 2002, and the symptoms prompted her to visit her doctor for an assessment.
“I was working on a movie called Enough, I was recording an album, I was doing videos on the weekend and I was recording at night,” she explained, as reported by Yahoo Celebrity. “I had worked maybe 55 days in a row without a day off and shooting on a film, and I just one day was walking towards the set and every time I walked towards the set my heart would start beating and I would start getting frightened.”
In addition to her racing heartbeat, Jennifer felt rooted in place, unable to move, and her vision started to go blurry. Knowing she couldn’t take chances with her health, she immediately went to the hospital, where her doctor lectured her about her rigorous schedule.
“The doctor was like, ‘What have you been doing?’ and I started telling him my schedule… ‘How many hours a night do you sleep?’ and I said, ‘Four or five,’ and I had been doing this for years, and he was like, ‘You have to take care of yourself. I need you to sleep eight, nine hours a night,” she recalled. “The truth is, I wasn’t taking care of myself at all. I wasn’t loving myself at all. All I was thinking about was pleasing everyone else and showing everybody else that I could do all these things and that I was fine… I have to take care of myself first before I can take care of anyone else.”
Though Lopez doesn’t elaborate on her exact medical diagnosis back in 2002, The Anxiety and Depression Association of America indicates sleep deprivation often triggers anxiety in patients, and what’s more, lack of sleep has been found in research to coincide with almost all psychiatric disorders. A lack of sleep stresses the body physically and mentally, and prevents the brain from fully recovering during rest.
“In fact, extreme sleep deprivation can cause the brain to start hallucinating, and experiencing many symptoms (both mental and emotional) that mimic paranoid schizophrenia,” state materials from the Calm Clinic. “The reason this occurs is not entirely clear, but it is believed that during sleep the brain regenerates neurons that affect various areas of thought, emotion, and health. When you don’t sleep, these neurons do not regenerate, and in some cases stop firing altogether. Scientists found that some areas of the brain like the entire temporal lobe simply turn off when the brain doesn’t receive enough sleep.”
A lack of sleep will also eventually cause hormones to become unbalanced, which can contribute to anxiety levels. The mental stress, plus the physical stress staying awake for long hours causes in the body, ultimately causes the brain and body to remain in constant “ready” mode where anxiety is kept high.
Unfortunately, anxiety as a result of sleep deprivation can cause more sleep deprivation. Individuals start to stress about not getting enough sleep, and the heightened state of awareness they are always in prevents the brain from preparing for rest. When people with sleep deprivation anxiety lay down, they often feel as though their mind is racing and get up because they don’t feel tired.
Thankfully there are ways to combat this condition, as Jennifer Lopez eventually found out. Relaxation techniques are important to get back to a regular sleep schedule, and reports indicate the actress is currently a huge fan of yoga, a form of exercise designed to gently work the body while calming the mind.