Monday, June 1, 2015

Sleep & Mental Illnesses

       I haven’t slept well the past few days. There has been too much going on, and I have been overwhelmed. Of course, that means I haven’t been able to exercise like I normally do, which has made things worse. I forgot to take care of myself first, and now everything else is suffering because of it. 

       When I let things get out of hand around me, my insomnia kicks in. All of this made me remember an article I read about the link between my symptoms and a lack of sleep. I went and found it. After I cut out all the lengthy paragraphs that are full of medical jargon, so that it can be quickly and easily read, I will promptly be going to bed. Wish me luck! What follows are excerpts directly from the report published July 1, 2009.

The basis of a mutual relationship between sleep and mental health is not yet completely understood. But neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience while chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for emotional vulnerability.

Depression. Studies using different methods and populations estimate that 65% to 90% of adult patients with major depression, and about 90% of children with this disorder, experience some kind of sleep problem. Most patients with depression have insomnia, but about one in five suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep problems also increase the risk of developing depression. A longitudinal study of about 1,000 adults ages 21 to 30 enrolled in a Michigan health maintenance organization found that, compared with normal sleepers, those who reported a history of insomnia during an interview in 1989 were four times as likely to develop major depression by the time of a second interview three years later. And two longitudinal studies in young people — one involving 300 pairs of young twins, and another including 1,014 teenagers — found that sleep problems developed before major depression did.
Sleep problems affect outcomes for patients with depression. Studies report that depressed patients who continue to experience insomnia are less likely to respond to treatment than those without sleep problems. Even patients whose mood improves with antidepressant therapy are more at risk for a relapse of depression later on. Depressed patients who experience sleep disturbances are more likely to think about suicide and die by suicide than depressed patients who are able to sleep normally.

Bipolar disorder. Studies in different populations report that 69% to 99% of patients experience insomnia or report less need for sleep during a manic episode of bipolar disorder. In bipolar depression, however, studies report that 23% to 78% of patients sleep excessively (hypersomnia), while others may experience insomnia or restless sleep.
Longitudinal studies suggest that insomnia and other sleep problems worsen before an episode of mania or bipolar depression, and lack of sleep can trigger mania. Sleep problems also adversely affect mood and contribute to relapse.

Anxiety disorders. Sleep problems affect more than 50% of adult patients with generalized anxiety disorder, are common in those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and may occur in panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias. They are also common in children and adolescents. One sleep laboratory study found that youngsters with an anxiety disorder took longer to fall asleep, and slept less deeply, when compared with a control group of healthy children.

Insomnia may also be a risk factor for developing an anxiety disorder, but not as much as it is for major depression. In the longitudinal study of teenagers mentioned earlier, for example, sleep problems preceded anxiety disorders 27% of the time, while they preceded depression 69% of the time.

      For me, what all that means is that I don't have the luxury of taking my sleep for granted. I have to allow myself time to wind down at night. I have to make time for exercise, so that when I do go to bed I am able to sleep well. I can't take on too much and allow myself to become overwhelmed. After all, I can only do so much. 

       Tonight, if all else fails, and I end up staring at the ceiling again, I'll get up and go for a fast paced run. When I get home, I will write out ten things that I'm grateful for. That always puts me in a better frame of mind and helps me relax. I'll follow that up with a long shower, and I'll collapse onto the bed exhausted. That is one of the few cures I have found for my insomnia so far. With that, I am going to bed. Good night friends. 
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As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes at eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click the link to the right and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a great resource and is staffed by wonderful people. 
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