What are some mental health disorders from sleep problems?
- Anxiety Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
You’ve probably wondered about the many mental health disorders from sleep problems. Sleep problems or sleep disorders refer to conditions that affect sleep quality, duration, and timing.
While it’s quite common to have sleep problems by having trouble falling asleep or sleeping throughout the night, studies also suggest that sleep has a bidirectional relationship with mental health. Let’s dive more into this topic and find out more about what mental health disorders originate from sleep problems and when you should speak to someone for advice.
Exhibiting mental health disorders tends to make it difficult to sleep. At the same time, poor sleep, including insomnia, is a contributing factor in the beginning or worsening of mental health disorders.
Evidence to date also points out that brain activity during sleep impacts mental health. Brain activity fluctuates as sleep progresses, decreasing and increasing during different sleep stages. Getting good sleep quality, especially during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, helps the brain facilitate the processing of emotional information through neurotransmitters.
The lack of sleep negatively affects the consolidation of positive emotional information, leading to impaired thinking and amplifying the effects of mental health disorders. Read on to learn more.
Studies suggest that over 300 million people worldwide have depression, which is a mental health and mood disorder causing feelings of sadness, loss, disappointment, anger, or hopelessness. Approximately ¾ of people with depression exhibit symptoms of sleep problems.
Like many other sleep problems, depression is known to cause the following:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Impaired work performance
Poor sleep quality is directly linked with health so it comes as no surprise that depression is a contributing factor for increased health risks such as heart attack, diabetes, heart diseases, hypertension, and stroke.
Growing evidence shows that sleep problems and depression are mutually reinforcing, with depression inducing sleep problems in patients. These come in the form of a disrupted circadian rhythm, through changes in the function of the neurotransmitter called serotonin.
Despite its vicious negative cycle, reducing depressive symptoms may be possible by improving sleep quality. Other potential treatments of depression also include medications (i.e., antidepressants), brain stimulation therapies, psychotherapy, and several lifestyle changes (i.e., exercising, avoiding drug and alcohol misuse, getting social support).
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, apprehension, or unease. It is a natural body response in the event of a stressful situation. However, when these feelings of distress become excessive (i.e., persisting most days for six months or more), they cause anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sleep problems are frequently associated with anxiety disorders as they have a bidirectional relationship. Excess worry and fear lead to poor sleep quality, worsening the anxiety disorder. This spurs a negative cycle involving insomnia and sleep fragmentation.
Anxiety disorders are known to have sweeping negative implications for overall health, causing emotional and physical distress:
- Concentration problems
- Tense muscles
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Gastrointestinal diseases
As a result, understanding and addressing the potential treatments for anxiety such as cognitive behavioral therapy, medications (i.e., anti-anxiety drugs, beta-blockers), and optimizing sleep schedules can be fundamental for sleep quality and overall wellness.
Bipolar disorder refers to episodes of extreme mood swings that can be categorized by highs (mania) and lows (depression). For mania, this can involve feelings of heightened energy, racing thoughts, acting recklessly, delusions. Alternatively, depression can cause feelings of hopelessness, irritability, suicidal thoughts, and fatigue.
For people with bipolar disorder, sleep patterns are affected depending on their emotional state. During the highs, they feel less need to sleep. On the contrary, during the lows, they feel the need to sleep excessively.
It comes as no surprise that bipolar disorder symptoms cause sleep disruptions, supported by growing evidence that sleep problems induce or exacerbate the bipolar disorder. Fortunately, due to its bidirectional relationship, treating sleep problems can reduce the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder marked by having difficulty in interpreting reality. People with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered behavior that impairs daily living.
With schizophrenia, one is more likely to experience insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders. Why? It is harder to fall asleep or sleep throughout the night because of psychotic symptoms that cause fear or anxiety. Sleep patterns may also change, making sleep less refreshing and causing excessive daytime sleepiness.
People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment. Sleep problems may also be exacerbated by medication used to treat schizophrenia. As they are mutually reinforcing, treatments for normalizing sleep patterns may help reduce schizophrenia symptoms.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) involves symptoms such as reduced attention span, hyperactivity, and increased impulsiveness. It is typically diagnosed during childhood with 5% of children with ADHD, but it can also last until adulthood.
Studies also suggest that about 25% to 30% of people with ADHD experience sleep problems. They experience insomnia, sleep fragmentation, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
The tendency of other sleep disorders (i.e., obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, circadian rhythm sleep disorder, narcolepsy) occurring also appears to increase among people with ADHD.
Sleep problems in adults can aggravate ADHD symptoms such as forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, depression, and anxiety. Among children, these can cause hyperactivity, inattention, impulsiveness, and difficulty processing information.
Studies suggest that ADHD may result from impaired arousal, alertness, and regulation circuits in the brain. It is also believed that ADHC-induced sleep problems can be traced to a delayed circadian rhythm with a later onset of melatonin production.
Due to the bidirectional relationship of ADHD and sleep problems, their effects can be debilitating for everyday living and affect relationships in school, at home, and in friendships. For all age groups with ADHD, a consistent bedtime routine and healthy sleep hygiene practices can help reinforce the connection between mental health and good sleep quality.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term that involves several neurodevelopmental conditions affecting social interaction and communication.
Children and adolescents with ASD experience sleep problems, particularly insomnia and sleep-related breathing disorders (i.e., chronic snoring and obstructive sleep apnea), more likely than the general population.
These sleep problems tend to be more persistent and can contribute to a worsening of symptoms and impairing the quality of life for people with ADHD. That being said, addressing insomnia and other sleep problems is important in treating ADHD.
These are some of the mental health disorders from sleep problems you may want to learn more about. As you can see, the effects of both factors are mutually reinforcing and can be highly disruptive for gaining good quality of life. This being said, a key solution is to communicate with your doctor to get better sleep quality.