Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sufficient sleep, especially REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. During sleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and it appears that a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content. Sleep in many respects is a built-in biological source of resilience and the ability to bounce back, chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability. And those with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders. Sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling irritable and exhausted in the short-term, but it can also have serious long-term health consequences. If you are having problems sleeping, you might:
be more likely to feel anxious, depressed, or suicidal
be more likely to have psychotic episodes – poor sleep can trigger mania, psychosis, or paranoia, or make existing symptoms worse
feel lonely or isolated – if you do not have the energy to see people
struggle to concentrate, or make plans and decisions
feel irritable or not have the energy to do things
The good news is that because sleep problems are usually considered modifiable risk factors for many conditions, finding ways to improve sleep quality and quantity can be also helpful in relieving the symptoms of different mental disorders. If you have been struggling with a sleep problem or are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, talk to your doctor about your treatment options. Addressing your sleep issues early is important for protecting both your physical and mental well-being.
Mental Health Counselor Intern