Did you know insomnia is linked to mental health? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, "one-half of insomnia cases are related to depression, anxiety or psychological stress." However, continued insomnia also leads to depression, anxiety, and stress. So, once a person's sleep cycle is interrupted for any reason, you could potentially end up in a vicious cycle of insomnia and psychological stress. We’ll examine how common mental health issues affect your sleep.
If you suffer from anxiety, you're not alone. In fact, this is one of the most common mental health issues in the United States. Approximately, 40 million people over the age of 18 deal with the challenges of an anxiety disorder. That equals 18.1 percent of the population. Anxiety disorders range from mild to severe and take different forms. The main categories of anxiety are:
- Generalized anxiety
- Social anxiety
- Panic disorder
With all the worrying and stress that stems from anxiety, it's easy to see how this could be a huge interruption to a peaceful sleep. Insomnia results when you go to bed worrying about the next bad thing that may happen. People who have panic disorder may be awakened in the middle of the night with a panic attack, which results in a fast, irregular heartbeat. Once awake, it is difficult to get back to sleep.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People who deal with this disorder are bothered by obsessive distressing thoughts and then feel compelled to attempt to extinguish these feelings. The obsessive thoughts can be related to not being able to get to sleep. The more the person obsesses about trying to fall asleep, the harder it becomes to actually do it. Again, a vicious cycle ensues. Other times, people with OCD may have obsessive-compulsive thoughts about other things as they are trying to go to sleep and this can lead to insomnia.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Anyone who has been the subject of or witness to a horrifying event can develop PTSD. This can include an incident in which the person is directly involved in a traumatic incident or it can be one in which the person witnesses a traumatic incident. The stress it causes can be debilitating for many people. Nightmares, flashbacks, and an exaggerated startle response are a few of the symptoms of this condition.
While 70 percent of adults have dealt with some type of traumatic situation, 20 percent will go on to get PTSD. This means that 13 million people will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. For these people, sleep definitely becomes a problem because nightmares are one of the main symptoms of this disorder. Once awakened, the person usually has a difficult time getting back to sleep.
People who have bipolar disorder fluctuate between depressive and manic episodes. During the manic phase of the disorder, they have a surge of energy and feel like they can take on the world. When people are dealing with this condition, they are restless and get many grand ideas about accomplishing various projects. They may not even feel like they need to sleep or can function on little sleep because of the manic state of their mind. After several days of being in this mode, the body begins to feel the effects of sleep deprivation.
Studies reveal that there is a connection between depression and sleep disorders. People with depression find it difficult to function like normal because of overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Although everyone feels this way from time to time, people with depression find it difficult to cope with the negative thoughts and feelings and therefore, spiral downward. Insomnia is just one response to depression. Some depressed people oversleep because of their feelings of hopelessness.
Tips for Getting Your Sleep
Sleep disturbances and mental health issues both aggravate each other with each one provoking the other. It's important for people who have mental health concerns to strive to get their sleep issues under control. This is so important because lack of sleep only makes the problem worse. Knowing how common mental health issues affect your sleep is the first step. Getting adequate rest is a prescription for just about any health problem. If your health condition is deteriorating because of a lack of sleep, try these tips to get a handle on things:
- Develop a comforting nighttime routine. The key here is to find something that you can do as a routine that helps you feel relaxed and calm. That may be reading a book—as long as it's one that doesn't create anxiety, fears, or stress. It may be relaxing in a bubble bath while listening to soft music. You should do whatever makes you feel calm and happy in the evenings before bed.
- Take time for relaxation exercises. This doesn't have to be anything fancy or long. Just spend a period of time practicing proper breathing techniques. Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth. As you exhale, focus on releasing all the pent-up stress and muscle tension in your body. Close your eyes and envision it leaving your body as you relax the muscles. Deep breathing exercises will help with anxiety, depression, and stress issues.
- Avoid any type of stimulant before bed. It's probably no surprise to know that caffeine before bedtime (or even late afternoon) can ruin your sleep. However, there are other things that can act as a stimulant too. The blue light emitted by electronic devices stimulates the brain, which makes it hard to sleep.
- Make sure your sleeping apparatus is of high quality and supportive of your needs. That means you need to ensure you have a mattress that will fit your body's needs. Everyone is different in what they need in a bed. Having the right type of bed can make all the difference between a good and bad night's sleep. Your pillow is important too. The type you select depends on whether you are a back, side, or stomach sleeper. You want support for your head and neck but you don't want it to be pushed up too much.