Sleep deprivation can have surprisingly serious effects to both our physical and mental health. In addition to fatigue, lack of sleep can cause increased levels of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and even ADHD.
The relationship between insomnia and mental illness is a two-way street. Roughly 50% of adults who suffer from insomnia experience mental health issues, while 65% to 90% of adults who have depression experience some sort of sleep disorder. This can create a vicious cycle in that the inability to sleep can slow the recovery process of mental illnesses, while also increasing the chances of relapse.
While it is unclear how insomnia boosts the development of mental illness in those suffering from it, research suggests that it may hinder the ability to process negative emotions. A study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that sleep-deprived patients who were shown unpleasant images reacted with much more emotion than those who were not sleep-deprived. Additionally, neuroimaging conducted showed that patients with insomnia had higher activity in the brain’s emotional processing area, suggesting that sleep deprivation can make it difficult to properly react to negativity.
Applying the proper treatment of mental illness to sleep disorders can provide some amount of improvement, but insomnia usually requires a specific type of treatment. While cognitive behavior therapy does effectively combat the symptoms of mental health issues, it has been shown that for patients suffering from both insomnia and some sort of mental illness, said mental illness was improved, though the insomnia remained.
Conversely, studies are being conducted to test whether or not treating insomnia can directly affect mental health outcomes. Previous evidence has been found linking sleep disorder medication with improved mental health, though no one form of treatment has been proven to guarantee success.
The good news about this ability to cross-study both mental illnesses and sleep disorders is that doctors are often able to treat both issues at once. Though there is a wide range of circumstances, some forms of treatment may provide relief for several symptoms. Antidepressants are often used to treat insomnia, as the sedatives can cause drowsiness in most patients.
The latest findings in research and studies of sleep disorders have added to the growing body of knowledge that these can cause impairments in the brain, contributing to emotional difficulties and some psychological conditions. Many people can attest to the fact that being tired can cause feelings of anger, short-temperedness, impatience, and mood swings. As research continues, professionals hope to uncover exactly why this is, and provide proper treatment with much higher levels of success.