Adequate, good-quality sleep every night is vital for overall well-being. Sleep refreshes the body and improves brain performance, mood, and health. The quality and quantity of sleep you get every night are indicators and big predictors of your physical and mental health.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night is essential for good health. Quality sleep can enhance fine motor skills, muscular endurance, and problem-solving skills. But, most people fail to get adequate, good-quality sleep regularly. As per one survey, more than 30% of adults in the United States are known to get less than 7 hours of sleep regularly, and more than 70% of high school students struggle to get 8 hours of sleep on weeknights.
Inadequate sleep is affecting the physical and mental health of people across the globe.
If you have poor sleep quality and quantity, you may be suffering from anxiety, depression, or feelings of suicide. Poor sleep is also associated with psychotic episodes and can also trigger mania, psychosis, or paranoia or make existing symptoms worse.
The current article discusses in detail about sleep and its association with mental health disorders.
Common mental health disorders
Sleep problems and mental health disorders go hand in hand. Some of the common mental health disorders that occur along with sleep-wake disorders include:
Depression triggers rumination and delays your sleep. Poor sleep quality or insomnia could increase the risk of depression. So, both share a bidirectional relationship. People suffering from depression experience a reduced amount of restorative slow-wave sleep an individual gets each night.
General anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These conditions contribute to sleep issues and hyperarousal, in which your mind doesn’t rest and is racing, contributing to insomnia.
Problems with sleep may cause worries at bedtime, causing anticipatory anxiety (worry about the future, the fear that bad things might happen to you or you may fail) and making it harder to sleep.
Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness and involves episodes of extreme mood swings where a person experiences both emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and depressive lows.
People with bipolar disorder experience erratic sleep patterns, and the reverse can also be true. When people experience manic periods of bipolar disorder, they sleep less, but during depressed periods of bipolar disorder, they may sleep more hours than needed.
Research provides evidence that sleep issues induce or aggravate manic highs and depressive moods, and because of the bidirectional relationship between bipolar disorder and sleep, addressing and treating insomnia can alleviate the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Schizophrenia is a mental condition in which a person struggles to differentiate between real and unreal. People who have schizophrenia also experience circadian rhythm (natural oscillation that repeats roughly every 24 hours) and insomnia. Medications used for addressing schizophrenia could aggravate the sleeping problem. Inadequate sleep and signs of schizophrenia work together to create a greater whole, so there are significant benefits to normalizing sleep patterns.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
It is a mental health condition characterized by unusual levels of hyperactivity, attention difficulty, and issues with behavioral and emotional self-control.
This disorder is common in kids, but adults can also experience it. People who suffer from ADHD also experience sleeping issues like restless leg syndrome (RLS) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Scientific evidence shows that sleep and ADHD are closely associated. Not only may sleep issues be a result of ADHD, but they can also exacerbate symptoms like poor attention span or behavioral issues. ADHD symptoms like attention difficulty or impulsiveness can be made worse by sleep problems, in addition to possibly being the cause of the disorder.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined as a developmental disability that affects how people behave, interact, and communicate socially.
Both children and adults who suffer from ASD frequently experience sleep-related breathing issues and insomnia. As individuals with ASD often have excessive daytime drowsiness and behavioral issues, addressing insomnia can reduce symptoms of ASD.
Importance of sleep
A good quality sleep of around 8 hours is what everyone wishes for, leading a healthy, comfortable, happy, and productive life.
Good sleep is more than just lying in bed for a long time. There are three main components to healthy sleep. The first is sleep duration. Another is the quality of your sleep, or whether you have restful, unbroken sleep. Lastly, maintain a regular sleep routine.
Sleep is a period of refreshing and healing our mind, soul, and body systems, including the muscles, brain, immune system, and blood vessels. The body goes through several healing processes mostly—or at its most efficient—while we sleep.
Stages of sleep
Sleep occurs in 4 stages, and these are:
Stage 1 or N1 (Non-Rapid Eye Movement Stage 1) – Drowsy (First 5-10 minutes)
This is when the human body is not relaxed enough to go into a deep sleep or sleep longer than 10 minutes. However, the body’s and the brain’s activities in the period begin to slow with intervals of brief movements.
Stage 2 or N2 (Non-Rapid Eye Movement Stage 2) – Light Sleep (Lasts 20 minutes)
It is a period of light sleep (that takes up about 50% to 60% or more of your night) before you transition to deeper sleep, which lasts roughly 10 to 20 minutes. In this stage, 2 or N2, the heartbeat slows, and the body temperature drops. The brain’s rapid, rhythmic brain wave activity, known as sleep spindles, gets activated, and eye movements stop.
Stage 3 or N3 (Non-Rapid Eye Movement Stage 3 or Slow Wave Sleep) (Lasts 30 to 40 minutes)
This stage is also known as delta sleep. This is the deepest sleep period and lasts 30 to 40 minutes. Your muscles are super relaxed in this stage, and it may be difficult to wake you up. Heartbeat and breathing are at their slowest rate. It is also a stage of tissue repair and cell regeneration.
Stage 4 – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Stage R
It is the stage in which dreaming takes place and involves deeper sleep than any of the 4 stages above. This stage lasts for 90 minutes after the sleep onset. This stage is characterized by increased breathing and brain activity, paralysis of the voluntary muscles as a precautionary measure, and protection from hurting yourself while sleeping.
Impact of sleep habits on children’s mental health
Quality and quantity are crucial in children’s physical and mental well-being. Good quality sleep improves various aspects of children’s emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and overall development. Some sleep habits that affect the mental health of children positively include:
- Cognitive Functions like memory, attention, concentration, and learning abilities improve with adequate and good-quality sleep
- Sleep is closely associated with emotional regulation. Good quality sleep reduces risks of anxiety and depression, irritability, mood swings, and behavioral issues in children
- Good sleeping habits strengthen the immune system, making children more resistant to illnesses. It also reduces the risk of obesity in children and increases their self-esteem
- Quality sleep reduces hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggression, cortisol levels that affect the body’s stress response and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children
- A conducive sleep environment and consistent sleep timings and routine promotes positive outlook and enhancement of social activities in children
The mediating role of sleep quality in the relationship between problematic behaviors (like smartphone use) and mental health
Technological boons like smartphones hurt psychological well-being. Excessive use of smartphones could impair mental health and result in conditions like stress, depression, and anxiety, thereby altering overall psychological well-being.
Problematic behaviors like excessive smartphone use may influence mental health outcomes through its negative effect on sleep quality. Smartphone screens emit blue light that suppresses the body’s ability to release the hormone melatonin, which regulates night and day cycles.
Also, stimulating activities like playing mobile games, using social media, etc, and using the internet on a smartphone make it extremely difficult for individuals to feel drowsy, wind down, and fall asleep.
It’s critical to recognize that treatments intended to enhance mental health may be mediated by sleep quality. Adopting a holistic approach to treat sleep issues and address problematic behaviors like excessive smartphone use can improve psychological well-being.
Deeper investigation and research are needed to validate relationships between sleep and its role in the relationship between problematic behaviors like excessive smartphone use and mental health.
Quality and quantity of sleep have a major impact on our overall well-being. Good sleep has a direct relationship with our mental health and vice versa.
Both good sleep and optimum mental health can promote a stronger immune system and good cognitive abilities and increase resistance to stressors and illnesses.
Healthy sleep habits are critical to a holistic intervention in mental health care. Similarly, following meditation, mindfulness, and stress-reducing techniques can have a positive impact on sleep quality.
In recent years, extensive research and investigation on the intricate relationship between mental health and sleep is gaining traction. Understanding this association is crucial for positive medical interventions and improvement of overall well-being.