Sleep problems: how to deal with them

What is the relationship between sleep and mental health?

Sleep and mental health are closely related. Sleeping well can be affected by a mental illness, and sleep deprivation can negatively impact your mental health.

Worrying leads to poor sleep. Poor sleep is caused by worrying. It’s like fighting your own mind when you worry about sleep. It’s an awful place to be.

What sleep problems could I be having?

Many of us struggle to sleep. Some of these experiences may be familiar to you, but there are many other sleep problems that might not be mentioned.

You might:

  • Find it difficult to sleep or to stay asleep (also called insomnia; learn more at the NHS website).
  • Have problems that disrupt your sleep, such as flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, or schizophrenia?
  • You may find it difficult to get up from bed or wake up.
  • You may feel tired and sleepy because you are not getting enough sleep or not getting quality sleep.
  • Sleep a lot, even when you need to or want to be awake.

When I am depressed, the only thing I can do is sleep. At its worst, I slept 18 hours per day. It was the only time I could stop myself from thinking or my mind from telling me terrible things.

You might be:

  • You are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, or suicide.
  • Poor sleep can increase the risk of psychotic symptoms. It can also trigger mania, schizophrenia, or paranoia.
  • Feel alone, for example, if people don’t understand you or don’t want to talk to you.
  • You may find it difficult to focus or make decisions.
  • Feel irritable and lack energy.
  • Have problems in your daily life, such as at work or with friends and family.
  • Mental health problems can affect you more than other health issues.

My brain feels fuzzy, and my memory is affected. I have barely enough energy to function.

What are the causes of sleep problems?

Sleeping patterns are different for each person. These can include:

  • Stress or worry, such as money issues, housing, or work.
  • Sleeping problems if, for instance, you are uncomfortable or easily disturbed.
  • Sleep disorders are also called sleep-related health conditions.
  • Being a parent or a caregiver
  • Taking medication, including starting or stopping medication
  • Alcohol and recreational drugs
  • Working at night or on a shift
  • current or past trauma
  • Many mental and physical problems can interfere with your sleep.

Visit the Mental Health Foundation, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, or our list of helpful contacts for more information on sleep disorders.

You can’t relax at night if your sleeping area isn’t comfortable or safe. This can lead to you not sleeping well and worrying throughout the night.

You can take a sleep diary to your doctor’s appointment to show them. You could bring a sleep diary to your doctor’s appointment.

I think my sleep issues are more a result of procrastinating at bedtime than insomnia. This results in me being too tired in the morning. I have yet to find out what works best for me, as I am able to fall asleep once I get into bed.

What are the possible effects of mental health issues on my sleep?

Sleeping problems can be caused by a mental illness. You can, for example:

  • Anxiety may cause you to have racing thoughts or worry that keeps you awake. You can also experience panic attacks when you are trying to fall asleep.
  • seasonal depression (SAD), and depression can cause you to sleep more. You may stay in bed longer or sleep more frequently. Depression can cause insomnia.
  • You may experience nightmares, night terrors, or flashbacks if you have experienced trauma. You may feel uncomfortable or unsafe in bed.
  • Paranoia and schizophrenia can make it hard to sleep. You may see or hear things that are frightening or disturbing.
  • Mania can cause feelings of elation and energy, which may make you feel energized or not want to go to sleep. Insomnia can be caused by racing thoughts.
  • Psychiatric medications may cause insomnia, nightmares, and excessive sleep. Sleep problems can occur when psychiatric medications are stopped.

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