Sleeping is not something you can choose if you want to do or not. It is one of the greatest necessities for all living beings and its importance could not be stressed enough.
Still, today’s busy lifestyle pushed sleep down on our lists of priorities. It is estimated that compared to the 1920s, people now get 90 minutes less sleep on a daily basis.
On top of that, it is more than evident that a big percentage of the world’s population adapted to a lifestyle where they are constantly sleep deprived. That comes at a cost, though. Lack of sleep can affect the person’s overall performance during the day in a negative way and even impact our body’s ability to heal itself. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five Americans has some sort of mental health issue.
Mental Health and Its Impact on Sleep
Depression is probably one of the most common mental health issues of today. It is estimated that over 16 million adults in America are suffering from it. But its relation to sleep is rather interesting and reveals a surprising connection.
When a person is seeking medical help to address potential mental health issues, one of the first questions that the doctor would ask is if the person has any trouble sleeping.
The majority of people suffering from depression – even 90% of them – reported some sort of sleep problems such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
There are 70 different types of sleep-related problem and they range between mild disorders and severe ones such as the inability to fall asleep or maintain sleep.
But sleep and depression can have a different relationship as well – narcolepsy. It is the polar opposite of insomnia i.e. is a sleep-related problem when the person is suffering from constant sleepiness. Narcolepsy attacks can be potentially very dangerous since the person can have an episode in a situation where alertness is required, such as driving. The golden rule states that sleeping between 6 and 8 hours is enough. Chronic sleepiness might also be an indicator of a mental health issue.
However, a study on the link between depression and sleep in teenagers showed an interesting result – the sleep problems started before the depression developed.
Sleep and Its Impact on Mental Health
According to a research conducted in 2017, the tie between them is a two-way street. it is not only mental conditions that can influence sleep, but also the lack of sleep can have a negative impact on the mental health of the person.
The research found that the participants who were treated from insomnia showed improved mood, reduced paranoia and fewer hallucinations. According to the study, sleep also decreased depression and anxiety.
Every single one of us has had a night when our brains just refused to shut down. But if that’s a one-off situation, there is nothing to worry about. It becomes a problem when one sleepless night turns into a week, then into a month.
Even 40% of people who have sought medical attention for sleep-related problems have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Among the most common ones on the list are depression, anxiety, ADHD and bipolar.
So far, it has been clearly established that mental health can be the main reason you are losing sleep. It is estimated that as much as 80% of people who sought help for their mental health issues have reported having trouble sleeping.
During sleep, the brain goes through different phases. The most important ones are the REM stages. In the REM stage, the brain sorts all of the information out. Good sleep helps boost our learning skills, our emotional reasoning and ultimately, our mental health. Having sleep depravity or interruptions in the REM phase of sleeping can cause the hormone transmission (especially of the stress hormone) to stop, serving as a trigger for already existing mental health conditions predispositions.
Why is Sleep Important For Those Suffering From Mental Health Conditions?
Mental health conditions, depending on the severity can make a person act irrationally in given situations. Lack of sleep can influence the person’s ability to be reasonable. Simply put, when these two are combined, the matters can become worse.
One of the symptoms of depression are social withdrawal, becoming more introverted and carrying negative feeling. Sleep deprivation can additionally enhance these symptoms.
In a study done by the University of Michigan, a clear correlation between insomnia, depression and suicide was established.
Mental Health conditions and sleep obviously share a connection and one can be a symptom of or a cause for the other. If you or someone you know is showing signs of insomnia or a mental health illness, consider consulting your doctor. Also, these tips and self-assessment questionnaire from Mental Health America is a good place to start.
In the meantime, try to prioritize sleep and recognize its importance. Making your bedroom a pleasurable place to be in and having a good quality pillow and bed sheets might also help.
Sebastian Morales is Founder and CEO of Good & Bed. Prior to Starting Good & Bed, Sebastian was an investment banker based in New York City.