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Sunday Sleep Guide
Sunday Sleep Guide Chapter 1

6. Mental Health & Sleep

Sleeping and mental health are intricately linked. Getting too little sleep can aggravate certain mental illnesses, while a condition can also directly lead to sleep deprivation. It’s not hard to see how a vicious cycle can suddenly take hold and aggravate a condition further.

Each individual case is different, but there are common themes across conditions as a whole.

Let’s now analyse the relationship between a number of different mental health problems and getting a good night’s rest and relaxation.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Owing to the nature of this condition, it’s perhaps little surprise people with ADHD have a challenging relationship with sleep. With mental and physical restlessness a primary symptom, relaxing enough to drift into a peaceful sleep can be incredibly difficult.

As New Life Outlook point out, there are four main issues which ADHD or ADD sufferers face:

Falling asleep

Around 75% of adults with the conditions cite the inability to "shut off their minds" as a detrimental factor in sleeping. They go on to say that 70% of adults with ADHD take longer than one hour trying to fall asleep.

Restlessness

Easily woken and incredibly active during their slumber, people with ADHD can be so fitful that bed partners might be forced to sleep elsewhere in extreme cases. This activeness often results in people being as tired when they wake up as they were the previous evening.

Waking up

And waking up is far from easy either. When they do eventually drift off, triggering their body back awake can take longer than average. Common reports from close family members state ADHD workers are easily irritable and often very difficult to wake from their slumber.

Intrusive asleep

On a slightly more psychological note, sleep can also be intrusive. Results have found increased levels of theta waves are produced by people with ADD. These interrupt and intrude on the relaxing alpha and beta waves which help a person to sleep soundly.

Having ADHD can put a strain on your sleep patterns, but it’s important not to let your spirits drop. There are ways of battling a lack of sleep. Some of the best include:

  • Doing more exercise during the day
  • Getting yourself into a consistent evening routine
  • Avoiding alcohol before bedtime
  • Staying on all prescribed medicine

This advice will apply to most conditions. There are always steps you can take to make things that little bit easier.

Bipolar Disorder

As many as 2% of people in the UK had bipolar disorder. This condition causes extreme shifts in moods, with someone swapping between periods of depression and joy without what many would see as a "definitive reason". Unsurprisingly, this can again lead to issues when it comes getting enough rest of an evening.

Everyday Health’s Dr. Phillip Gehrman has cited a direct correlation between a lack of sleep and worsened bipolar symptoms.

"Even between mood cycles, people with bipolar disorder may have sleep problems, and those sleep problems, if they persist, increase the risk of a relapse."

The health professionals go on to say that some medication actually has a negative impact on sleep, causing a person to become restless. It’s advised you speak with your doctor to discuss any possible side effects of this.

Interestingly, people with bipolar are just as likely to suffer from hypersomnia as they are insomnia. This is a condition which causes someone to sleep for longer than they naturally need to. Despite the additional levels of sleep, a person will not feel refreshed once they wake up.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a condition which will naturally cause your mind to race. Symptoms which make you feel nervous or uneasy will directly lead to a more active brain. In turn, this makes it far more challenging to fall asleep.

As with any condition, the less sleep you have, the more of an impact it’ll have on your negative symptoms. If you’re somebody with anxiety who needs help falling asleep, make sure to keep these points in mind:

  • Control the environment around you – You are more likely to be able to drift off if you have crafted an environment around you which is optimum for your own sleep. This involves setting the right lighting and temperature in the room. Having a shower or bath before bed can also be useful.
  • Don’t look at screens before bed – Looking at screens before you head to sleep can wake your brain up. Seeing these images directly before bed has the potential to disrupt your body’s shutting down process. Instead, consider reading a book or listening to some light music.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine you’re consuming – It’s well documented that caffeine is a natural stimulant. Having this before trying to sleep is likely to result in hyperactivity. It’s recommended you take in less than 200-300mg of caffeine a day.
  • If all else fails, get help – if you’re finding it impossible to sleep, regardless of the lengths you’re going to, be sure to get help. There are a variety of organisations which have been specifically set up to help battle anxiety. Some of the best include Turn2Me, Better Help and Mind.org

Anxiety is a very real condition, which can have a major impact on your life. If you start to notice any symptoms, be sure to talk to someone about it.

Depression

Depression is the most commonly known form of mental health disorder. It has a major effect on how easy people find it to sleep, with as many as 90% of people with the condition having some form of sleep-related issue. Shockingly, the same reports suggests insomnia is a genuine concern for at least two thirds of depression sufferers.

Sometimes, problems can stretch beyond mental to physical issues. Sleep Apnea is a disorder which sees people temporarily stop breathing while they’re asleep. This lowers their blood oxygen level and leads to a major disruption of sleep.

Advice for this condition falls into the same bracket as most other mental health problems. Create a routine, avoid screens before bed and give reading something a try. That said, Health Line provide three alternative ways to prevent depression from having a major impact on your sleep patterns.

  • Improve your sleep hygiene – This incorporates some of what we’ve already discussed (such as limiting caffeine intake and avoiding screens), while also focusing on keeping your bed exclusively dedicated to activities you only carry out there. For example, no eating, working or watching television.
  • Write – Writing out your thoughts is a great way of therapeutically addressing all the positive and negative things running through your mind. Rather than storing these, rip them up. Health Line claim this is helping your brain to "change structure", allowing you to process your emotions in a healthier way.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – Therapists of this nature will work to help people come to terms with their depression. This includes working on sleep disorders to help with the progression of sleep.

While mental health and sleeping problems walk hand-in-hand, there are ways to combat both. Follow the advice we’ve laid out here and you should be able to battle the effects of a condition. It will always be a struggle, but sleep deprivation can be at least somewhat mitigated by adopting some of the approaches we’ve outlined.

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