Catching ZZZs: Mental Health Edition

Sleep–we all need it (and need more of it), but what does it do for you? Regularly getting good sleep, and a right amount of sleep reduces your inflammation, improves your memory, and helps you relieve stress. Getting the proper amount of sleep also has some mental health implications, as well. What are the impacts that rest has on preexisting mental health conditions? All this and more!


Getting Too Little Sleep

We get it, people are busy, and things need to get done. Sometimes, staying up that extra hour to get the specifics of a program worked out, get an extra assignment in, or talk to one specific person makes it worth it. In general, though, making sure you get a healthy amount of sleep every night (somewhere in the range of eight to10 hours) is a great preventative measure you can take to ensure you’re not setting yourself up for a mental health disaster. Conditions like bipolar disorder, dissociated identity disorder, and other serious mental illnesses can have episodes triggered due to lack of sleep.

Getting Too Much Sleep

This seems like the natural analog for getting too little sleep. Sometimes, a lot of rest can be a good thing. But for sufferers of some mental illnesses, getting too much sleep can mean their symptoms are worsening. Mental illnesses that feature depressive tendencies, like Major Depressive Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, among others, need to be especially conscious of periods where they oversleep. Oversleeping on its own isn’t the worst thing ever– instead, it’s a symptom of some of the worst parts of depressive disorders. If you find yourself repeatedly sleeping for 10-12 hours a night, reach out to your mental health practitioner and get their opinion on the next steps you can take to manage your illness the best you can.

Anxiety Disorders and Sleep

Anxiety and lack of sleep go hand in hand. If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety before you go to bed, it’s that much harder to fall asleep. Not sleeping well, too, can play into anxiety in the future by making you anxious in the mornings. If you need to break the vicious sleep cycle, try meditating, writing in any journal, or practicing positive affirmations. These events allow you to take a step in the right direction towards making your anxiety something manageable–something that you’ve got at least a little bit of control over. Plus, writing anything down helps you process it, and, in theory, keep a more watchful eye on the problem so that you can address it head-on when you’re ready.

One more thing to worry about: nighttime panic attacks. While this is exceptional, and confined to disorders like General Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Panic Disorder, many of these panic attacks are triggered by not being able to get enough sleep. If you need to schedule down-time that you use only to take care of yourself before bed, that’s an easy enough thing to do.

Depressive Disorders and Sleep

For depressive disorders, sleep is a central concern. While there are fewer health risks associated with under sleeping than oversleeping, there are risks, nonetheless. Sleeping too much is often just a tool you can use to identify the return of a depressive disorder. If you regularly sleep for 11 or more hours a night, you are statistically at risk of having or developing a depressive disorder. Setting the alarm to help you wake up at a consistent time every day can help you find a little bit of normalcy in your sleep schedule.

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