Individuals who can not sleep a wink or wake up on the wrong side of the bed are at a mighty disadvantage of developing multiple problems, such as heart diseases and diabetes. The repercussions of lack of sleep and sleep problems also extend to the realm of mental well-being.
The relationship between mental health and quality sleep is not fully understood. However, there is substantial evidence to corroborate the point that they influence each other due to the existence of bidirectional relationship. Therefore, poor sleep is responsible for both sunset and worsening of mental disorders.
Sleep is described as a condition of body and mind that typically recurs for several hours every night when the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed and the consciousness practically suspended. It is crucial for regulating mood, processing emotions, conducting daily activities and turning experiences into memories. In fact, good sleep reduces the risk of developing serious mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, depression and psychosis.
According to a study financed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep is also linked to the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, good sleep, especially rapid eye movement sleep (REMS), plays a vital role in ensuring emotional well-being and psychological balance.
In addition to the above, sleep problems can also occur due to an existing mental disorder. Compared to the general population, sleep problems are more predominant among people grappling with the challenges of mental illnesses. As the persistence of sleep problems can worsen the existing mental health conditions, it is necessary to adequately treat such issues.
Sleep problems psychiatric conditions
The lack of sleep reduces impulsivity control and impairs cognitive behavioral skills. Individuals coping with mental illnesses experience these problems to a greater degree than their mentally healthy peers. In fact, the risk of developing suicidal thoughts and behaviors is more pronounced in a person suffering from both sleep problems and mental disorders. Similarly, individuals with psychiatric illnesses are more likely to worsen their sleep problems, exacerbating both issues in the process.
Oftentimes, when sleep problems persist, many individuals turn to over-the-counter (OTC) drugs or prescription drugs. Using prescription medications as the means to fall sleep has a wide range of risks, such as:
- The development of psychological dependence on drugs that promote sleep. Although it is not so common, the abrupt cessation of these medications leads to the aggravation of any undercoming symptoms of mental disorders.
- Individuals who are on antidepressants and take sleep aids risk a bad interplay of medicines that can compromise their mental and physical health. In addition, antidepressants are also known to interfere with sleep.
Sleep problems also share a unique relationship with the following mental disorders:
- Psychosis: One of the chief characteristics of psychosis is disturbed sleep and individuals with this mental condition are known to either sleep excessively or very little in irregular patterns. In some cases, disturbed sleep patterns can signal the onset of psychosis among individuals with schizophrenia.
- Anxiety disorders: Anxiety and sleep problems go hand in hand, as they are one of the most common combinations experienced by people. The prevalence of sleep problems is common among individuals coping with anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While sleep deprivation is often the byproduct of anxiety, disturbed sleep elevates the risk for anxiety disorders. In addition, individuals who are prone to worry also fall in the high-risk group for experiencing poor sleep.
- Depression: Insomnia and hypersomnia are a common phenomenon among individuals going through depression. These sleep conditions are not only the symptoms of depression but also the major contributing factors to the development of mood disorders. While deprivation of sleep leads to depressive symptoms, one is also likely to witness a range of sleep problems due to the challenges of depression. In addition, mood disorders can invoke a state where there is a reduced need to sleep, while other symptoms entail extreme fatigue, followed by the long periods of sleep without a distinct pattern.
Help is at hand
Although medical practitioners have time and again highlighted the repercussions of sleep deficiency on body and mind, there is still comparatively less focus upon this fact. With the foray of a range of technologies and other distractions, quality sleep has invariably taken a back seat. This has led a marked surge in the number of mental health issues among the masses.