Sleep and Mental Health
The Connection Between Sleep And Mental Health
Many people experience problems sleeping including not getting enough sleep, not feeling rested and not sleeping well. This problem can lead to difficulties functioning during the daytime and have unpleasant effects on your work, social and family life. Problems sleeping can be secondary to a medical illness such as sleep apnea, or a mental health condition like depression. Sleep issues can be a sign of an impending condition such as bipolar disorder. In addition to affecting sleep itself, many medical and mental health conditions can be worsened by sleep-related problems.
One of the major sleep disorders that people face is insomnia. Insomnia is an inability to get the amount of sleep needed to function efficiently during the daytime. Over one-third of Americans report difficulty sleeping. Insomnia is caused by difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep or waking up too early in the morning.
Insomnia is rarely an isolated medical or mental illness but rather a symptom of another illness to be investigated by a person and their medical doctors. In other people, insomnia can be a result of a person’s lifestyle or work schedule.
Sometimes insomnia or other sleep problems can be caused by sleep apnea, which is a separate medical condition that affects a person’s ability to breathe while sleeping. A doctor or sleep specialist can diagnose sleep apnea and provide treatment to improve sleep.
Short-term insomnia is very common and has many causes such as stress, travel or other life events. It can generally be relieved by simple sleep hygiene interventions such as exercise, a hot bath, warm milk or changing your bedroom environment. Long-term insomnia lasts for more than three weeks and should be investigated by a physician with a potential referral to a sleep disorder specialist, which includes psychiatrists, neurologists and pulmonologists who have expertise in sleep disorders.
Cause And Effect
More than one-half of insomnia cases are related to depression, anxiety or psychological stress. Often the qualities of a person’s insomnia and their other symptoms can be helpful in determining the role of mental illness in a person’s inability to sleep. Early morning wakefulness can be a sign of depression, along with low energy, inability to concentrate, sadness and a change in appetite or weight. On the other hand, a sudden dramatic decrease in sleep which is accompanied by increase in energy, or the lack of need for sleep may be a sign of mania.
Many anxiety disorders are associated with difficulties sleeping. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is frequently associated with poor sleep. Panic attacks during sleep may suggest a panic disorder. Poor sleep resulting from nightmares may be associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Substance abuse can also cause problems with sleep. While alcohol is sedating in limited quantities, intoxication with alcohol can make you wake up numerous times in the night and disturbs your sleep patterns. Hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD, ecstasy and Molly, and are also associated with interruptions in sleep. Some sedative medications may cause sleepiness during intoxication but can disturb sleep and cause serious problems sleeping in people who are addicted to or withdrawing from these medications.
Poor sleep has been shown to significantly worsen the symptoms of many mental health issues. Severe sleep problems can decrease the effectiveness of certain treatments. Treatment of sleep disorders has also been studied in relationship to schizophrenia, ADHD and other mental illnesses. All of the scientific data shows the connection between medical and mental illnesses: good sleep is necessary for recovery—or prevention—in both types of conditions.
The first-line treatment for insomnia is good sleeping habits and taking care of any underlying conditions that may be causing the problems with sleeping. But when these are not enough, other treatment options can be considered.
Sleep Issues with Mental Illnesses
Maintaining good mental health is simply impossible in the long run without the proper amount of sleep. Sleep is both productive and restorative, meaning it actively produces important hormones and also repairs any damage the day may have done. Not getting enough sleep has been associated with all manner of emotional disturbance, so its importance cannot be overstated. While it’s not always clear where the line is between causation and correlation, study upon study shows people are simply more likely to be mentally healthy if they are sleeping enough at night.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
While it is not uncommon for people to have trouble sleeping, people with ADHD suffer at a far greater rate than the general population. The problem is, those of us with ADHD suffer from a lack of sleep, which often makes the symptoms of ADHD worse, which can further decrease the person’s lack of sleep, and so on. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and these people suffer all the more for it.
