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.
All of the data suggests a relationship between sleep and mental disorders that shouldn’t be ignored. Talking with your doctor, health care provider, or mental health counselor is a good place to start. They can recommend a variety of treatment options and help you find solutions that are right for you.
What’s Enough Sleep?
Because mental health disorders affect mostly adults and children 12 and older, we’ll focus on suggested sleep times for those age groups. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, a 12-year-old needs nine to 12 hours of sleep in a 24-hour cycle, a student age 13 to age 18 needs slightly less, about eight to 10 hours during a 24 hour period. Adults seem to function best with 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep nightly.
Sleep requirements differ based on genetics, environment, and degree of tiredness, among other factors. Adults, whose bodies may have adjusted to the rigors of their environment like family, work, and other commitments, often claim that they can get by on just a few hours of sleep. Research shows that people who claim to function well on less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep actually don’t.
Don’t Forget Your Mental Health.
Because of the connection with sleep disturbances and mental health, it is often suggested that by first treating the mental health condition, a persons sleep disturbances will resolve quickly after. Effective therapies and medications can help with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health disorders. When these conditions are well controlled, most people report improved sleep patterns. Ketamine is an effective treatment for many mental health conditions and most ketamine patients report improved sleep after ketamine infusions. In fact, an often-cited reason for returning for a “booster” ketamine treatment is a change in sleep patterns that may signal an imminent relapse of depression or anxiety and can be a cue or early warning for the person to quickly work on improving their mental health.
Sleep and mental health are inextricably linked, but questions remain how they affect one person compared to the next. Concerns about your psychological wellbeing should never be minimized. Besides getting more sleep to relieve symptoms of anxiety, for instance, your doctor may recommend therapy in combination with medicine like ketamine.
If you or a loved one is battling the symptoms of a mental health condition we can help. We invite you to contact us today to learn more about the clinical use of Ketamine for mental health disorders.