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How Does Sleep Affect Your Mental Health?

writtenByWritten by: Leah McCabe
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

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March 6, 2020 Read Time - 6 minutes

Sleep Awareness Week is an annual event created by the National Sleep Foundation. The goal is to promote better sleeping habits and to raise awareness of the many benefits of proper sleep.

According to National Sleep Foundation polling, the average US adult feels tired during the day at least three out of seven days a week, and more than 25% of all Americans feel tired five to seven days a week.

Whether it’s not getting enough sleep or experiencing poor quality of rest, you might ask yourself, can lack of sleep affect my mental health?

The answer is a resounding yes! Sleep deprivation and improper sleep will negatively affect your cognitive abilities and can lead to mental illness.

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Why is Sleep Important for Mental Health?

Sleep and mental health are intimately tied together.

Chronic sleep problems affect 50 percent to 80 percent of patients in a typical psychiatric practice.

Although it is unclear whether sleep disorders cause mental illness, new studies suggest that improving sleep habits can reduce the development and worsening of conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Further, the relationship between mental health and sleep goes both ways as those with mental disorders often experience difficulty sleeping.

Sleep Deprivation Symptoms

The effects of sleep deprivation come in many different forms, some more obvious than others. The most obvious is chronic and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Some others include:

  • Yawning
  • Moodiness or mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty concentrating or a fuzzy head
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Clumsiness
  • Increased appetite
  • Reduced sex drive

Sleep Deprivation Effects

Sleep deprivation affects a wide range of systems in your body and can be a serious health risk physically and mentally.

Not getting enough sleep prevents the immune system from functioning at full strength. Fighting off infections and disease becomes more difficult and can take longer if the immune system is compromised by poor sleep.

Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of developing new and advanced respiratory diseases.

Your body’s hormonal system is largely influenced by your sleep habits. Sleep deprivation can affect your levels of leptin and ghrelin which control feelings of hunger and fullness. A lack of sleep can lead to overeating, weight gain and the over release of insulin. 

During sleep your body repairs key blood vessels in your heart which helps regulate healthy blood pressure, sugar levels, and inflammation control. Not sleeping enough disallows your body from adequately performing these necessary tasks and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

In men, sleep deprivation can affect hormone production including growth hormones and testosterone. 

Psychological Effects of Sleep Deprivation 

Throughout a healthy night of sleep, your brain goes through many stages.

During quiet sleep, a person progresses through four stages of increasingly deeper rest. Body temperature drops, muscles relax, and heart rate and breathing slow. As this stage climaxes, the immune system is boosted by psychological changes. 

Eventually, you’ll enter REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

In this stage, your body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing levels increase to levels no lower than when you’re awake.

In REM, dreams occur. Although our understanding of sleep still has far to go, studies show that REM sleep enhances memory and contributes to emotional health. It is believed that neurons wired together during the day are released from one another during this stage, allowing for clearer thinking and a stronger memory. 

Sleep deprivation and disruptions to these cycles has negative effects on your mental health.

Insomnia and other sleep problems increase the risk of developing:

Depression

A study conducted in 1989 found that those with a history of insomnia were four times more likely to develop depression in comparison to normal sleepers.

Furthermore, 65 percent to 90 percent of adults suffering from depression experience some kind of sleep problem.

In children, this figure is around 90 percent. 

Bipolar Disorder 

Studies report that 69 percent to 99 percent of patients with bipolar disorder experience insomnia.

Sleep habits also worsen before an episode of mania or bipolar depression.

 Anxiety Disorders

Sleep problems affect 50 percent of adults suffering from anxiety disorders, and are common for those with PTSD. Insomnia can worsen symptoms of anxiety, contributing to negative emotions and mental health.

ADHD

Sleep problems affect 25 percent to 50 percent of people with ADHD. These include difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and shorter duration of sleep.

The symptoms of ADHD and sleep disorders overlap so much the two can be difficult to parse apart. 

Lifestyle Changes for Better Sleep and Mental Health

Below are just are just a few of the recommended lifestyle changes you can make tonight to get better sleep:

Put away your screens before bedtime. With so much technology surrounding us, it can be difficult to confront the need to turn our computers, phones and televisions off when we’re trying to fall asleep. However, the blue light emitted by these screen prevents our brain from producing the melatonin it needs to relax our mind and body.

Avoid caffeine and nicotine, especially late in the day. These stimulants take hours to wear off and should be avoided before rest.

Exercise during the day. Having frequent routine exercise is not only a healthy lifestyle choice but a good habit for increasing sleep. A tired body falls asleep faster.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Doctors For Sleep

If you’re having difficulty falling asleep or think that a sleep disorder is negatively impacting your mental health, our doctors at PlushCare can help.

Click here to make an appointment with one of our trusted medical professionals who will help you relieve your sleep problems and mental health concerns. Our doctors can prescribe necessary medications for sleep that are not classified as controlled substances.


Read More About Sleep Awareness Week


Sources

Harvard.edu. Sleep and Mental Health. Accessed March 6, 2020 at https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health

Sleep Foundation. Sleep Awareness Week 2020. Accessed March 6, 2020 at https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/sleep-awareness-week-2020

Medical News Today. What to Know About Sleep Deprivation. Accessed March 6, 2020 at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/307334#effects

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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