The Relationship Between Sleep Disorders and Mental Health

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Sleep Disorders and Mental Health

It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep is important for our physical health. But did you know that it is also crucial for our mental well-being?

In fact, research has shown that there is a strong relationship between sleep disorders and mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

If you are struggling with a mental health condition, it is important to consider whether or not you may also have a sleep disorder. And if you think you might have a sleep disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for help.

What is mental health?

Mental health refers to a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how individuals think, feel, and behave, and it influences their ability to cope with stress, relate to others, and make decisions. Mental health disorders can range from mild to severe and can impact a person’s daily life and relationships.

Sleep disorders and mental health are closely related. Poor sleep quality can lead to negative mood, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, individuals with mental health disorders are more likely to experience sleep problems. Lack of sleep can worsen pre-existing mental health conditions and lead to daytime fatigue, impaired cognitive function, and difficulty concentrating.

In conclusion, mental health is critical to overall well-being, and sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining good mental health. Individuals should aim to get enough sleep each night to help support their mental health. If you are experiencing sleep problems or mental health concerns, it is essential to seek help from a healthcare professional.

What is the relationship between sleep disorders and mental health?

Research suggests that there is a close relationship between sleep and mental health – even improving sleep quality leads to better mental health. Sleep disorders, which cause sleep deprivation, are more common in people with mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. Poor sleep can worsen mental health conditions, and mental health problems can also lead to changes in sleep patterns.

Studies show that poor sleep can increase anxiety and distress levels, especially in those with mental health disorders. Moreover, sleep problems are likely to exacerbate psychiatric symptoms and even increase the risk for suicide. The good news is that addressing sleep problems can alleviate the severity of psychiatric disorders. It is crucial to identify and address sleep problems to improve sleep quality and quantity, especially in those with mental health problems.

Sleep disorders can cause and/or exacerbate mental illness, and the relationship between the two varies based on the specific disorders involved.

How does sleep affect mental health?

Sleep and mental health have a complex and circular relationship. Poor sleep can worsen symptoms of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. On the other hand, mental health problems can also lead to sleep disturbances. Lack of sleep has been known to be both a consequence of and a causal factor in the development and maintenance of various mental health problems. In fact, research suggests that sleep disturbances can trigger the onset of certain psychological conditions.

Furthermore, worrying about sleep can exacerbate the problem, leading to a vicious cycle.

Therapy for sleep disorders?

Therapy can be an effective treatment approach for sleep disorders, either as a standalone treatment or in conjunction with other interventions. Here are some commonly used therapeutic approaches for sleep disorders:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I): CBT-I is the gold standard treatment for insomnia. It focuses on identifying and modifying thoughts, behaviors, and environmental factors that contribute to sleep difficulties. CBT-I may include techniques such as sleep hygiene education, stimulus control, sleep restriction therapy, relaxation training, and cognitive restructuring.
  2. EMDR Therapy – meta-analysis suggested that EMDR therapy is better than CBT in reducing post-traumatic symptoms and anxiety
  3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Circadian Rhythm Disorders: Similar to CBT-I, cognitive behavioral therapy can be tailored to address circadian rhythm disorders. It involves adjusting sleep-wake schedules, implementing light therapy, and addressing lifestyle factors that influence the body’s internal clock.
  4. Mindfulness-Based Therapies: Mindfulness-based approaches, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), can be beneficial for improving sleep quality. These therapies focus on developing present-moment awareness and non-judgmental acceptance, which can help reduce racing thoughts and anxiety that interfere with sleep.
  5. Sleep Restriction Therapy: Sleep restriction therapy aims to consolidate sleep by restricting the time spent in bed to match the actual amount of sleep obtained. It helps regulate the sleep-wake schedule and improve sleep efficiency.
  6. Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, and meditation, Yoga Nidra can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep. Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) is also looks promising when it comes relax.
  7. Sleep Hygiene Education: Sleep hygiene refers to adopting healthy sleep habits and optimizing the sleep environment. Therapists can provide education and guidance on factors such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, avoiding stimulants before bedtime, and establishing a relaxing bedtime routine.

It’s important to note that therapy approaches may vary depending on the specific sleep disorder and individual needs

Therapies for Better Sleep: Benefits Overview

TherapyBenefits to sleep
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)– Identifies and modifies thoughts and behaviors that contribute to insomnia.
– Promotes long-term improvement in sleep quality and quantity.
– Reduces reliance on medication for sleep.
– Addresses underlying causes of insomnia, such as anxiety or stress.
Mindfulness-Based Therapies– Promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety. – Enhances present-moment awareness and acceptance, reducing racing thoughts that interfere with sleep.
– Improves overall well-being, leading to better sleep.
– Equips individuals with skills to manage sleep-related stress.
Sleep Restriction Therapy– Consolidates sleep and improves sleep efficiency.
– Helps regulate the sleep-wake schedule.
– Increases sleep drive and reduces time spent in bed awake.
– Establishes a consistent sleep routine.
Relaxation Techniques– Induces physical and mental relaxation, preparing the body for sleep.
– Reduces anxiety, stress, and muscle tension that can interfere with sleep.
– Promotes a calm and peaceful state conducive to falling asleep.
– Enhances overall sleep quality and decreases sleep onset latency.
Sleep Hygiene Education– Establishes healthy sleep habits and routines.
– Optimizes the sleep environment for better sleep.
Therapies for Better Sleep

What are the common sleep disorders associated with mental health?

1. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can have a significant impact on mental health. The interrupted sleep caused by sleep apnea can lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, restlessness during sleep, trouble concentrating, and difficulty with memory.

These symptoms can contribute to

  • irritability,
  • mood swings,
  • depression,
  • and anxiety.

In addition, sleep apnea has been associated with an increased risk of developing cognitive impairments and dementia.

Treatment options include lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and sleeping on your side, custom-fit mouthpieces, and CPAP devices. Seeking treatment should start with a sleep apnea test and treatment can improve sleep quality, reduce symptoms, and improve overall mental health.

2. Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early, or having unrefreshing sleep. It can be short-term or chronic and can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, environmental factors, medical conditions, and psychiatric disorders. In fact, 40% of people with insomnia also have a mental illness, with depression being one of the most commonly associated conditions.

Although insomnia can be a symptom of other illnesses, it can also be a result of a person’s lifestyle or work schedule. Treatment for insomnia typically involves addressing the underlying cause and implementing sleep hygiene interventions or medication to achieve a healthy sleep architecture.

3. Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder that causes an intense urge to move the legs in sleep, often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations in the legs. RLS typically occurs in the evening, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, which can lead to daytime sleepiness and problems with concentration.

RLS can also be associated with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, as well as with conditions like ADHD and Parkinson’s disease.

Treatment options for RLS include medications such as gabapentin and pregabalin. If you are experiencing symptoms you can try to sleep with a weighted blanket for restless legs.

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4. Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the regulation of sleep and wakefulness, causing excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden episodes of falling asleep during the day. It is related to mental health because it can have a significant impact on a person’s mental wellbeing.

People with narcolepsy may experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and social isolation due to their condition. The sudden sleep attacks can lead to feelings of embarrassment, shame, and frustration, which can affect a person’s self-esteem and confidence.

Additionally, cataplexy, which is often associated with narcolepsy, can cause further distress and anxiety as it can lead to falls and injuries.

5. Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking is a disorder characterized by repeated episodes of rising from bed and walking around during sleep. It is most common among children, with an estimated 30% of people having experienced sleepwalking at some point in their lives. Sleepwalking disorder, however, affects an estimated 1% to 5% of people and is accompanied by significant distress or problems functioning.

Studies have shown that individuals with mental health disorders, particularly those with anxiety and depression, have a higher prevalence of sleepwalking. The underlying causes of this relationship are not yet fully understood, but it is believed that the stress and anxiety associated with mental health disorders may trigger episodes of sleepwalking.

6. Sleep Terrors

Sleep terrors, also known as night terrors, are episodes of sudden awakening from sleep, often accompanied by intense fear and physical symptoms such as rapid breathing, sweating, and an elevated heart rate. These episodes usually occur during the first third of a major sleep episode and are most common in young children.

However, they can also affect adults, especially those with mental health conditions such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The causes of sleep terrors are not fully understood, but they may be related to genetic factors, sleep deprivation, and certain medications.

7. Sleep-Disordered Breathing

Sleep-disordered breathing is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. There are two types of sleep-disordered breathing: obstructive and central.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the more common type, is caused by a blockage of the airway during sleep. Symptoms of OSA include snoring, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, gasping for air while sleeping, and trouble concentrating.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain fails to tell the body to breathe. CSA is rare and less prevalent than OSA.

Sleep-disordered breathing has been linked to mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. People with sleep-disordered breathing are encouraged to see a healthcare provider if it is disrupting their quality of life.


What is cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep disorders?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that helps individuals reframe negative thoughts and patterns of thinking. CBT has been developed for specific mental health conditions, including sleep disorders such as insomnia.

CBT for insomnia (CBT-I) focuses on changing sleep-related behaviors and thought processes through techniques such as stimulus control, sleep restriction, and relaxation training. CBT-I aims to educate individuals about sleep and help them adopt healthy sleep habits. Research has shown that CBT-I is effective in reducing symptoms of insomnia, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

CBT-I is recognized as a first-line treatment for chronic insomnia by the American College of Physicians. There are no significant risks or side effects associated with CBT-I, making it a safe and effective treatment option for individuals struggling with sleep disorders.

How can sleep hygiene help with mental health?

Q: How can sleep hygiene help with mental health?

A: Improving sleep hygiene can greatly impact symptoms of mental health conditions. Establishing good sleep habits can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed. Here are three tips for improving sleep hygiene:

  1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends and holidays.
  2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Take a warm bath, read a book, or do some gentle stretching to help your body and mind unwind before bed.
  3. Make your sleep environment comfortable: Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows, and remove any distractions such as electronics or work-related materials. Remember, good sleep hygiene is an important part of a comprehensive treatment plan for mental health conditions.

Are sleep disorders neurological or psychological?

Sleep disorders are not categorized as solely neurological or psychological conditions. They involve problems with the quality, timing, and amount of sleep, which can result in daytime distress and impairment in functioning.

Therefore, sleep disorders impact both neurological and psychological health. Treatment options are available and may include sleep studies, medication, therapy, or a combination of these approaches.

The most common sleep-wake disorder is insomnia, followed by obstructive sleep apnea, parasomnias, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome. Sleep difficulties are linked to both physical and emotional problems, and sleep problems can both contribute to or exacerbate mental health conditions and can be a symptom of other mental health conditions.


By lezt

Lez Taylor, Founder and CEO of Corala Blanket. She tried every sleep system and trick to conquer her insomnia for good.