Mental health is an aspect of life that affects all people, although often to different degrees. During times of widespread hardship however, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, there are more factors that influence mental wellbeing. Studies of previous viral outbreaks have provided some insight into how Covid will psychologically affect people, with the 2014 Ebola virus epidemic causing anxiety, PTSD, and depression in those who experienced it. To assess Covid’s impact on mental health in the United States, the CDC partnered with the Census Bureau to conduct a survey across households. The results collected between August 2020 and February 2021 show a 5% increase in the amount of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression. Many of these surveyed adults also found that they needed mental health services to cope with the distress being experienced.
In our previous post, we discussed how mental health shares a relationship with sleep. Sleep quality affects your mental health and in turn, your mental health affects the way you sleep. The physiological undertaking of sleep is rich with brain activity as memories, emotions, and circadian rhythm functions are processed. Sleep studies have confirmed that these processes are altered in patients experiencing mental afflictions, with results including interrupted sleep, REM cycle disturbances, and less efficient sleep. Knowing this, we can understand how poor mental health can then lead to disordered sleep.
Insomnia and More
The most common sleep disorder associated with mental distress is insomnia, with 40% of insomnia sufferers experiencing a psychiatric condition. Insomnia itself is a diagnostic symptom of both depression and anxiety disorders. Conversely to difficulty falling asleep, the fatigue and daytime sleepiness caused by depression can instead lead to hypersomnia, or excessive sleep. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) also frequently occurs alongside mental disorders including depression and ADHD, and similarly worsens associated symptoms like fatigue and concentration ability. ADHD and other psychiatric disorders can give rise to restless leg syndrome, in which involuntary leg movement further impairs sleep quality.
These examples all demonstrate how mental health affects sleep and can increase the likelihood of disordered sleep. Due to their connection, poor mental health symptoms overlap with those of sleep disorders, such as daytime sleepiness, fatigue, impaired concentration, and mood swings. Treating these symptoms requires including sleep medicine as a facet of mental health therapy, and it is this comprehensive method of treatment that Somnology strives to fulfill.