Many people struggle with insomnia at some point in their lives, which can cause long-term mental health problems. It is very common to have nights when you are unable to sleep, and this can occur several times per week or every night.
When someone experiences chronic lack of sleep, they may develop psychological issues like depression or anxiety. These conditions can sometimes go hand in hand with insomnia, making it even more difficult to sleep.
There are many possible causes for persistent sleep difficulties. Some potential factors include:
Physical reasons such as sleeping too much or being exposed to light right before bedtime
Stressors that make going to sleep difficult
Sleep disorders such as narcolepsy or restless leg syndrome
Certain medications can also contribute to insomnia
This article will talk about how insomnia affects mental health and what you can do to treat it. While there is no easy fix for chronic sleep deprivation, certain strategies can help mitigate the symptoms.
Disclaimer: This article should not be used as medical advice for yourself or others. Rather, it is intended to inform users about the link between insomnia and mental illness and suggest ways to reduce symptoms. Consult your doctor first before changing any medication habits or lifestyle choices.
Keep reading to learn more!
Insomnia and Depression
One of the most prevalent effects of poor sleep is its connection with depression.
Effects of insomnia on mental health
When you have sleep deprivation, it can affect every part of your life — from mood to self-esteem to relationships.
Research suggests that people with insomnia are at risk for developing other psychiatric conditions, including depression or anxiety disorders.
People with these diagnoses are also more likely to suffer from alcohol use disorder or drug dependence.
Furthermore, chronic insomnia may contribute to obesity by altering eating habits and/or increasing hunger levels.
Lastly, studies suggest that poor quality sleep may increase stress hormone levels, which could potentially negatively impact overall physical health.
I’ve listed some potential reasons why sleep loss might influence mental health below. However, don’t worry about being too concerned about this!
Most people are not diagnosed with a mental health condition due to sleep problems.
Ways to treat insomnia
While most people will experience some sleep loss due to something outside of your control, like night shifts or an early morning job, chronic lack of rest can have serious mental health effects.
Research shows that persistent poor quality sleep is linked with symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, anger issues, substance use disorders and other psychological conditions.
When you don’t get enough good quality sleep, your body doesn’t function as well which only makes things worse. You may feel tired all the time, and may need more caffeine to stay awake, or find it difficult to concentrate.
If this sounds familiar, there are ways to fix this. In fact, most people struggle with this at least once in their lives! Most cases of self-diagnosed clinical insomnia are actually caused by something else.
Here are some helpful tips for sleeping better, and what to do if these fail.
Helpful tips for sleep
If you feel like your mental health is suffering because of poor sleep, there are some things you can do to improve it. Fortunately, most of these strategies are easy to implement and may even be helpful outside of insomnia!
Start by checking out our list of symptoms of depression and anxiety and see if you recognize anything in this article. Then, according to Harvard Medical School, here are some simple ways to promote good sleep-and therefore better mental health.
Stop drinking alcohol two hours before bedtime.
Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. (or have only very small amounts) — keep it to less than 100 mg per day.
Limit sugar intake — both natural sugars that come from foods and artificial ones such as those found in sodas and sweets. Try to avoid them altogether at night.
Exercise consistently every day — but not right before bed or else you’ll wake up more tired. Find an exercise routine that’s enjoyable for you and stick to it.
Relaxation exercises such as practicing breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, or other similar practices help reduce stress and contribute to a good night’s rest.
If all else fails, try sleeping pills, herbal remedies, or alternative therapies. But only use them under doctor supervision so that any symptoms of mental illness don’t worsen due to the side effects of the medication.
Protect your mental health
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, it is important to recognize that these conditions can often be caused by underlying medical conditions or stressors in your life.
Fortunately, most people will experience at least one night of sleep loss during their lives, but for someone who suffers from insomnia, this becomes an increasingly frequent occurrence.
When sleep deprivation occurs along with other factors such as poor diet or excessive alcohol use, the effects can easily be extended beyond just mood disorders.
Other potential problems include risk-taking behaviors (such as smoking or drinking more than before) and suicidal thoughts or actions. All of these could potentially worsen your condition if left untreated.
Stress is a very common cause of insomnia, especially in people who are job seekers or in situations where they’re constantly looking at the clock to see what time it is.
When you’re stressed, your body pumps up the release of hormones such as cortisol which can make it difficult to get some rest.
Cortisol helps regulate sleep by lowering levels of dopamine, a mood-balancing hormone. Dopamine drops when we’re relaxed so having less relaxation due to stress may be why you’re not able to drop off.
Also, stress can decrease production of melatonin, another important hormone that aids sleep. Having too little of this chemical factor can also contribute to nighttime wakefulness.
Topic and sentence structure: Why mental health matters
Sentence: People with chronic insomnia have higher rates of depression than those without it
People with chronic insomnia have higher rates of depression than those without it. This link between insomnia and depressive symptoms has been well documented.
Studies show that both conditions often go together, and treating one usually treats the other. In fact, several studies suggest that improving sleep quality can help reduce depression severity in individuals suffering from depression.
Symptoms of major depression include low energy, feelings of worthlessness, thoughts about self-harm or suicide, and changes in eating habits.
Helpful tips for sleep
If you are struggling to get quality sleep, it is important to be aware of what factors may be preventing it. Luckily, there are many ways to address this.
Many people begin experiencing mental health issues when they are in their twenties, but symptoms can remain even after your diagnosis. When planning for bedtime, make sure to factor in all things work-related.
Work commitments might need to be adjusted or shifted, otherwise staying awake will only worsen the situation. You can also try limiting caffeine intake one week before bed, as this could contribute to insomnia.
If necessary, consider leaving some time off work so that you do not have to come into work stressed and tired.
Learn to do things that relax you
In fact, there is some evidence suggesting that mental health problems can sometimes be caused by stress or anxiety related to sleep loss. If this applies to you, try to reduce your level of stress for now.
Practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation. Also, consider seeking help for your underlying medical conditions like ADHD, depression, or anxiety disorder.
You may also want to talk with your doctor about other strategies to improve your sleep quality. For example, certain medications can cause insomnia so your doctor might be able to prescribe something else instead.