Alaska Sleep Education Center

Connection Between Sleeping Disorders and Mental Health Problems

Posted by Riley Stevenson on Jul 15, 2021 1:36:00 AM

Young women at visit at her psychotherapist


Although not everyone is aware of this, the quality of our sleep can significantly affect our mental health. In other words, if we suffer from sleep deprivation, it will probably leave a mark on our psychological state. As such, everyone should respect the value of a good night’s sleep.

However, this connection between sleeping and psychiatric disorders can also work the other way around. As a consequence of this unique relationship, a person with a mental health problem is more likely to be affected by sleeping disorders, such as insomnia or narcolepsy.

With more and more people struggling with sleeping and mental health, now seems to be the right time to take a closer look at these issues and how they intertwine with each other. Here is what we know so far.


How Mental Health Conditions Affect Our Sleep

First of all, we need to point out that not every sleep disorder stems from problems with mental health. Many factors can lower your sleep quality and cause sleeping problems, including genetics, medications, working the night shift, or aging. Sometimes, even the choice of your mattress can have a significant impact on your sleep.

With that being said, you should constantly evaluate your sleeping habits and act accordingly. For example, if you like to sleep on your back but wake up after every night with back pain, looking for the best mattress for back sleepers might be a more reasonable solution instead of instantly assuming you suffer from depression or anxiety.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that a correlation between mental health and sleep issues exists. For example, studies show that as many as 90% of patients with depression complain about low-quality sleep.

Here is a list of other common mental health issues that increase the risk of developing a sleep disorder:

  • Bipolar disorder — Sleep disturbances are a common sight among people with bipolar disorder. Many people affected by this disorder suffer from hypersomnia and nightmares, while others have to cope with insomnia and irregular sleep-wake cycles.
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — ADHD, by its very nature, can disturb the sleep pattern of every person it affects. Accordingly, as studies show, between 25 and 55% of children who have ADHD also experience sleep disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders — If someone is dealing with an anxiety disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, or panic disorder, they can sleep less deeply. Moreover, they may suffer from other sleep disruptions like nightmares or sleep talking as well.


How Sleep Disorders Affect Mental Health

Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that affect sleep quality. They range from insomnia and sleep apnea to restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleepwalking, and narcolepsy. All of them are worrying signs, as they might be symptoms of underlying mental health issues.

Here are some of the signs that may suggest you suffer from a sleep disorder:

  • You find it hard to stay asleep.
  • You have difficulties falling asleep, even if you are feeling tired.
  • You are sleepy during the day, even after sleeping for at least seven hours the night before.
  • You struggle with doing simple daytime activities.
  • During the night, you have panic attacks or nightmares that wake you up.

Each of the sleep problems we mentioned above can be the result of mental health issues. Nevertheless, these symptoms may cause some psychiatric disorders too. Among the most common effects of sleep deprivation are memory impairment, personality changes, and depression.

Additionally, every sleep disorder can negatively impact the mental state of the person already suffering from mental issues. For example, the lack of sleep might lower the effectiveness of treatment for someone with PTSD.

What is worth noting here is that the relationship between sleep and mental health is complex and still not fully explained. Even after many years of research, we do not know the exact brain basis for sleeping disorders overlapping with mental health issues.

Treatment Options

If you are dealing with sleeping disorders, there are many available treatment options that you can try. They can improve your sleep quality, eliminate some of the most bothersome symptoms, and even alleviate symptoms of the mental health issue.

Make Lifestyle Changes

The first thing you need to consider is making a few lifestyle changes. These include cutting down on alcohol and caffeine, avoiding consuming stimulants like soda before bed, and giving up nicotine.

Try Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has already helped millions of people who were suffering from insomnia. It teaches you to become less preoccupied with falling asleep, making the whole process occur more naturally. Therefore, it can transform your fears of staying up the entire night into confidence that you will get a good night’s rest.


Create a Nightly Routine

Establishing a nightly routine can help you calm your mind before going to bed. If you find it hard to relax in the evening, try reading a book or taking a long bath. Create a set of habits and practice them daily to set the proper mood for a solid sleep.


Remember About Physical Activity

Being more active physically allows you to tire your body a little. This factor, in turn, can lead to deeper sleep and waking up less often during the night.


Limit Napping

Limiting napping is a significant part of good sleep hygiene. It can help you maintain a regular sleep-and-wake schedule and fall asleep at night. If you nap for more than 30 minutes a day, it is a clear sign you should make some much-needed adjustments and cut your napping time at least in half.


Turn off Your Devices

To have an uninterrupted sleep, always turn off your devices before bed. As watching TV or using a smartphone can have detrimental effects on your sleep schedule, you should limit how much time you stare at their screens. This way, you will have more time to relax and settle down for sleep.


The Bottom Line

With sleeping and mental health problems being one of the most widespread issues in our society, we can safely say that both of them require more attention. Their effects can quickly diminish the life quality of every person who suffers from them. Moreover, they can cause one another, making themselves even more disruptive in the process. It is a massive threat to the overall health and wellness of every person.

Fortunately, our knowledge about these issues is constantly growing. Nowadays, every individual who suffers from sleeping or psychiatric disorders can address their problems by exploring various treatment options. Hopefully, we will have better ways to combat these issues or eliminate them in the future.

Impaired sleep can seriously affect your quality of life and productivity. Behavioral changes implemented under the guidance of an experienced clinician can improve sleep quality and help you feel more alert and functional on a regular basis. Sleep is a third of your life – make it count!

Alaska Sleep Clinic is the most comprehensive multisite sleep lab in Alaska with clinics in Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks, and Soldotna and we continue to expand our services to those with sleep disorders. Angie Randazzo, Ph.D., is a specialist in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with expertise in sleep disorders. No other CBT sleep specialist provides care in the state of Alaska. She is available to Alaska Sleep Clinic’s patients via telemedicine, through SleepTM.

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Topics: sleep disorders, mental

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