The Connection Between Sleep and Mental Health

Sleep is essential. Along with proper nutrition and exercise, it plays a major role both in our

physical and mental health. Most of us neglect the importance of sleep, always trying to

achieve more and more in professional lives. By doing so, we forget that we wouldn't be able to do anything without proper sleep.


Having sleep disorders has become very common among the global population. In the whole

world, the number of people who have sleep issues exceeds 1.2 billion. Only in the United

States, the number of people who have chronic sleep disorders is between 50 and 70 million.

Mental health was a taboo theme for a long time. However, as time went by, it became less

uncomfortable to talk about it, and people became aware of its importance. Let’s check out

what is the connection between lack of sleep and mental issues.


Sleep and Mental Health

Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Not only are both affected by sleep

deprivation, but people who have mental health problems are also more likely to have sleep

disorders, such as insomnia, for example.


Chronic sleep disorders are the most common sleep-related issues in the world. They affect

between 50-80% of patients who have psychiatric conditions. Patients who suffer from

anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are

most likely to develop a sleep issue.


Doctors who treat patients with mental issues usually view insomnia and other sleep

disorders as symptoms. However, studies in both adults and children show that sleep

disorders don't necessarily have to be the symptoms of psychiatric disorders, even though

they can raise the risk of developing them.


The relationship between sleep and mental health is not yet entirely explained. Nevertheless,

neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies show that a good night’s sleep helps to treat mental

and emotional issues, while chronic sleep deprivation prepares the brain for negative thinking

and emotional instability.


Key Points

● Sleep disorders are more likely to affect people with mental health issues than the

general population

● Sleep problems may increase the risk of developing some psychiatric disorders

● Treating sleep disorders may help reduce symptoms of mental health issues.

How Sleep Affects Mental Health


In the course of the night, our body goes through sleep cycles 4-5 times. Each cycle is made

of five stages and lasts between 90 and 120 minutes.


During “quiet” sleep, we go through four stages - two stages of light sleep and two stages of deep sleep. During these two types of periods, our eye movement and muscle activities slow down, body temperature drops, and heart rate and breathing reduce. During the second stage of a deep sleep, our physical energy is restored thanks to blood flow.


The other sleep category, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is made out of only one stage

during which people dream. The mind is active, heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure,

and breathing increase, and muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Studies report that REM

sleep increases learning skills and memory, and contributes to emotional health.


As we mentioned earlier, the connection between sleep and mental and emotional health isn’t

yet completely understood. However, scientists have discovered that sleep disruption, which

affects levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, can weak brain power and impair

thinking and emotional regulation. Because of this, insomnia can intensify the effects of

psychiatric disorders and vice versa.


Psychological Effects of Sleep Deprivation

There are over 70 types of sleep disorders, the most common of which are:

● insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep)

obstructive sleep apnea (disordered breathing that causes frequent awakenings)

● various movement syndromes (unpleasant sensations that cause night squirming)

● narcolepsy (extreme sleepiness or falling asleep suddenly during the day).

Types of sleep disorders vary from psychiatric diagnosis. But the overlap between the two is

so big, that the researchers believe that both may have common biological roots.


Sleep and Mental Health Lifestyle Changes

The recommended treatment for common sleep issues is almost the same for all patients,

regardless of whether they also suffer from psychiatric disorders. The fundamentals are a

combination of:

● lifestyle changes

● physical activity

● sleep hygiene

● relaxation techniques

● cognitive behavioural therapy

● drugs (if necessary).


Bottom Line

Mental health is as important as physical health, maybe even more. The only difference

between the two is that mental health isn’t visible at first glance, and sometimes people hide

their problems so much, that we might not even see that they’re having some mental issues.

Sleep is one of the most important things for having a healthy life.


This article was written by Mira Rakicevic from www.disturbmenot.co


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