Tired of Feeling Sad? Or Sad Because You’re Tired?
Waking up feeling unrested is a feeling too many people across the country experience every day. In fact, more than 1 in 3 Americans experience problems sleeping on a regular basis, according to the CDC. It is recommended that adults aged 18-60 get at least 7 hours of sleep every night; anything less is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
We often first look to life’s physical disruptions when trying to determine the cause of sleep difficulties, but equal consideration must be given to the mental challenges a patient is facing. Mental health is an increasingly reported cause of disrupted sleep; depression being one of the most common conditions.
Is There a Link Between Sleep Problems and Depression?
Yes. Unfortunately, the relationship between sleep health and mental health is a two-way street. Poor sleep habits adversely impact a patient’s mental health, while issues with mental health can also cause a detrimental impact on an individual’s sleep.
It is estimated that 16.2 million people (6.7 percent of all adults) in the United States, or 6.7 percent of American adults, have had at least one major depressive episode in a given year. Clinical Depression is diagnosed only when the symptoms persist to a point that they begin to interfere with normal day to day life. But perhaps the expression should be ‘day to night to day,’ as the longer depression goes untreated, the worse it harms a patient’s sleep.
Depression is most commonly associated sleep problems like insomnia, but also oversleeping/sleeping too much. Traditionally in the psychiatric community, both these sleep issues have been viewed as symptoms of depression and other mental disorders. But studies now suggest sleep problems may raise risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders.
The important takeaway here is encouraging; treating a sleep disorder may also help alleviate symptoms of a co-occurring mental health problem.
What Does it Feel Like to be Sleep Deprived?
Not getting enough sleep will affect everyone in different ways. Occasional interruptions to sleep typically result in nothing more than minor frustrations throughout the next day. However, prolonged lack of sleep can have seriously harmful health conditions.
It is also important to consider quality vs. quantity. The quality of sleep a person gets is just as important as the amount of sleep they get. Problems like frequently waking during the night, uncomfortable environment or other health difficulties can be indicators of low-quality sleep. The length of time spent sleeping doesn’t matter if the sleep is not restorative.
Sleep deprivation is the prolonged duration of the inability to sleep or the sustained duration of low-quality sleep. Common signs a person is experiencing not enough quality sleep include:
- mood changes,
- difficulty focusing and remembering,
- a reduced sex drive.
Anyone who notices one or more of these symptoms on a regular basis should seek treatment from a medical professional. Overnight sleep studies are standard practice for individuals looking to determine the cause of their sleep problems. Working closely with a healthcare professional to seek out the underlying causes of sleep problems is a valuable process and well worth the investment of time and temporary discomfort.
How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Your Mental Health?
Our brains and bodies need enough time asleep on order to recharge and restore. When sleep is disrupted or inadequate, it can lead to increased stress, fatigue and overall cognitive ability. Lack of sleep has an adverse effect on mood and has been found to be a significant contributing factor in triggering relapses/episodes of anxiety, depression,
Healthy sleepers complete a two-part cycle about every 90 minutes. During “quiet,” or deep sleep, the heart rate slows, muscles relax, and breathing lightens. It is during this time our bodies recharge the energy we will physically use. The body’s energy is focused on recharging muscles and organs, while the brain remains relatively inactive.
The other state, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is when we dream. Vitals returns to levels normal during waking hours and our brains are actively working on a subconscious level. REM sleep most directly effects memory, learning, and emotional health in very complex ways. Regardless of existing mental health disorders, and person will immediately notice a reduction in mental and physical abilities when suffering from a prolonged lack of either sleep state. When REM sleep is lost, the affects can amplify existing mental disorders and vice versa.
Further, the link between sleep deprivation has been long proven. When an individual experiences sleep interruptions and is unable to get enough quality sleep, cognitive functions are significantly reduced as soon as the next day.
For individuals battling depression or other mental health issues, the lack of normal cognitive function is even further inhibited. Unfortunately, in many cases, this can create a vicious cycle where an individual’s emotional struggles prevent restorative sleep, and the lack of restorative sleep leaves the individual facing the challenges of depression with a weakened cognitive resolve.
How Are Sleep Disorders and Depression Treated?
The treatments for depression and sleep problems depend on how serious the issues are and how significantly the symptoms are inhibiting a patient’s life. Psychotherapy, medications and lifestyle changes are commonly used in combination for treatment of mental health disorders. Sleep issues are treated in many ways, depending on the specific symptoms a patient is experiencing.
Long-term effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders have been linked to severe health problems including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.
For both sleep problems and mental health disorders, some of the simplest solutions don’t require any medical intervention. Generally, the advice recommended for insomnia is the same, regardless of an existing mental health disorder. Most struggling with insomnia or other sleep issues can find some relief in a combination of the following:
- Substance intake – caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine all interfere with healthy sleep processes. Avoiding these substances entirely is best, but avoiding them before bed will help too.
- Physical activity – routine exercise helps establish a natural balance between day and night. regular activity can help prolong deep sleep and decrease sleep interruptions.
- Sleep hygiene – maintaining habits like consistent bedtime and wake-up routine, using the bedroom only for sleep, and eliminating screen time before bed.
- Relaxation techniques – meditation, breathing exercises and other mindfulness techniques can help relax the mind before bed.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. – CBTi can help to reframe expectations and attitudes towards sleep, building confidence and establishing healthy sleep hygiene.
Related article: Virtual Learning & Working from Home: Why You Can’t Sleep These Days.
Worried about Sleep Problems Affecting Your Health?
Sleep does so much more than keep our mind sharp — it keeps our bodies running at peak efficiently. When we miss out on quality, restorative sleep, everything else in life becomes significantly more difficult. Sleep Health Solutions of Ohio can help identify your sleep problems and find solutions to get the rest that your body needs. Contact Sleep Health Solutions online or call our office to schedule a consultation today.