In recent years, we have learned even more about the mind-body connection and how our physical body impacts our mental health and vice versa. Sleep is a key component of mental health and often something that begins to be disrupted when our mental health is struggling. For those with depression, individuals often experience either too little or too much sleep. In fact, 65-90 percent of individuals with depression experience sleep disruption. Depression can lead to insomnia or sleeping/napping upwards of 14 hours per day. When we struggle with depression, our sleep symptoms can be exacerbating our mental health needs. On the flip side, individuals with a sleep disorder (of which there are more than 70) are at a greater risk of developing a mental health condition than those without sleep disorders.
Over 20 million Americans struggle with depression, which seeps into all aspects of a person’s life and makes it difficult for them to function at to their usual abilities. Men and women both experience depression and symptoms may include: lack of energy, overeating or loss of appetite, difficulty focusing, pervasive feelings of sadness, feeling hopeless or helpless, and social isolation. People may depend on sleep to cope with depressive symptoms, but sleeping too much can also take away from other activities that may help alleviate depressive symptoms.
Sleep is extremely important in our mental health, whether we struggle with depression and anxiety or if we don’t. When we sleep (and get high-quality sleep, at that), our bodies go into repair mode. Our cells regenerate and repair while we sleep, helping to strengthen our hormone and immune systems. When we sleep, we are converting information from our short-term memory to our long-term memory storage. Along with allowing us to feel more rested and ready to take on the day, our brains benefit greatly from sleep whether we realize it or not.
Sleep disorders, which are common in those with mental health diagnoses, impact neurotransmitters and stress hormones, which play a large part in our mood, emotional regulation, and ability to think. When these components cannot do their jobs or are thrown off, they wreak havoc on the brain. Sleep helps ensure that stress hormones and neurotransmitters are functioning appropriately. Sleep deprivation greatly impacts our ability to think clearly, concentrate, and remember information. In fact, driving while sleep deprived is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
Individuals with depression should talk to their doctors about trouble sleeping. All people can benefit from an appropriate amount of sleep to help ensure maximal functioning during the day. Trying to stick to a sleep schedule, eating healthfully, exercising, and avoiding technology before bed may help individuals get to sleep and improve mental health.