There is a strong connection between sleep and mental health. Getting enough sleep is essential to maintaining good mental health and can help improve mood, cognitive functioning and overall wellbeing. On the other hand ,lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing mental health conditions such as irritability, difficulty concentrating, depression and anxiety.
Living with a mental health problem can affect how well you sleep, and poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health. Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. During sleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and it appears that a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content. Additional research found that sleep interventions are effective at reducing symptoms of PTSD,10 lessening the severity of ADHD symptoms,12 and improving the overall quality of life for people with both conditions.
Sleep deprivation makes us moody and irritable, and impairs brain functions such as memory and decision-making. It also negatively impacts the rest of the body – it impairs the functioning of the immune system, for example, making us more susceptible to infection. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people don’t need more than eight hours in bed to be well rested. Insomnia is a common problem throughout the world. According to estimates, it is believed to affect approximately 33% of the world’s population.1Even people without chronic insomnia often struggle with sleep problems.
How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Mental Health?
It’s no secret that sleep plays an important role in good physical health. Lack of sleep is linked to a number of unfavorable health consequences including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. etc,
Some psychiatric conditions can cause sleep problems, and sleep disturbances can also exacerbate the symptoms of many mental conditions including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. Research suggests that the relationship between sleep and mental health is complex. While lack of sleep has long been known to be a consequence of many psychiatric conditions, more recent views suggest that lack of sleep can also play a causal role in both the development and maintenance of different mental health problems.
Our brain needs sleep to operate at full capacity. Lack of sleep can lead to brain fog, which often feels like confusion or trouble concentrating. You may find it’s more difficult to recall certain memories or find the right words for what you want to say when you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. You will probably find it difficulty to be productive.
Not getting enough sleep may cause mood changes, including increased irritability. Participants in one study also experienced feelings of anxiety and depression as a result of sleep deprivation.
Along with mood changes may come unusual behaviors. Lack of sleep can lead to increased impulsivity, hyperactivity, and emotional outbursts. We might notice that we struggle to interact with other people when we’re sleep-deprived.
Poor sleep can make it much more difficult to cope with even relatively minor stress. Daily hassles can turn into major sources of frustration. You might find yourself feeling frazzled by everyday occurrences.
Severe sleep deprivation is linked with the development of temporary psychotic symptoms. One study found that some participants who went 24 hours without sleep experienced hallucinations and other perceptual changes; others who went 60 hours without sleep experienced both hallucinations and delusions.
Insomnia and other sleep problems can be a symptom of depression, but more recently, research has implicated lack of sleep in actually causing depression.
A doctor may also recommend:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I): CBT-I is similar to CBT, except it’s focused on relieving insomnia. A therapist will help you address the thoughts and feelings that may keep you from falling/staying asleep. You’ll learn relaxation techniques to prepare you for rest.18
- sleep studies: A sleep study is when you sleep in a controlled environment that is set up like a bedroom; doctors monitor your brain waves, heartbeat, eye movements, and more. They can also determine whether you have a sleep condition such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.19
- Over-the-counter sleep aids: There are over the counter (otc) such as melatonin that some people find helpful. However, melatonin should only be used for a short time period. Be sure to consult with a doctor prior to use and report any unusual side effects (like dizziness or confusion) to a doctor right away.20
- Sleep medicine: In some cases, a doctor may prescribe a prescription sleep medicine to help you get a full night’s rest. Generally, it’s recommended you don’t use these medications for more than a few weeks, due to potential side effects and dependency, so be sure to use them only under a doctor’s supervision and report any unusual side effects.
Sleep deprivation can affect your mental health
Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sleep deprivation affects your psychological state and mental health. And those with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders. Americans are notoriously sleep deprived, but those with psychiatric conditions are even more likely to be yawning or groggy during the day. 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.
How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Mental Health
Americans were having trouble sleeping before COVID-19. Unfortunately, it only got worse when the pandemic isolated us from friends and family, closed our schools and offices, and sent shock waves through the economy.
According to a study of 22,330 adults from 13 countries published in November 2021, one in three participants, had clinical insomnia symptoms and nearly 20 percent met the criteria for insomnia disorder rates more than double what they were before the pandemic. Furthermore, sleep disturbances were linked to higher levels of psychological distress. Anxiety and depression rates were also considerably higher than pre-pandemic levels in the same survey.
“Just like our electronics need to be charged, sleep may recharge or reset the brain to optimize functioning,” Elizibeth zake says, an assistant professor of psychology (in Psychiatry) and a clinical psychologist at the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders.
Columbia Psychiatry News spoke with Zakarin about the psychological impact of sleep deprivation, challenges brought on by the pandemic, the influence of food on our sleep patterns, and effective treatments for sleep difficulties.
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