There’s no question that sleep plays a significant role in physical and mental health. When you’re chronically sleep-deprived, you run not only the risk of being exhausted and irritated all the time but also the long-term health consequences that come with not getting enough sleep. Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression are all health consequences linked to lack of sleep.
When we sleep, it allows the brain to recharge, much like a phone battery after prolonged use. Keeping a consistent sleep-wake cycle naturally resets the body and optimizes brain function. When we have irregular sleep patterns, we tend to experience “brain fog.” That lack of mental clarity and inability to focus usually goes away once we’ve gotten a good night’s sleep. Still, for people with chronic sleep issues, it can lead to severe mental health issues.

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The relationship between sleep and mental health

Sleep issues are common in many psychiatric conditions and are also linked to the development of mental health problems. Sleep issues can lead to mental health changes, but lack of sleep can also exacerbate mental health issues. Poor sleep can trigger the onset of certain mental health conditions, although researchers are not certain of the underlying reasons for this.
Chronic sleep issues are a risk factor for the development of major depressive disorder. Insomnia increases anxiety and depression, which is why it’s essential to seek help if you’ve been having long-term sleep issues.

What happens when you have chronic sleep loss?

Some loss of sleep here and there probably won’t have a considerable effect on your mental well-being, but if your sleep issues have gone unresolved for months on end, it could affect your psychological and physical health in multiple ways. Here are some of the more common psychological and physical symptoms that can occur after long-term sleep loss.

Psychological symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Erratic behavior
  • Decreased cognitive functioning such as forgetfulness, confusion, and making mistakes
  • Psychotic episodes

Hallucination is a severe yet common symptom of sleep deprivation. Depending on the length of sleep deprivation, approximately 80% of people who have no previous mental health issues will eventually have hallucinations.

Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Elevation in blood pressure
  • Elevated stress hormones
  • Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
  • Reduced Immune function, which can lead to many physical issues

Coping with chronic sleep deprivation

The recommendations for treating sleep issues are similar whether or not you have a mental health condition.
Resist the urge to nap, but if you have to, keep it short. 20-30 minute naps can help you feel alert and rested without affecting your ability to fall asleep later.
Get into a routine. Establish a set of habits that lead up to bedtime and try to do them consistently every night. A nightly routine can help set the mood for a good night’s sleep.
Don’t go for that late afternoon cup of coffee or soda. Drinking caffeinated beverages too close to bedtime can make it hard to fall and stay asleep.
Put the devices away. About an hour before bedtime, put away the phone or tablet and turn off the television as they are known to affect the ability to relax and settle down to fall asleep. A couple of alternatives to help you unwind are journaling or reading a book.
If you feel that your sleep problems may be affecting your mental health, reach out to Serene Health. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions can interfere with sleep, and addressing the issue sooner than later will positively impact your psychological symptoms. We have appointments available on our Telehealth app so you can speak to a therapist from the comfort of your own home. We also have weekend and late evening appointments available. Call Serene Health at 844-737-3638 or visit us at www.serenehealth.com to schedule an appointment.