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If you struggle to fall asleep at night, you might have insomnia or other sleep disorder that can directly be attributed to your mental health. In fact, sleep and mental health are directly interrelated. Lack of sleep can reduce your ability to concentrate, and can adversely affect your mental health. On the other hand, mental health problems can cause sleep disorders, making it difficult to have a good night's sleep.

How are Sleep and Mental Health Related?

After you fall asleep, your brain activity changes throughout the night, following your sleep pattern. Your sleep patterns can affect your brain activity, as it boosts and relaxes brain activity, enhancing your thought, memory, and learning abilities.

For instance, while in NREM sleep, your brain activity slows down, allowing quick bursts of energy; in the REM sleep cycle, your brain activity speeds up, causing intense dreams.

While deep uninterrupted sleep can improve your brain function, allowing it to process your emotions, and improve mental health, disturbed sleep at night can cause mood fluctuations, resulting in mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Recent studies claim a direct relationship between sleep disorders and mental health problems in people.

How can Mental Health Conditions be Tied to Sleep?

A good night's sleep not only relaxes your body but also plays a significant role in calming your mind, and getting rid of stress and anxiety, while improving your mental health. Your sleep and mental health have a complex relationship mutually dependent on each other.

Not getting enough sleep can trigger mental health problems like depression and anxiety, while having an underlying mental health issue can cause sleep disorders.

Here are some mental health conditions that, if not treated, can cause chronic sleep problems in people.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):

Seasonal Affective Disorders is a type of depression that gets triggered due to changes in seasons. People having SAD can experience mood fluctuations and depressive symptoms with the start of the fall season that can extend through the winter months.

People with SAD often have trouble falling asleep. They can suffer from chronic sleep disorders during the change of seasons, disrupting their sleep patterns.

Anxiety Disorders:

An anxiety disorder can cause persistent worry, fear, and stress about everyday situations. Sudden episodes of fear and anxiety can cause panic disorders, causing intense fear and psychiatric disorders.

Some anxiety disorders that can affect you are generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, panic disorders, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Constant fear and mental turmoil in everyday situations can cause insomnia, making it difficult for you to fall asleep naturally. Conversely, chronic sleep deprivation aggravates your mental health problems, increasing stress levels.

Regular episodes of disturbed sleep can worsen post-traumatic stress disorder. In this psychiatric disorder, people suffer from nightmares that can make it difficult to stay asleep throughout the night.

Stress

While stress is a regular part of life, it can have negative consequences if it worsens your mental health conditions, affects your sleep routine, and keeps you awake at night.

If you have problems sleeping because of increased stress, you might wake up with mood disorders, like extreme irritability that can affect your quality of life during the daytime.

Negative sleep habits can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, making you frazzled and frustrated by life's little annoyances. Poor sleep quality can also become a source of stress as you worry about your ability to fall asleep at night.

Hormone Disruption

Good quality sleep significantly affects your body's neuroendocrine functioning and glucose metabolism. Lack of sleep messes up the communication between the brain and the hormones released as chemical messengers to different body parts.

Studies show that sleep restrictions in adults and children can affect the release of hormones, causing increased concentration of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that keeps you alert by boosting your body's fight or flight response. Because of sleep deprivation, you can have an increased level of cortisol that can put you in a constant state of stress, causing poor sleep patterns.

Chronic sleep deprivation can also affect your physical health, potentially leading to health issues, like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Depression

While sleep disturbances can be a symptom of mental illness, your overall sleep health can also contribute to depression, and possibly worsen your mental health problems.

Studies show that non-depressive people with chronic insomnia are twice as likely to develop psychiatric problems, like depression and mood disorders, if not treated. Early detection and treatment of sleep disorders can reduce depression, and improve mental health.

Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder can experience extreme mood swings that range from high (mania) to low (depression). Such intense emotions can affect your mental balance, and cause depressive symptoms. In bipolar disorder, people can have fluctuating sleep patterns, depending on their mental health.

