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Unlocking the Connection Between Sleep Disorders and Mental Health

Updated: May 26, 2023

Tired bodies, tired minds

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”

Sleep has an undeniable effect on one's mental health. Mental health problems can make it hard to sleep, and not getting enough sleep can also hurt your mental health. Like our electronic devices, our bodies also require charging, with sleep serving as a vital recharge element. A restful night's sleep can leave us feeling rejuvenated, whereas sleep deprivation can lead to a range of negative consequences. Studies suggest that sleep plays an essential role in both our physical and mental well-being, with sleep deprivation resulting in heightened negative emotional responses to stress and reduced positive emotions.

Although more research is necessary to understand precisely how sleep and mental health are connected, we do know that sleep is crucial to several brain and body functions that regulate emotions, behaviors, and daily events. Sleep helps maintain cognitive abilities like attention, learning, and memory, so insufficient sleep can make it challenging to handle even minor stressors and can distort our perception of the world around us.

The connection between sleep and mental disorders

The connection between sleep and mental disorders: Even though being unable to sleep can be a sign of mental health problems like anxiety and depression, it is now known that sleep problems can also cause or worsen a wide range of mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and even suicide. In addition, it is now known that sleep problems can cause or make a wide range of mental ailments, like anxiety, depression, and even suicide, knock your door or begin to get worse.

Studies on sleep deprivation show that even healthy people who don't get enough sleep can feel a lot of anxiety and stress. Also, people with mental health problems are more likely to have long-term sleep problems, which can worsen mental health problems and even make suicide more likely. The good news is that there are many strategies for increasing both the quantity and the quality of sleep. But recognizing and fixing sleep problems is crucial to lessening psychiatric disorders. Adults require a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night so that their brains can learn, remember things, and get rid of waste. But a 2018 study found that a single night of not sleeping causes beta-amyloid, a type of protein linked to Alzheimer's disease, to build up.

How the brain reacts

One functional brain imaging study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that not getting enough sleep changes the connections between the prefrontal cortex (a part of the brain that helps with executive functions like planning, judging, and controlling impulses) and the limbic system (the brain's emotional centers) and reward network. The researchers concluded that this resulted in executive function impairments, an increased response to rewarding stimuli, and elevated emotional reactions. The result is an increase in irrational behavior and poor judgment. Sleep deprivation also reduces cognitive function. For example, a study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found that insufficient sleep affects working memory, attention, long-term memory, and decision-making ability.

Common Sleep Disorders & their effects on mental health

Insomnia is a broad term that encompasses difficulty in initiating sleep, maintaining sleep, or waking up at the customary time. About 35% of American adults experience insomnia, and it's frequently found in people with mental illnesses. For instance, 75% of those with depression and more than 50% of those with anxiety have trouble sleeping. Insomnia is also prevalent during manic phases in individuals with bipolar disorder, affecting between 69-99% of people.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder in which a person snores loudly and stops breathing several times at night, making them feel tired during the day. Studies suggest that people with sleep apnea are five times more likely to experience depression, and the risk of depression is more than doubled in people with moderate to severe sleep apnea. OSA is also linked to the hippocampus shrinking, which may make it more likely for someone to get dementia.

Hypersomnia is another sleep disorder that causes people to be too sleepy, take naps often, and still feel tired even after long periods of sleep. It's often caused by sleep apnea or narcolepsy and can lead to anxiety, irritability, slowed thinking, memory problems, and, in some cases, hallucinations.

Narcolepsy has been linked to fewer orexin neurons, which control important things like sleep, wakefulness, thinking, and mood. When the body's biological clock doesn't work as it should, it causes insomnia and other symptoms known as circadian rhythm disorders.

These disorders are linked to memory problems, poor decision-making, and decreased alertness and can be exacerbated by factors such as jet lag, shift work, and aging. Studies have shown that people with problems with their circadian rhythms are more likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases.

Tips for developing and maintaining healthy sleeping habits

Maintain a consistent bedtime routine, getting out of bed at the same time each day, even on weekends. Set a bedtime that allows you to obtain a minimum of seven hours of sleep. However, don't hit the bed unless you're exhausted. Develop a peaceful bedtime routine that aids in the switchover from your day. If you're having difficulty falling asleep, don't stay in bed too long. If you can't sleep, get out of bed and engage yourself in something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Set up a good place to sleep by staying away from bright lights and loud noises, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, and not using too many devices near your bed. Exercise regularly (but not near your bedtime). Avoid caffeine and nicotine during the day, and keep alcoholic beverages to a minimum before bed.

Sleep is the best meditation. Take it seriously.

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