Health & Longevity

Can Lack of Sleep Cause Mental Health Problems?

If you’ve ever suffered through a few nights of insomnia, you know how sleep deprivation can impact you. The fact is, sleep is as critical to us as eating, drinking, and breathing. A good night’s rest allows our brains to reset, manage information, and process memories. Sleep deprivation can lead to physical problems, such as a weakened immune system and fatigue. It can also create mental health problems that result in anxiety, depression, and more.

What Causes Insomnia?

At any given time, insomnia impacts 33% of the world’s population, with one-third of U.S. adults reporting they routinely get less than the recommended number of hours of sleep each night. 

There are a variety of reasons why people struggle with insomnia:

  • Stress
  • Irregular sleep schedule
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Illness
  • Pain
  • Medication side effects
  • Neurological disorders
  • Sleep disorders

For those who are chronic insomniacs, worrying about sleeplessness can actually make their condition worse. 

What Are The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Mental Health?

How much sleep does an adult need? Experts recommend the following:

  • Ages 18-60–7 or more hours per night 
  • Ages 61-64–7-9 hours per night
  • Ages 65+–7-8 hours per night

An ongoing pattern of sleep deprivation can have debilitating effects. In the short term, it can lead to irritability and exhaustion. In the long term, studies show that it can contribute to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. What’s more, it can exacerbate existing conditions such as depression, anxiety, paranoia, and bipolar disorder. In the end, chronic sleep deprivation can trigger some mental health conditions, and some mental health conditions can make insomnia worse. 

What Can I Do to Sleep Better?

If you suffer from chronic insomnia and sleep deprivation, there are a number of ways to deal with the issue effectively. First, talk with your doctor. Upon examination, your physician may be able to pinpoint the source of your insomnia. They may recommend you participate in a sleep study so that they can examine your sleep patterns and recommend treatments.

Additionally, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven effective for some insomniacs. CBT works on the premise that your thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, and actions are intertwined. If your thoughts or feelings are negative, you can be trapped in an unhealthy cycle. CBT focuses on breaking down your issues into more manageable, smaller pieces allowing you to deal with them more effectively and positively.

Experts recommend making lifestyle changes to combat occasional insomnia, such as avoiding known “sleep interrupters” like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol for several hours before bedtime. They also advise changing sleep habits such as:

  • Restricting napping during the day.
  • Establishing a nightly routine that signals to your body that it is time to wind down.
  • Turning off phones, laptops, and other electronic devices for several hours before bedtime.

You’ll soon discover that making a practice of focusing on a better night’s sleep will pay off for you both physically and mentally. 

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