Sleep and Mental Health Disorders
Sleep is essential to the maintenance of mental health. Sleep helps to regulate mood and process emotional information and experiences into memory. Insufficient sleep is associated with increased emotional reactivity and emotional disturbance. Research indicates that REM sleep may play an especially significant role in maintaining emotional well-being and psychological balance.
Sleep problems occur substantially more frequently in people with psychiatric conditions than in the general population. Often, sleep and mental health disorders exist in bi-directional relationship to each other, with each condition influencing the other. Poor sleep can contribute to the onset and severity of mental health disorders, and mental health problems can create and exacerbate sleep issues. Treating sleep problems may deliver therapeutic help for mental health conditions, just as sleep may improve as mental health disorders are treated.
Sleep problems may affect the following conditions:
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Sleep problems are associated with ADHD in both children and adults. Children with ADHD are more likely to suffer from daytime tiredness, as well as sleep-disordered breathing. In children, symptoms of sleep deprivation may appear similar to symptoms associated with ADHD.
In adults, symptoms of ADHD may appear similar to symptoms of certain sleep disorders, including narcolepsy and hypersomnia.
Anxiety disorders and sleep problems are frequently present together. Sleep problems occur often in people with panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others.
Anxiety contributes to disrupted sleep, often in the forms of insomnia and nightmares. Sleep deprivation elevates the risk for anxiety disorders. One mechanism by which sleep induces anxiety, according to research, is by increasing activity in the centers of the brain responsible for emotional regulation. This same research suggests people who are naturally prone to worry are especially vulnerable to the anxiety-producing effects of poor sleep.
Sleep problems are a symptom of bipolar disorder. During manic episodes, people often sleep very little, and feel a diminished need for sleep. In depressive episodes, people with bipolar disorder may experience insomnia as well as hypersomnia — excessive tiredness during waking hours, which may be accompanied by prolonged periods of sleep.