How Poor Sleep Affects Your Mental Health

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I can’t stress this enough: part of managing your mental health includes getting enough sleep. I’ve written about this here before: in my career I’ve seen how poor sleep can lead to suicidal thoughts, memory issues, even weight gain.

According to an article by Harvard Medical School, 50 to 80 percent of patients in psychiatric care have chronic sleep problems, compared to 10 to 18 percent of American adults without mental health issues.

The trouble is, sleep problems can be a vicious cycle. “Sleep deprivation affects your psychological state and mental health,” the article reads. “And those with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders,” such as people with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD.

Clinicians used to treat sleep problems as a symptom of mental illness, but in my career–especially when treating teens–I have seen how sleep deprivation can exacerbate symptoms of mental illness.

The Harvard article quoted a 1989 study where those who reported a history of insomnia were “four times as likely to develop major depression by the time of a second interview three years later.” Another fascinating anecdote? Two more studies–one of 300 pairs of young twins and another of more than 1,000 teens–reported that sleep problems cropped up before depression did.

Treating sleep disorders can begin to alleviate certain symptoms of mental illness. My next blog post will talk about more practical tips to get better sleep, but if you’re having trouble turning your brain off at night because of persistent negative thoughts, please contact me. Let’s do what we can to get you sleeping better at night!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

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