When talking about ADHD, we’d be remiss if we didn’t focus on children. Kids with ADHD are two to three times more likely to suffer from a lack of sleep than children without the disorder, but what can be done to ensure children with ADHD get all the sleep they can? The tips are similar to what you’d tell someone even without ADHD, though children with ADHD should hold more strictly to these guidelines. First, put the phone away. In fact, put all screens away. This will help stop the distractions these cause. Second, stick to a schedule. While binge-watching that show might seem like a good idea now, children’s’ minds will thank them in the morning when they can think clearly and avoid an exaggerated presentation of ADHD symptoms. Finally, eat and drink with sleep in mind. Children (or, more likely, the people feeding them) should remember that their bodies will spend the night digesting what they ingest, so be careful with what you ask them to do.
ADHD and Sleep Disorder
National Sleep Foundation: ADHD
ADHD and Sleep Disorders: Are Kids Getting Misdiagnosed?
How ADHD Affects Kids’ Sleep and What You Can Do
ADHD and Sleep in Children
Sleep Tips When You Have ADHD
Over 40 million Americans suffer some type of sleep disorder, and studies have shown anxiety disorder can make things worse. Unfortunately, anxiety disorder and sleep disorders such as insomnia go hand in hand, so it’s important that anyone with anxiety arms themselves with knowledge as much as possible.
Much like ADHD and sleep disorders, it can be difficult to determine which comes first, but the fact of the matter is, when it comes to addressing a lack of sleep, it doesn’t matter. For the most part, treatment doesn’t change with causation. Treatments can vary between the clinical and the behavioral, but in general, the most common treatments you’ll see for sleep disorders in conjunction with anxiety are sleep medicine and therapy, especially cognitive-behavior therapy. Cognitive-behavior therapy teaches how to modify the types of behaviors that can negatively impact sleep.
How to Overcome Sleep Anxiety
Sleep Anxiety in Children
Chronic Anxiety and Sleep Problems
Trouble Sleeping at Night Due to Anxiety
Sleep You Anxiety Away
A Vicious Cycle: Insomnia, Anxiety, and Depression
As with many mental disorders, bipolar disorder can affect sleep in a multitude of ways. The anxiety produced by bipolar disorder can lead to severe and debilitating insomnia. On the other hand, the depression brought on by bipolar disorder can lead to hypersomnia, or over-sleeping. Neither is good for your mental or physical health and need to be addressed if the disorder affects you in this way.
Further, these sleep issues, which are in many cases caused by bipolar disorder, can co-occur with other common issues, such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea, or stopping breathing when sleeping, can cause excessive tiredness the next day and exacerbate the symptoms of both the bipolar disorder and the sleep issues they cause.
The Connection Between Sleep and Mental Health
Sleep Loss as a Trigger of Mood Episodes in Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder and Dreaming
Sleep Disturbance in Bipolar Disorder
Consistent Routines May Ease Bipolar Disorder
Insomnia and Psychiatric Disorders
Sleep Disorders and Mental Illness Go Hand In Hand
While we all know what it is to be sad, even for days on end, depression can take emotions like sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety, to the next level. When you become consumed with these emotions, you may be diagnosed with depression, and this depression can have an adverse relationship with any healthy sleep habits you may have. Depression affects people in a wide variety of ways. It can affect the way someone behaves, eats, and sleeps.
Insomnia is likely to either co-occur with depression or be caused by it. This lack of sleep, like every other disorder mentioned in this article, can exacerbate the effect depression has on all aspects of life. Like with bipolar disorder, sleep apnea also tends to be an issue for people with depression.
Depression Toolkit: Sleeping Better with Depression
How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep with Depression
Lack of Sleep and Depression: Causes and Treatment Options
Depression and Sleep Disorders
Depression and Sleep: Pathophysiology and Treatment
Social Media Use Tied to Sleep Problems and Depression