Anyone who has experienced sleep deprivation knows how the lack of sleep affects mental health. The old saying that someone with a foul mood “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” has some truth behind it. A lack of sleep has a direct connection with poor emotional and affects mental health. Sleep deprivation contributes to worsening bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. Mental health problems can also make it harder to sleep, and these issues can exacerbate each other. The bidirectional relationship is strong between sleep deprivation and mental health problems.
How Mental Health and Sleep Are Related
While you sleep, you go through different stages of brain activity. Rapid eye movement, or REM, is a type of sleep associated with high brain activity and vivid dreams. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep has slower brain activity with a few bursts of energy. Both stages of sleep are important to brain health. During REM sleep, the brain processes emotional information, forms memories and consolidates information. Insufficient REM sleep is tied to affects mental health disorders and the severity of the conditions. People with low levels of REM sleep have an increased risk of suicidal ideation and behavior.
Sleep Can Cause Mental Health Problems
Lack of sleep is associated with depression. About 75% of people with depression have insomnia. Around 20% of people with depression have hypersomnia. In the past, sleep problems were seen as a consequence of having clinical depression. However, new evidence shows that poor sleep could actually trigger depression or make existing mild depression more severe. It can also lead to a negative feedback loop. Poor sleep worsens depression, and the worse depression makes it harder to sleep.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that typically affects people during periods of shorter daylight hours. It’s usually worse in the wintertime. SAD is associated with a person’s circadian rhythm or internal clock. This clock controls basic processes, including sleep.
About 20% of Americans have anxiety in any given year. The hallmark of anxiety is excessive worries or fears that affect everyday life. There are many types of anxiety, including social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety is strongly correlated with sleep problems. Worries and fears cause the brain to be highly aroused. An aroused brain can’t fall asleep. The person may even worry about sleep problems, which makes the situation worse.
Bipolar disorder causes a person to swing between extreme moods. A person with the condition has periods of deep depression alternating with periods of mania. Sleep patterns change with their moods. Sleep issues can trigger a swing or worsen one.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder. It’s characterized by trouble differentiating between what’s real and what’s not. People with this condition are more likely to have insomnia than people who don’t have it. Medications used to treat schizophrenia can make sleep problems worse.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neuro-developmental problem. Its characteristics include impulsivity and lack of attention. People with ADHD may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. They also tend to be sleepy during the day. Sleep problems can worsen the attention issues.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder is also associated with sleep problems. Children with it may have severe insomnia and sleep disturbances. They can also suffer from daytime sleepiness.
Ways to Improve Mental Health and Sleep
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a type of counseling. It examines thinking patterns and is known to work well for anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. It can reduce insomnia. It may also decrease psychotic episodes.
Better sleep habits can also help. A steady sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine are essential. Reserve the bed for sleep only. Remove stressful items, such as work or mobile devices, from the bedroom. Invest in a high-quality mattress that will aid in getting to sleep faster and staying asleep longer. Hybrid or even memory foam mattresses are some of the most technologically advanced on the market. They hold you in position so you don’t move around during sleep causing aches and pains when you wake up.