During manic periods, they might sleep less, causing major sleep deprivation. In a depressive state, people with bipolar disorder can sleep more, disrupting the sleep cycle.

Research shows a direct relationship between sleep and mental health, where disrupted sleep can worsen bipolar disorder symptoms.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, can happen after experiencing a traumatic event that can make a person paranoid about everyday life situations, causing anxiety symptoms.

Studies show a complex relationship between mental health problems, such as PTSD, and sleep deprivation. Though most mental health illnesses have a component of sleep issues, insomnia can be considered a reason for PTSD in some patients.

People with PTSD face regular sleep issues, sometimes causing nightmares and frequent awakenings at night, resulting in daytime sleepiness and mood disorders.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a psychiatric condition that primarily affects children, reducing their attention span, and increasing impulsiveness. The symptoms of ADHD can extend well into the adult years, and can often be diagnosed later on as adults having mental health problems.

People with ADHD usually suffer from sleep disturbances, like excessive daytime sleepiness, trouble falling asleep, and frequent awakening from sleep disturbances.

Other sleep issues and mental health problems, like sleep apnea and obsessive-compulsive disorders, are also prevalent in people with ADHD symptoms.

There seems to be a bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental problems like ADHD, and regular sleep disturbances can cause an increase in behavioral issues, and reduce attention span.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder includes a wide range of psychological symptoms that can affect people's communication and social interaction skills. Often diagnosed in childhood, people with ASD can suffer from sleep difficulties, including sleep deprivation and sleep apnea issues.

Addressing the lack of sleep can improve the mental health of such people, enhancing their overall quality of life.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that can make it difficult for patients to differentiate between what is real and unreal. People with such mental illness can suffer from chronic sleep problems that prevent them from getting a good night's sleep.

Treating chronic insomnia in mental health patients can reduce or eliminate the psychiatric disorders, improving their mental health.

Age-Related Sleep Disorders

Aging can cause changes in the circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycles, causing a higher degree of sleep disorders in older adults. Chronic insomnia can cause breathing disorders, like sleep apnea, and other physical problems, like Restless Legs Syndrome, that can keep them awake at night.

Alzheimer's Disease

Older adults with Alzheimer's disease can have severe nighttime restlessness because of disruption in their sleep cycle. Sleep disturbances and frequent awakening at night can worsen dementia symptoms in such people.

Relation Between Sleep and Mental Illness

Most mental health problems do not occur in isolation, and lack of sleep or chronic insomnia can be a reason for different mental health problems in people.

People with mental health issues, like depression or anxiety, can have worsened sleep deprivation, resulting in several other psychological symptoms, like bipolar disorders and increased emotional reactivity.

The presence of mental health conditions can again cause disruptive sleep patterns that can aggravate existing psychiatric problems.

How to Improve Sleep and Mental Health

Sleep and mental health issues are often interrelated, and form a complex pattern. Improving sleep quality can remarkably reduce mental health problems, and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Studies claim that improving sleeping habits can reduce depressive symptoms, and can prevent the onset of mental illnesses in individuals.

Here are some ways to improve your sleep habits that can reduce sleep-related problems, and improve your mental health.

Invest in Good Quality Bedding

To have a relaxing sleep routine, and stay asleep throughout the night, you need good quality bedding made from natural breathable materials, like latex. Investing in an organic latex mattress can provide you the firmness and support you desire, without compromising on the quality, letting you get good quality sleep.

In addition, you can get into a comfortable sleep routine by getting organic latex pillows that are soft and fluffy, while providing you the much-needed support, while you drift into the healthy and luxurious comfort of deep, uninterrupted sleep.

Follow an Exercise Routine

Sleep specialists claim that moderate to vigorous exercise can help promote sleep in adults by improving sleep quality, and reducing the time it takes to fall asleep. Exercise regularly to improve sleep quality, and have adequate sleep at night.

Also, staying active during the day prevents daytime sleepiness, while reducing the need for sleep medicines. Regular exercise can help regulate weight gain, and indirectly mitigate sleep apnea symptoms.

