3 Ways Sleep – Or a Lack of it – Can Affect your Mental Health
What came first, your sleep disorder or your mental health disorder? This could be one of those eternal “chicken or egg” discussions. Sleep and mental health are closely related in a myriad of ways. They have a mutually reinforcing relationship that can blur the lines when it comes to the origin of a patient’s disorders. Nevertheless, there are some very distinct ways in which sleep affects mental health that you should be aware of.
Too much sleep or a lack of sleep?
Generally, when people talk about sleep affecting a person’s mood, they are referring to insomnia. A lack of sleep can have a noticeable effect on mood. It can cause:
- Vulnerability to stress
- Lack of focus
While the effects of sleep deprivation could be more noticeable, oversleeping can also have an impact, albeit more subtle, on your mental health. It can create a sense that you are “missing out” which can build up to affect your mood.
Oversleeping: A symptom of depression?
Oversleeping can also be a symptom of depression. Although excess sleep can be a symptom of depression, sleep deprivation is much more common among people who suffer from mental health disorders. But can sleep deprivation cause mental health disorders?
Three mental health disorders related to insomnia
The causal relationship between insomnia and mental health disorders is difficult to prove. But there is definitely some correlation. In fact, insomnia is a good predictor of three mental health disorders:
- Panic Disorder
Insomnia and anxiety
When it comes to anxiety, sleeplessness is often thought of as a symptom. An anxious mind is in overdrive and worrying. This creates a situation in which the patient can experience insomnia.
But what if the tables were turned? A person who cannot sleep for any reason other than a mental health issue, and develops a sleep disorder, could end up with an anxiety disorder.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. A study by Dag Neckelmann, Arnstein Mykletun, and Alav A. Dahl, shows that insomnia is a risk factor in the development of anxiety disorders such as panic disorder. People who suffer from insomnia can be as much as 20 times more prone to developing panic disorder.
A different study conducted by N Breslau, T Roth, L Rosenthal, and P Andreski, showed that insomnia is a significant predictor in the development of “subsequent major depression” when “prior depressive symptoms” – those that preceded insomnia – were controlled for.
The same study also shows that hypersomnia – excess sleep – is also correlated to the development of depression.
Get a grip on your sleep to help prevent mental health issues
Given these findings, and the myriad of other mental health disorders that are corelated with sleep disorders, it is important for you to nip the problem in the bud. To get a grip on your sleeping patterns, you can try the following:
- Keep a sleep schedule, even on weekends – try to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day
- Make sure you dim your lights and put electronic devices away when you are going to sleep
- Find a way to wind down at the end of the day – relaxation or breathing techniques could help
- Exercise regularly to regulate your stamina and energy
- Avoid heavy meals at dinner time
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drug use
- Invest in a good mattress and a comfortable pillow
- Make sure your bedroom temperature is comfortable and stable
If none of these recommendations are contributing towards improving your sleep, you can reach out to one of our healthcare professionals. We will be able to guide you through your choices and assess whether you need additional professional support to help you deal with your insomnia or a mental health disorder. We are available 24/7 for your comfort, so if you are having sleeping issues, you will definitely be able to find a doctor when you need it the most.