We know that sleep influences physical and mental health, but just how much is the subject of debate and continued research. Studies show that getting good sleep – a solid seven to nine hours a night for the average adult – helps lift your mood and mind and can help thwart health problems. If you’re concerned about sleep difficulties and mental health, ask your doctor for possible causes, self-help remedies, and other treatments which may include cutting edge medications like ketamine. What is Sleep? Erica Jansen, Research Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Michigan says, “Sleep is an altered state of consciousness where we have limited interactions with our surroundings and are relatively quiet and still (depending on the stage of sleep). Contrary to our quiet physical state, the brain is very active during sleep, carrying out many important functions. Sleep is essential to every process in the body, affecting our physical and mental functioning the next day, our ability to fight disease and develop immunity, and our metabolism and chronic disease risk. Sleep is truly interdisciplinary because it touches every aspect of health.” She also noted that sleep and mental health “go hand in hand,” saying that sleep is critical for maintaining “baseline mental health.” How Does Sleep Affect Mental Health? About every hour and a half, someone sleeping normally alternates between two types of sleep, with the duration spent in each kind changing as sleep continues through the night. When in “quiet” sleep, you continue through four stages of progressively deeper sleep. Body temperature falls, breathing, and heart rate slow down, and muscles relax. It’s during the deepest phase of quiet sleep that physiological changes are produced to help improve immune system functioning. REM (rapid eye movement) is the second sleep type, more commonly known as the sleep stage when you are dreaming. Bodily functions – temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing – rise to levels measured when you are awake. Studies show that REM sleep improves memory and learning and promotes emotional health in intricate ways. Scientists faithfully continue trying to reverse engineer all the mechanisms of sleep. They’ve discovered that sleep disturbance — which affects levels of stress hormones and neurotransmitters, among other items — causes havoc in your brain, leading to impaired emotional regulation and thinking. Due to this, insomnia may intensify the impacts of psychiatric disorders, or vice versa. Can Lack of Sleep Lead to Mental Health Disorders? There are dozens of sleep disorders – more than 70, in fact, and it is likely that several of the can lead to symptoms associated with mental health issues. We know that sleep disorder, impact, and prevalence, differ based on psychiatric diagnosis. The overlap between sleep and mental health disorders is so great that researchers now believe both problems have similar biological roots. There are several mental health disorders caused or exacerbated by sleep trouble, including:
- Depression, which is seen in 65 to 90 percent of adult patients and about 90 percent of children who have reported chronic trouble sleeping.
- Bipolar disorder. Various studies show that up to 99 percent of all participants report a sleep disorder coupled with a bipolar episode.
- Anxiety disorders affect more than 50 percent of adult study participants, with posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias topping the list. Anxiety disorders often go hand in hand with sleep disturbances.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects between 25 to 50 percent of children with sleep disorders. Problems include trouble falling asleep, restless slumber, and shorter sleep cycles. Some children also experience sleep-disordered breathing, restless legs syndrome, or occasional limb movements.