The world’s scientists have spent decades attempting to crack the mysteries of how and why we sleep. Nowadays, sleep research is an essential field within the health and wellness sector, and for good reason.
It’s a well-established fact that we need enough sleep each night to help us cope with the many demands of modern life. Specialists recommend we get at least 8 hours’ worth of shut eye each night to stay happy and healthy, both mentally and physically.
The connection between sleep and mental health is still undergoing ongoing research, but many scientists are confident that proper sleeping habits can help you maintain long term psychological resilience. Sleep deprivation has proven to induce anxiety, emotional unrest, negative thought patterns, and even depression.
Here’s what you need to know about the links between sleep deprivation and mental health issues, and what you can do to maintain healthy habits.
The Low-Down on Sleep Deprivation
Most people love their sleep but love alone has not been able to prevent an epidemic of sleep deprivation in the modern age. Over 25 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea alone, and many more deal with other sleep-hindering medical conditions.
People with psychiatric conditions are significantly more prone than their peers to feel exhausted, groggy, or fatigued during the day. Studies have shown that sleep issues are especially common in people who suffer from bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, OCD, schizophrenia, and ADHD.
Psychiatrists and clinicians specializing in mental health disorders long believed that sleep disorders were symptoms of common mental illnesses. However, more recent studies have shown that persistent sleep disruption and sleep deprivation can actually cause the development of certain psychiatric disorders. Suffering from the sleep problems associated with these disorders also makes it more difficult to manage either condition successfully.
How Sleep Deprivation Affects Mental Health
Poor sleep is certainly a symptom of many mental health conditions—but it can also be a root cause. Sleep deprivation contributes to the development and the prolongation of mental health issues by making it more challenging for patients to benefit from treatments.
Statistically, people with good mental health don’t tend to experience high rates of sleep disorders. Conversely, many people who suffer from both insomnia and hypersomnia also battle with psychiatric conditions.
People who suffer from mental health disorders often deal with a lack of sufficiently restorative sleep at night. Even after a full 8 hours of rest in a comfortable bed, they still awaken feeling fatigued each morning. This can be from waking too early in the morning, waking up during the night, or struggling to fall asleep. Those who experience these issues spend more of each night in lighter sleep stages and enjoy less REM sleep than their peers.
The Importance of REM Sleep
The REM sleep cycle is where the emotionally and mentally restorative qualities of sleep truly lie. If you are enjoying enough REM sleep at night, you are better equipped to regulate your emotions and make rational judgements and decisions. If you aren’t getting enough REM sleep, however, you may experience mood swings, anxiety and memory issues, and may suffer from poor decision-making skills.
Ultimately, sleep deprivation and mental health disorders worsen each other’s symptoms, creating a kind of negative feedback loop. Once the conditions take hold, they can leave you locked in a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break free from without professional guidance.
Issues Caused by a Lack of Sleep
Stress negatively affects your nervous system, and people with anxiety disorders experience stress at a more acute level, regardless of its cause. Their nervous systems struggle to revert back to baseline after exposure to a stressful event. Instead, they remain alert at all times, hindering healthy sleep patterns.
Constant anxiety can cause hormone imbalances, particularly when it comes to melatonin, the brain’s sleep-inducing hormone. When you are experiencing stress, you force your brain to work harder to produce enough melatonin to get you to sleep at night. Eventually, it won’t be able to pump out enough of this crucial hormone, which will lead to damaged sleep cycles, insomnia, and other issues.
Experiencing sustained periods of anxiety can leave you in a state of depression. Depression has associations with feelings of hopelessness, sadness, emptiness, guilt and anger, and it can affect virtually every facet of your life. It even has the power to suppress your immune system, leaving you prone to infections and other physical ailments.
A lack of sleep can furthermore cause poor impulse control. Some people are impulsive by nature, but others exhibit impulsive tendencies because their typical decision-making processes are being hindered by sleep deprivation. An exhausted brain and overstimulated neurons can notably compromise your decision-making abilities, and may even produce hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.
Sleep deprivation can lead to sleep-related issues such as nightmares and night terrors, night-time panic attacks, insomnia, and hypersomnia. These issues can actively affect your mental health, which is why getting enough good-quality sleep on a good mattress is vital to your psychological well-being.
Take Control Of Your Sleep Situation
Sleep deprivation is bad news for your mental health, and likewise, existing mental health conditions can worsen your sleep quality. Your mental health is important and caring mental health professionals should address any issues you encounter.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s possible that some of your symptoms could link to poor sleeping patterns, or inadequate amounts of sleep. If you suspect that your sleeping habits could be negatively affecting your psychological well being, contact a professional as soon as possible for advice.
Addressing sleep deprivation and its effects on your mental health can be a challenge, but help is never far away. You can promote better mental and physical health by building healthy sleep habits with the help of a trained and compassionate physician.