Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to be able to function optimally the next day. CDC statistics reveal that one-third of the adult U.S. population is regularly sleep deprived. Work and family demands are significant contributors to sleep deprivation. Easily accessible entertainment from the internet is another cause of sleep deprivation.
What happens when you are consistently sleep-deprived?
Several biological processes happen when one is asleep. Consequently, several things can go wrong when a person fails to get sufficient amounts of sleep. Insufficient sleep will affect one’s immunity, appetite, cardiovascular health, and brain function, among others. Research has shown that a lack of adequate sleep may contribute to Type II diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. It is now emerging that rest plays a vital role in mental health.
How Does Sleep Affect Mental Health?
There is sufficient preliminary evidence to suggest close ties between poor sleep patterns and declining mental health status. This can quickly become a vicious cycle leading to a downward spiral; poor sleep causes poor mental health, which in turn causes more inadequate sleep. The reverse could also be true, with improved sleep leading to enhanced mental wellbeing.
Several theories have been put forth to try and explain the relationship between sleep and mental health. The first has to do with emotional imbalances when one fails to get sufficient amounts of sleep. After a night of endless tossing and turning, you are likely to wake up feeling grumpy and depressed. A 2005 study that was carried out in Israel showed that poor sleep led to a decrease in positive emotional responses the next day.
The circadian clock has also been implicated in linking poor sleep to poor mental health. A 2007 study showed that misalignment between one’s internal clock and sleep-wake pattern might increase their vulnerability to mental health disorders.
A final theory suggests that insufficient REM sleep leads to poor emotional processing. It is during REM sleep that we “unlearn” frightening experiences. When REM sleep fails to happen, the individual fails to unlearn the negative memories, consequently developing a bleak outlook. Over time, the individual is likely to develop mood disorders. In the same vein, many antidepressants suppress REM sleep which may contribute to better moods.
Sleep is essential for optimal mental health. Going to sleep each night for about 7 hours can do a lot to improve your mental wellbeing. In the same vein, sleep-deprived persons are likely to suffer from various mental health disorders that may include the following:
The study participants were first interviewed in 1989 and then were reinterviewed in 1992. The researchers concluded that chronic insomnia could be used as a marker for the onset of major depression. The result of this study was corroborated by a 2017 study which was published in Current Psychiatry Reports. This study showed a solid insomnia-depression relationship. A different study carried out in Michigan showed a similar trend with insomnia leading to a four-fold increase in the development of major depression.
Poor sleep contributes to the development of anxiety disorders in adults who are already at risk for it. When the different stages of sleep are interfered with, a person’s emotional state may also be destabilized. This is because REM sleep helps to consolidate positive emotional experiences. At the same time, anxiety contributes to a lack of sleep. Therefore, curing anxiety or poor sleep will lead to improvement in the symptoms of the other.
Development of Psychosis
Sleep has a significant impact on cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and learning. As research has shown, consistently lacking sleep for three or more consecutive days may result in cognitive impairment in terms of hallucinations or delusions and risk for psychosis.
This study reviewed 21 articles with 760 sleep-deprived individuals (72-92h). Twenty studies reported anxiety, irritability, and perceptual changes such as visual distortions, illusions, and frank hallucinations. The symptoms developed after one night of sleep deprivation and got worse over time. Return to standard sleep patterns resolved the symptoms in most of the cases.
Sleep disorders may affect ADHD in different ways. Sleep deprivation may exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD. A 2012 review has shown that sleep disturbances can increase the risk for ADHD a well.
Poor sleep has also been linked to PTSD, Bipolar disease, and other mental health complications. With this in mind, it is advisable to prioritize getting high-quality adequate sleep (at least 7 hours) each night.
Sleep Boosting Tips
Poor sleep has both short-term and long-term adverse health consequences. Fortunately, when sleep is improved, the negative effects are likely to resolve on their own over time, at least in most individuals.
Here are seven things that you can do to improve sleep:
- Create a sleep schedule and stick to it
- Eat a healthy dinner at least two hours before bedtime, avoid heavy feeding just before bedtime
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeinated drinks in the evening
- Substitute addictive sleep pills with natural alternatives such as CBD for sleep. Other natural supplements that you can try out include Ginkgo Biloba, Valerian Root, and Lavender.
- Exercise regularly
- Limit the use of gadgets such as TVs and phones just before bedtime
- Treat any underlying sleep disorders
Poor sleep is closely linked to poor mental health. Sleep disorders can get worse over time if they are not appropriately addressed. Home remedies such as those listed above can get you started on your journey towards mental health. CBD for sleep is another alternative that can be safely tried at home. Apart from improving sleep, CBD may also help to improve mental clarity.
However, if you are suffering from a chronic sleep disorder, it is best that you consult a sleep doctor who can help you figure out a long-term solution. In case your sleep issues have led to mental health problems, it is also advisable to seek the help of a mental health specialist.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Sleep and Chronic Disease. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html
- Daniel Freeman, et al. (2017): The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry. Volume 4, Issue 10, Pages 749-758
- Dov Zohar, PhD, et al,. (2005): The Effects of Sleep Loss on Medical Residents’ Emotional Reactions to Work Events: a Cognitive-Energy Model, Sleep, Volume 28, Issue 1, Pages 47–54
- Lamont, E. W., Legault-Coutu, D., Cermakian, N., & Boivin, D. B. (2007). The role of circadian clock genes in mental disorders. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 9(3), 333–342.
- Walker, M. P., & van der Helm, E. (2009). Overnight therapy? The role of sleep in emotional brain processing. Psychological bulletin, 135(5), 731–748.
- Pigeon, W.R., Bishop, T.M. & Krueger, K.M. Insomnia as a Precipitating Factor in New Onset Mental Illness: a Systematic Review of Recent Findings. Curr Psychiatry Rep 19, 44 (2017).
- Cassoff, J., Wiebe, S. T., & Gruber, R. (2012). Sleep patterns and the risk for ADHD: a review. Nature and science of sleep, 4, 73–80.