How do Sleep disorders impact the mental health of a person?

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Sleep Disorders & its Impact on Mental Health

Sleep-related issues are one of the most commonly seen issues in young populations including adolescents, adults & some children as well, the sleep-related problems in the young population are seen due to various reasons such as Biological, Psychological & Sociological factors. The sleep-related problems are seen more in recent times; the covid-19 pandemic has made a great impact on our lifestyles and our dependency on electronic gadgets have spiked up in frequency and the screen time has increased due to binge-watching digital content such as TV shows, web series, movies, scrolling through Instagram & other social media apps are among the commonly seen issues in the young population. The sleep-related problems, if not addressed appropriately can lead to more severe issues & an individual may develop Sleep Disorders and it can affect one’s Mental health. Often sleep deprivation in an individual would result in developing mental health problems such as Depression, Anxiety, Mood & Anger Management issues, etc.

Before discussing further Sleep Disorders, let us understand what is Normal Sleep or Good sleep, what are factors indicates good quality of sleep in an individual. The quality of sleep is understood to be fine when an individual falls asleep quite easily, does not fully wake up during the night, does not wake up too early, and feels refreshed in the morning. Not everyone requires the same amount of sleep and the quality of sleep differs from one person to another. Young children and older people sleep more lightly compared to adults and teenagers. Babies and young children are required to sleep more compared to adolescents & adults.

The quality of sleep can be defined as “How well one is sleeping, i.e. whether one’s sleep is restful and restorative. Sleep quality is more complicated to measure than the quantity of sleep, but it’s not entirely subjective. The following are the indicators of quality of sleep

Sleep latency:This is a measurement of how long it takes you to fall asleep. Drifting off within 30 minutes or less after the time you go to bed suggests that the quality of your sleep is good.

Sleep waking:This measures how often you wake up during the night. Frequent wakefulness at night can disrupt your sleep cycle and reduce your sleep quality. Waking up once or not at all suggests that your sleep quality is good.

Wakefulness:This measurement refers to how many minutes you spend awake during the night after you first go to sleep. People with good sleep quality have 20 minutes or less of wakefulness during the night.

Sleep efficiency:The amount of time you spend sleeping while in bed is known as sleep efficiency. This measurement should ideally be 85 percent or more for optimal health benefits.

Sleep Disorder is a disruptive pattern of sleep in an individual which affects one’s physical, mental, emotional, and social functioning. The individual may develop a sleep disorder due to various causes such as Biological, Psychological, and Sociological factors. Medical conditions such as Traumatic Brain Injury, Degenerative Diseases, Mental health issues such as Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorders and cognitive disorders, sleep-related problems, and in some cases an individual may even develop a sleep disorder. An individual who is going through chronic sleep-related problems, a sleep disorder may have difficulties in their day-to-day functioning, which would further lead to stress and the individual may develop mental health conditions such as Depression, Anxiety, Anger management issue, occupational stress, etc. Environmental changes such as migrating to a new country or a place, changes in one’s lifestyle may lead to the onset of sleep-related problems.

There are several types of sleep disorders and the most commonly seen in the young population are discussed below:

1. Insomnia:is being unable to fall asleep or stay asleep for the required amount of time. The individual may be seen struggling to attain sleep and may wake up much early than their usual timings.

2. Narcolepsy & Hypersomnia:Extreme daytime sleepiness and inability to stay awake during the daytime, an individual will have difficulty in coping with their day-to-day functioning and managing their responsibilities.

3. Sleep Apnea:An individual having difficulty in breathing during sleep, usually the breathing pattern is inappropriate, the person will stop breathing for 10 or more seconds, this is accompanied by snoring. The causal factors are biological.

4. Restless leg syndrome: Irresistible urge to move legs, an individual experiences tingling or prickly sensation in the legs which further leads to powerful leg movement.

5. Circadian Rhythm disorder: an individual having problems in their sleep-wake cycles, unable to sleep and wake at right times.

6. Parasomnias:the individual having unusual or showcasing abnormal behaviors, emotions, movements when they are asleep, examples include sleepwalking, sleep terror, sleep talking.

Sleep disorders are seen in young children as well; these issues most commonly originate due to underlying psychological stress factors, some of them are discussed below:

1. Enuresis:Also called Bedwetting, the child urinating during their sleep, this is not caused due to any physiological issues in their bladder control.

2. Bruxism:also known as Teeth grinding, the child is seen biting their teeth or grinding them during sleep.

Many of the above-discussed sleep disorders stem from underlying psychological stress factors such as trauma in childhood, anxiety issues, difficulty in adapting to changes, occupational stress, changes in the environment, or lifestyle changes. The problems are likely to get more severe if they are not addressed at the right time, the issues may impact one’s mental health and it can cause developing issues like anxiety, loneliness, poor attention & concentration, memory impairments, mood fluctuations, anger management issues, and depression.

Young adults such as students, employees, are vulnerable to developing sleep disorders due to the changes in their lifestyle, demanding work culture and dependency on the substances like alcohol, marijuana and other drugs impacts their quality of sleep which may result in developing disruptive sleep patterns. As mental health professionals many Psychologists, Therapists, and Counselors come across clients having issues with their quality of sleep and sleep-wake cycles and not many of them will have or prone to be having underlying Biological or Medical causes, most of these issues are developed to inappropriate sleep hygiene, stress due to work, interpersonal problems or use of substances. Some of our clients may find it difficult to change their lifestyle and may become vulnerable to developing more severe issues, in such cases the individual requires pharmaceutical interventions from the Psychiatrist to cope with the sleep disorders as well as regular therapy sessions with their Therapists or Psychologists.

Making simple changes in our day to day life such as exercising for an hour, going walks regularly, eating healthy, consuming less caffeine, alcohol, reducing smoking, organizing our bedroom well, reducing screen time would help us attain good sleep and it can make a positive impact on our quality of sleep.

There may be many individuals who have been trying to get well or cope with their sleep-related problems by following some of the measures discussed earlier and still not feeling relived from their issues, must consider consulting the professionals like Psychiatrist, Psychologists, Therapists, and Counselors for treatment and in case of delay in seeking help may result in other consequences.

Also read,

Sleeping disorders due to depression or anxiety. Take help from a mental health therapist in Mumbai.

Sleep hygiene- Importance of sleep for mental well-being.

Significance of sleep for mental well-being and physiological functions.

The many roles of a mental health therapist. Find the best psychiatrist in Kolkata.

How do psychologists deal with clients with severe mental health concerns?

Physical symptoms of mental disorders. Find a mental health therapist near you.

Image credits: Freepik

Gopinath Srinivasa
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