Alaska Sleep Education Center

Mental Health Issues that Can Be a Barrier to Sleep

Posted by Jennifer Hines

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on Jan 12, 2021 10:59:11 AM

Young women with a nervous breakdown

Experts estimate that approximately 50 million Americans have some form of sleep disorder. Sleeping problems are not only in America. It is believed that 33% of people in the world suffer from some type of sleeping disorder. Having a good sleeping pattern is important for your mental and physical health and to help you maintain a good quality of life. 

Mental health issues like depression are heavily linked with people that have problems sleeping. Studies show that 90% of people suffering from depression claim they have difficulties sleeping. Those with sleeping disorders like obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia often suffer from depression. A recent study showed that 40% of those suffering from insomnia had some form of mental illness.

Experts tell us that insomnia linked to anxiety. Sleep anxiety is when a person is too scared to sleep. These people often stress about not being able to sleep, so they stay up for long hours during the night thinking about it.

If you are suffering from a sleep disorder, it is important that you speak to a doctor for professional advice. 

What is the link between Clinical Depression and Sleeping Disorders?

Inability to sleep is a sign of clinical depression. Another sign of clinical depression is for those who oversleep. Sleep disorders do not directly cause clinical depression, however lack of sleep or oversleeping can be a major sign. The inability to sleep or oversleeping caused by personal problems or medical issues can cause depression to worsen. If you are worried about someone’s mental health, their sleep patterns might be a clue that something is wrong. 

Here are some of the symptoms those who are clinically depressed might feel: 

  • Hopeless
  • Worthless
  • Sad
  • Helpless

Everybody has these feelings sometimes, but those who are clinically depressed suffer from them for long periods of time. When they experience these feelings they often struggle to live a normal life. 

Why is a Good Night Sleep Important?

There are lots of reasons why having a good sleep is important. Doctors claim that a good sleeping pattern is as important as keeping a healthy diet. 

Studies show that we sleep a lot less than people used to in the past. These studies also found that the quality of our sleep has decreased. In the fast-moving world that we live in today, there are lots of things that can interfere with our natural sleep pattern.

Here is why a good night’s sleep is a necessity. 

  • Having a poor night’s sleep is heavily linked with weight gain: People with the inability to sleep often struggle with their weight. Not being able to sleep is one of the key factors why people suffer from obesity. A study that consisted of adults and children showed that 89% and 55% were more likely to suffer from obesity. If you are trying to shed a few pounds, having a good night’s sleep is critical. Those who suffer from obesity have a higher chance to suffer from depression. 
  • Sleeping for a short duration affects hormones that alter your appetite. Those who have issues sleeping usually eat more calories in comparison to those who get adequate sleep. 
  • Those who do not get adequate sleep often find it difficult to concentrate. This can have a devastating effect on your work or school life. People who get a good night’s sleep find it easier to solve problems and tend to have a better memory.
  • Sleep loss can make it difficult for you to interact with others. There have been many studies carried out that prove that people who don’t get adequate sleep find it difficult to recognize certain emotional expressions such as happiness and anger. 
  • A good night’s sleep can help you boost your athletic ability. Longer sleep can help improve an athlete’s speed, reaction times, and accuracy.

If you feel you are not getting a good night’s sleep regularly, perhaps making some changes to your lifestyle can help improve your life in general. 

Problems Sleeping due to the Pandemic

Most of us never thought we would see the day that a virus would spread all around the world and completely change the way we live our lives. Covid-19 has changed the way we interact with others, for some of us our work or school life is far from the same as it used to be and for many people, our sleep pattern has changed. Here are some of the reasons why the ongoing pandemic might have resulted in you not being able to sleep at night. 

  • Feelings of stress, worry, and anxiety. Many people worry about their families and friends contracting the deadly virus. Others have financial worries, often due to the massive amount of jobs lost due to the impact of Covid-19. Whatever the reason is you are experiencing these feelings when the human body produces extra stress hormone cortisol it can force the body to feel aroused, making it difficult to sleep.
  • Your daily schedule might have completely changed. If you have lost your job or you work from home because of the virus, your normal daily life and social life might be completely different from before. The time you get out of bed, eat your meals, and get dressed might differ from the past. This can have an impact on your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. You might not be getting enough sun, as experts have advised us to stay at home to help reduce the spread of the virus which can also disrupt your sleep pattern. 

The number of people suffering from depression during the pandemic is very scary. The figures have increased significantly since 2019. 


As discussed throughout this article, sleep is a very important part of life. With the ongoing pandemic the world is facing, more and more people are having serious issues trying to get a good kip. For many of us, our normal routine has disappeared. Try and organize a routine. By going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and getting some natural light into your room will prove beneficial. 


Whether you're dealing with mental health issues that are impacting your sleep or want to protect your sleep and your mental health, consider some of these tips for increasing sleep quality consistently.

  • Create a sleep space that is comfortable for you. That means ensuring your space is clean, set at the right temperature and free of distracting light and noise.
  • Make sure your mattress and bedding is appropriate for your needs and preferences. Having the right mattress size, for example, can make a huge difference in sleep quality. That's especially true if you share your bed with someone else.
  • Work to develop a sleep routine. By going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time daily, you may be able to train your body to develop a better sleep cycle. This works best if you allot enough time for healthy sleep and avoid sleeping in even when you feel unable to face the world in the morning.
  • Invest in an alarm clock that simulates sunrise or bright natural light in your room to help you wake up.
  • Talk to your mental health or medical care provider about your sleep issues if addressing your sleep environment and habits isn't enough. There may be an underlying medical or mental reason you're not sleeping that can be addressed with therapy, medication or other treatment.

Don't assume that a lack of healthy sleep is par for the course if you're struggling with a mental health issue. Be open about your sleep with your providers so they can help you understand exactly what role sleep is playing and how you can address it.

Alaska Sleep Clinic is the only sleep clinic in Alaska with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist that specializes in sleep medicine, Dr. Angie Randazzo.  We want to help you improve your sleep and your life.


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Topics: insomnia, mental, cbt

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