Sleep and Mental Health
Sleep disorders are characterised by the inability to get quality sleep. Experiencing some difficulties while trying to fall asleep is common. However, having regular problems with sleep might indicate having a sleep disorder.
Disruptive sleep patterns include challenges falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at inappropriate times, excessive total sleep time, or abnormal behaviour associated with sleep such as sleep talking.
Types of Sleep Disorders
Insomnia is the inability to remain or fall asleep. This can be caused by stress, jet lag, medications, or medical health conditions. Insomnia can cause depression, irritability and lowers concentration.
There are three types of insomnia:
- chronic, when insomnia occurs regularly for at least one month
- intermittent, when insomnia occurs periodically
- transient, when insomnia lasts for a few nights at one time
Sleep Apnea is characterised by pauses in breathing during sleep. This causes the person to awaken frequently.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
- obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when throat muscles relax
- central sleep apnea, occurs when the brain sends improper signals to muscles that control breathing
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome (treatment-emergent central sleep apnea), occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea
Narcolepsy involves uncontrollable and excessive daytime sleepiness. Someone with narcolepsy will suddenly feel tired or fall asleep at any time of the day.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome is an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. The need to move the legs occurs while lying and is due to tingling sensations in the legs. Moving temporarily eases the unpleasant feeling.
Mental Illness and Sleep
Poor sleep is both a symptom and a cause of mental illness. It is uncertain which causes which. In fact, it is possible that certain factors make some people susceptible to both mental illness and poor sleep. Problems with sleep may lead to the development or prolongation of mental illness. These sleep problems may make it more challenging to cope with mental illnesses.
Sleep disorders often occur together with other mental illnesses. People with mental illness report that they do not get enough quality sleep. This can severely impact mood, energy and ability to handle stress.
Depression and Sleep
Difficulties sleeping, whether lack of or too much sleep, is recognised as a symptom of depression. These sleeping problems become more severe as depressive symptoms worsen. In major depressive disorder, sleeping challenges heighten risks of suicidal tendencies.
Bipolar and Sleep
People with bipolar disorder may experience insomnia or restless sleep. These sleep problems usually worsen before an episode of mania or depression. Furthermore, lack of sleep can trigger a manic episode. Those experiencing a manic episode feel energised, thinking they do not need sleep
Anxiety and Sleep
Anxiety can cause racing thoughts, resulting in people staying awake. Waking up in the middle of the night can cause worries to flood the mind once again, making it difficult to fall back asleep. Sleeping in fits can lead to exhaustion in addition to the anxiety.
Additionally anticipatory anxiety— thinking about sleeping challenges— can make people even more nervous to fall asleep. This is likely to apply to people with PTSD or specific phobias, nightmares that result in them being afraid of getting sleep.
Sleep hygiene refers to regular habits and the sleeping environment that affect sleep. Having good sleep hygiene encompasses avoiding habits that prevents one from falling asleep, and engaging practices that allows one to fall asleep more easily.
Some tips include:
- A routine for sleeping and waking up everyday
- Avoid screen time before falling asleep
- Avoid naps
- Comfortable bed and bedroom
- Avoid heavy meals/exercising, drinking alcohol/caffeine before bed
- Relaxing by taking deep breaths, or meditating
Janna is our in-house blog writer and therapy specialist. She is supporting The Therapy Platform users towards successful therapy experience.
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