BY: LOVELI BROWN
Not getting enough sleep or poor-quality sleep can increase the risk for mental health disorders. While insomnia can be a symptom of psychiatric disorders, like anxiety and depression, it is now recognized that sleep problems can also contribute to the onset and worsening of different mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.
People with insomnia are 10 and 17 times more likely than those without insomnia to experience clinically significant levels of depression and anxiety, respectively.
Longitudinal studies reported that people with insomnia at baseline had a two-fold risk of developing depression at follow-up compared with people who did not experience insomnia.
There is also evidence that problems sleeping are associated with a variety of mental health difficulties. For example, poor sleep has also been associated with post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, and psychosis spectrum experiences such as delusions and hallucinations. Studies have also found that specific sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea, circadian rhythm disruption, restless leg syndrome, excessive daytime sleepiness and narcolepsy, sleepwalking, and nightmares are all more prevalent in those experiencing mental health difficulties.
Another large study (link is external and opens in a new window) found that deficits in nutrients, like calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, were associated with sleep problems. As such, it’s likely most important to focus on eating a balanced and consistent diet and creating healthy food-related sleep habits, such as limiting caffeine intake in the afternoon/evening and trying not to eat large meals too late.
If sleep problems persist or you continue to experience daytime sleepiness even after getting enough sleep, then it might be time to see a sleep specialist who can help determine whether you need cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or another treatment.
Anxiety disorders have a strong association with sleeping problems. Worry and fear contribute to a state of hyperarousal in which the mind is racing, and hyperarousal is considered to be a central contributor to insomnia.
In people with bipolar disorder, sleep patterns change considerably depending on their emotional state. During manic periods, they usually feel less need to sleep, but during depressed periods, they may sleep excessively. Sleep disruptions often continue when a person is between episodes].
Seasonal Affective Disorder
This condition is closely tied to the disruption of a person’s internal biological clock, or circadian rhythm, that helps control multiple bodily processes, including sleep. Not surprisingly, then, people with seasonal affective disorder tend to sleep too much or too little or experience changes to their sleep cycles.
People with schizophrenia are more likely to experience insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders. Sleeping problems may be exacerbated by medications that are used to treat schizophrenia. Poor sleep and symptoms of schizophrenia may be mutually reinforcing, so there are potential benefits to stabilizing and normalizing sleep patterns.
Sleeping problems are common in people with ADHD. They may have difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Rates of other sleeping problems, such as obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome (RLS) also appear to be higher in people with ADHD. Sleep difficulties associated with ADHD have been studied primarily in children but have been found to affect adults as well.
Children and adolescents with ASD have a higher prevalence of sleep problems including insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing.
Treatments For Sleep Disorders
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) can help you control or eliminate negative thoughts and actions that keep you awake and is generally recommended as the first line of treatment for people with insomnia. Typically, CBT-I is equally or more effective than sleep medications.
The cognitive part of CBT-I teaches you to recognize and change beliefs that affect your ability to sleep. It can help you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake. It may also involve eliminating the cycle that can develop where you worry so much about getting to sleep that you can’t fall asleep.
The behavioral part of CBT-I helps you develop good sleep habits and avoid behaviors that keep you from sleeping well. Strategies include, for example:
• Stimulus control therapy. This method helps remove factors that condition your mind to resist sleep. For example, you might be coached to set a consistent bedtime and wake time and avoid naps, use the bed only for sleep and sex, and leave the bedroom if you can’t go to sleep within 20 minutes, only returning when you’re sleepy.
• Relaxation techniques. Progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback and breathing exercises are ways to reduce anxiety at bedtime. Practicing these techniques can help you control your breathing, heart rate, muscle tension and mood so that you can relax.
• Sleep restriction. This therapy decreases the time you spend in bed and avoids daytime naps, causing partial sleep deprivation, which makes you more tired the next night. Once your sleep has improved, your time in bed is gradually increased.
• Remaining passively awake. Also called paradoxical intention, this therapy for learned insomnia is aimed at reducing the worry and anxiety about being able to get to sleep by getting in bed and trying to stay awake rather than expecting to fall asleep.
• Light therapy. If you fall asleep too early and then awaken too early, you can use light to push back your internal clock. You can go outside during times of the year when it’s light outside in the evenings, or you can use a light box. Talk to your doctor about recommendations.
Your doctor may recommend other strategies related to your lifestyle and sleep environment to help you develop habits that promote sound sleep and daytime alertness.
Prescription sleeping pills can help you get to sleep, stay asleep or both. Doctors generally don’t recommend relying on prescription sleeping pills for more than a few weeks, but several medications are approved for long-term use.
• Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
• Ramelteon (Rozerem)
• Zaleplon (Sonata)
• Zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, Zolpimist)
Prescription sleeping pills can have side effects, such as causing daytime grogginess and increasing the risk of falling, or they can be habit-forming, so talk to your doctor about these medications and other possible side effects.
Over-the-counter Sleep Aids
Nonprescription sleep medications contain antihistamines that can make you drowsy, but they’re not intended for regular use. Talk to your doctor before you take these, as antihistamines may cause side effects, such as daytime sleepiness, dizziness, confusion, cognitive decline and difficulty urinating, which may be worse in older adults.
10 Ways Sleep Improves Your Mental Health
Sleep is essential for our physical and mental well-being. In this article, we will discuss 10 ways sleep can improve your mental health.
1. Sleep helps reduce stress levels.
2. It improves your memory and cognitive function.
3. It enhances creativity and problem-solving abilities.
4. Sleep helps to regulate emotions and mood swings.
5. It boosts your immune system and helps fight infections.
6. It reduces the risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders.
7. It improves your ability to cope with everyday challenges.
8. It enhances your ability to focus and concentrate.
9. Some research has found that sleep may help to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
10. Sleep improves the quality of life and overall well-being.
In conclusion, sleep is vital for our mental and physical health. It is essential to prioritize sleep in our daily routine to enjoy the numerous benefits it provides.