Exercising three or more times a week can promote better sleep, while reducing insomnia and Restless Legs Syndrome.

However, to fall asleep quickly and maintain optimum sleep health, make sure not to exercise too close to bedtime. Studies show that people who exercise close to bedtime can have more REM  sleep disrupting their sleep patterns.

Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

To avoid poor sleeping habits, and develop a healthy sleep routine, here are some ways to calm and de-stress your mind to get a good night's sleep.

  • Dim the lights by switching off bright overhead lights to create a pleasant calming environment for promoting sleep.
  • Open the windows to get fresh air that can reduce your stress and anxiety, and let you fall asleep naturally. You can also invest in an air purifier to breathe in better quality air that soothes your body.
  • Get some essential oils, and soak in a warm bath before sleep to improve mental health, and get enough sleep.
  • Practice calm activities like meditation and Tai Chi to remove energy blockages, and allow your body to rest, improving sleep quality.
  • Mask annoying, disruptive noise by getting white noise machines that block out outside noises, letting you get adequate sleep.

Avoid Caffeine or Alcohol Before Sleep

Having caffeine before bedtime can keep you awake, and contribute to poor sleep habits. It can worsen chronic insomnia symptoms, causing anxiety and other sleep disorders. Caffeinated sodas may worsen sleep apnea symptoms, causing breathing problems while sleeping.

Also, consuming alcohol and tobacco before sleeping can cause sleep disruptions that can worsen your mental health problems in the long run.

Limit Electronics Before Bedtime

The blue light generated by your phone, TV, or computer can affect the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, causing sleep problems. To have a good night's sleep, and avoid mental health disorders, limit the use of electronics before you go to sleep.

Wake Up Early to Soak Up the Sunshine

Soaking up some early morning sunshine can reduce melatonin production, while boosting your body, waking you up refreshed and energized during the day. It balances your circadian rhythm, and helps you fall asleep at night quickly, promoting good sleep habits.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

While you can follow a healthy sleep routine to get better sleep and improve your mental health, where sleep problems persist, CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be used to treat chronic insomnia symptoms.

CBT-I treatments are typical psychiatric practices where the sleep specialists identify the thoughts, patterns, and behaviors contributing to a disrupted sleep pattern in insomnia patients.

The behaviors and thoughts are then examined and altered, so that the sleep disorder patients can get adequate sleep, improving their mental health.

The treatment can last for 6 to 8 sessions, depending on the extent of sleep disturbances and their effect on the mental illness suffered by the patients.

CBT-I is a multi-component treatment, as it combines different practices based on the person's sleep and mental health concerns. Each session may include the following techniques:

  • Cognitive restructuring: The practice tries to break the dysfunctional thoughts that create sleep problems, like excessive worrying about sleep quality, and anxiety disorders related to insomnia.
  • Behavioral alterations : Here, behaviors that lead to sleep problems are addressed to promote better sleep. Sleep restrictions are prescribed for people prone to daytime sleepiness to regulate sleep patterns improving sleep and mental health issues.
  • Relaxation techniques: Techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, and hypnosis are used to limit the negative feedback loop running through the patient's head as they lie awake at night. It reduces emotional reactivity, bringing down stress and anxiety while improving sleep and mental health in people.

Takeaway

With increased complexity in living situations, mental health illnesses are rising, with a higher incidence of sleep disorders in people.

Addressing sleep deprivation issues can play a significant role in improving mental health disorders, and helping people enjoy a better quality of life.

Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth Magill is a professional freelance writer and editor who holds an MBA. Liz specializes in writing about health news, medical conditions, healthy living, small business, career and work, personal finance, and green-living, including news and trending topics in these specialties. Her clients include Healthline, The Motley Fool, GoBanking Rates, LIVESTRONG.com, Big Interview, HealthNews, Intuit Small Business Blog, Intuit Health, American News Report, Travels.com, IFX Medical, and many others. She’s also a published eBook author and ghost writer for various clients in the health, medical, career, small business, and personal finance niches.