American’s are notoriously sleep deprived which causes many short-term effects. Sleep deprivation undermines concentration and reaction time and often makes us irritable and less productive. When sleep issues become chronic, there can be significant long-term effects. Routinely failing to get adequate sleep has a cumulative effect on brain functioning and elevates the risk of developing mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.
Insert the chicken-or-the-egg theory. . .
On the other side of the equation, it is well known that those with mental health struggles are more likely to suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders. As a result, researchers have gone back and forth on the complex relationship between sleep loss and mental health. One thing we do know is that it is a vicious cycle where it is difficult to determine which leads to which.
When it comes to sleep cycles there are two major categories a normal sleeper progresses through. The first consists of four stages of increasingly deep sleep. During this time the body temperature drops, muscles relax and heart rate and breathing slow down. The deepest stage produces physiological changes to boost immune function. The other sleep category is called REM (rapid eye movement). During this cycle, enhancements in learning and memory occur as well as contributions to emotional health. When these cycles are disrupted, there is a significant impact to the brain which can impair thinking and emotional regulation. In turn, this can amplify the effects of mental illness and vice versa.
Sleep problems can be a symptom of depression but can also a contributing factor in developing depression. As a result, researchers recommend treating insomnia as a way to both help improve psychological health and as a preventative measure for reducing the risk of depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often a tool used to combat sleeplessness. Studies have demonstrated the positive effects of CBT on insomnia where patients reported an improved overall wellbeing and significant reduction in their depression.
Anxiety also has a strong relationship to sleep. Those who suffer from anxiety typically experience more sleep disturbances which can lead to feelings of anxiety. The greatest difference sleep deprivation plays with anxiety as compared to other mental health disorders is the ability to cope. Chronic sleep disturbances make it very difficult to develop and use healthy coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety. This can exacerbate and prolong symptoms of anxiety.
Finding ways to improve the quantity and quality of sleep can help alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders and even prevent mental issues from developing or worsening. Seeking support from a therapist is a good first step in exploring various treatment options. If you are struggling with sleep, anxiety or depression, CBT and other forms of therapy may help you overcome the underlying causes of your sleep disturbances. We are here to help and want you to wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested each and every morning. After all, your physical and mental well-being depends on it.
If you find yourself struggling request a free consultation with a member of our team. All you have to do is complete the form below to start the process. We look forward to speaking with you soon!
Contact Creative Counseling Center