How Does Sleep Disorder Lead to Other Mental Illnesses?

sleep disorder

Sleep being the important biological need, any changes in the way you sleep can lead to distress and if continued for a long time, it can lead to sleep disorder.

What is sleep disorder?

Sleep disorder is any change in pattern and the quality of your sleep for a long duration. Some of the signs and symptoms of sleep disorders include excessive daytime sleepiness, increased movement during sleep, irregular breathing. Other signs and symptoms include an irregular wake and sleep cycle and difficulty falling asleep.

Some common types of sleep disorders include:

  • Insomnia – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
  • Sleep apnea- experiencing abnormal patterns in breathing while you are asleep. There are several types of sleep apnea.
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS), a type of sleep movement disorder. Restless legs syndrome, also called Willis-Ekbom disease, causes an uncomfortable sensation and an urge to move the legs while you try to fall asleep.
  • Narcolepsy, a condition characterized by extreme sleepiness during the day and falling asleep suddenly during the day.

The best way to diagnose is by a mental health professional, and going for a treatment accordingly.

Impact of sleep disorder

Sleep disorder can naturally impact our overall mental wellbeing. As being familiar with any mental distress or illness impacting our biological functioning such as (sleep, appetite and energy) new evidence suggests that sleep disorders can cause and/or exacerbate mental illness.

Going by the statistics –

Somewhere between 65% to 90% of adults with depression suffer from a sleep disorder. The most common sleep disorder among those with depression is insomnia, but 20% suffer from (the more easily treated) sleep apnea.

For adults with anxiety disorder, 50% also suffer from a sleep disorder.
Those with bipolar disorder are plagued with sleep disorders at a rate anywhere between 69-99%. About 25-50% of children with ADHD suffer from a sleep disorder.

How does sleeping disorder lead to other mental illnesses?

As the link between sleep disorder and mental illness is clearly established and the study from the Henry Ford Health Sciences Center using a type of experimental design and serves as much of the basis for what we know about sleep disorders potentially leading to mental health issues.

Disruptive sleep can lead to anger and irritation which can limit our scope to handle day to day chores. Poor sleep can itself become a source of stress and hence longer manifestation and no treatment and coping can lead to more severe mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety and vice versa.

Sleep disorder is also visibly seen in bipolar depression where there can be insomnia, irregular sleep-wake cycles, and nightmares. Research suggests that changes in the normal sleep/wake cycle preceded the onset of a manic episode in 25% to 65%.

Research also suggests that sleep disturbances may be a predictor or even a contributor to symptoms of the Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Studies have found that between 25% and 55% of children who have ADHD also experience sleep disturbances.

Getting Help

Considering sleep problems are risk factors to mental illness and conditions, it is important to find ways to improve your sleep quality and get a right help with the help of mental health counselling which can help you identify the root cause to your sleep concerns and will help to create a treatment plan accordingly.

True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” — William Penn

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