Sleep is essential- it is as important to our bodies as eating, drinking, and breathing. Quality sleep helps maintain good mental and physical health. Sleeping allows our bodies to repair themselves, helping foster both mental and emotional resilience. However, sleep deprivation can affect concentration levels, psychological state, and emotional vulnerability. Sleep and mental health are closely connected and have demonstrated links to psychiatric disorders. Sleep and Mental Health (2020) stated that “chronic sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population.” Studies have shown that sleep deprivation may develop some psychiatric disorders, but mental health conditions can also worsen sleep. Insomnia, for example, can be a contributing factor making it harder to sleep and worsening other mental health problems. Sleep problems are common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD (Sleep and Mental Health, 2020).
Although the relationship between sleep deprivation and mental health is not yet completely understood, researchers have suggested that quality sleep can positively impact mental health. Chronic sleep deprivation can influence negative thoughts and worsen mental health problems. Poor sleep can also affect decision making and irrationality. According to Dimitriu (2020), there are four stages of sleep but the most important stage is the REM stage (rapid eye movement). During the REM stage, it provides cognitive, and emotional benefits, as well as, helps regulate emotions. At the same time, the brain is processing new information which helps improve memory. However, individuals with mental health disorders and sleeping disorders suffer from insufficiency of restorative sleep (Dimitriu, 2020). Some may experience changes to their sleeping patterns, making it difficult to get a full night’s sleep. Other individuals spend more time in lighter stages of sleep, and less time in deep and REM stages of sleep (Dimitriu, 2020).
Researchers have found that poor sleep is both a cause and a symptom of mental illnesses. According to Sleep and Mental Health (2020), individuals with major depression either suffer from insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea. Or visa versa, insomnia and other sleep disorders can also increase the risk of developing depression. Additionally, individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders take longer to fall asleep or sleep less deeply. Insomnia can also worsen the symptoms of anxiety disorders or decrease recovery time. Sleep deprivation affects children with ADHD making it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get a good night’s sleep.
Although mental health disorders can disrupt sleep and lack of sleep can affect mental health disorders, there are ways to improve both sleep and psychiatric disorders. Every individual’s situation is different, so the treatment depends on the person. According to Sleep and Mental Health (2020), some treatment recommendations include a combination of lifestyle changes, behavioral strategies, and psychotherapy. Some lifestyle changes include reducing the use of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine in the evening. All three substances contribute to sleeplessness so avoiding or eliminating them from an individual’s life is best. Being physically active can help fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night. Experts also recommend removing distractions from the bedroom like a television or a computer. Some experts also recommend avoiding naps during the day, this will ensure sleep is more restful at night. Having a set bedtime and maintaining a steady sleep schedule can be very beneficial. Relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation can help with anxiety and sleep disorders. Furthermore, cognitive behavioral therapy is another option for individuals who suffer from insomnia or psychiatric disorders. Sleep and Mental Health stated that “cognitive-behavioral therapy helps with changing negative expectations and try to build more confidence techniques so that they can have a good night’s sleep”. Finding the best treatment may take some time, but finding that process can help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep throughout the night.
Dimitiu, A. (2020). Mental Health and Sleep. Sleep Foundation Sleep and
Mental Health. (2020). Harvard Health Publishing
About the Author:
Jennifer Rosales is an undergraduate intern from Fisher College in Boston, MA.
South Shore Child and Family Counseling is a private group psychotherapy practice consisting of a team of experienced clinicians. We are committed to the physical, mental, and social well-being of the residents of Braintree and the surrounding area. Our team of talented and compassionate clinicians will work with you to help you overcome life’s most challenging situations and celebrate your accomplishments.