Do you know that your sleep and your mental health are closely connected? Sleep problems varies including difficulty falling asleep, not getting enough sleep at night, waking up not feeling rested or not sleeping at all. Chronic sleep deprivation affects your psychological and mental health and may lead to difficulty functioning at work, executing family responsibilities, in social activities, and other important areas of functioning.
At the very basic level, insomnia is the inability to get the amount of sleep needed to function efficiently during the daytime. Insomnia is caused by difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep or waking up too early in the morning. Insomnia may contribute to or increase the risk of certain psychiatric disorders such as depression and bipolar disorders, but it may also reveal other medical conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea (inability to breathe while sleeping).
Causes include but not limited to:
Depression: Early morning awakenings might be a sign of depression in addition to poor concentrations, low energy levels, feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in usual activities.
Manic Episodes: Sudden dramatic decreased need for sleep or lack of need for sleep, in addition to elevated irritable mood, and increased energy may be a sign of manic episode.
Anxiety: Insomnia can also be a risk factor for developing anxiety disorders, but this is not absolute. In patients with anxiety disorders, chronic sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety symptoms or slow rate of recovery such as in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and phobias.
Substances Use Disorders: such as Alcohol intoxications which can cause disruptions in sleep. Other Illicit drugs such as LSD and ecstasy are also associated with interruptions in sleep.
Maintaining a good sleep hygiene is optimal along with treating underlying cause of the insomnia. These other approaches may also help:
- Adopt a Lifestyle: change that may improve sleep such as avoiding rigorous exercises before bedtime, avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, and certain over-the-counter medications as these may cause fragmented sleep.
- Physical activity: Regular aerobic activity helps people fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night. But it must not be done closer to bedtime.
- Sleep hygiene: Maintaining a good “sleep hygiene” such as sleep-and-wake schedule, using the bedroom only for sleeping or sex, and keeping the bedroom dark and free of distractions like the computer or television, and staying awake longer to ensure sleep is more restful may help to improve sleep.
- Relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness can help people become aware of their body and decrease anxiety about going to sleep.
- Herbal remedies. OTC sleep aids such as Melatonin and Valerian root are two herbal remedies that are available at many pharmaceutical shops. The effectiveness of these treatments has not been proven for most people, and neither treatment has been approved by the FDA.
Consider these Cognitive and Light therapies:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy can help you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake.
- Light therapy. Also known as phototherapy, this can be specifically helpful in people with a condition called “delayed sleep phase syndrome.”