After over a year of COVID-19 impacting our day-to-day lives, studies are now taking place to discover what the lasting effects of the pandemic may be. One major concern has arisen: the mental health of people beginning to re-integrate with society and the workplace. Isolation, uncertainty, and adapting to changes during the pandemic has been a mentally confounding experience for many, and potentially even traumatic. At Somnology, we assess sleep behavior through a comprehensive perspective, which includes examining its interaction with mental health.
The relationship between sleep and mental health is actually bidirectional, meaning they each affect one another. This dynamic is demonstrated through insomnia: a sleep disorder that can manifest either alone or in relation to another health condition. For roughly 50% of insomnia cases, mental health is a contributing factor. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychological ailments all have the potential to affect sleep—with depression being the condition most frequently linked to insomnia. Accordingly, at least 50% of depression cases report having poor quality sleep.
Poor sleep quality can both contribute to the development of mental illness and prevent effective treatment of already developed illness. Sleep cycles disrupted by difficulty falling or staying asleep cannot fully process the physiological functions typically undergone during sleep. Sleep is essential for maintaining the body’s circadian rhythm functions that occur both physically and neurologically. Bodily functions such as heart rate and breathing are regulated in addition to cognitive processing. The brain encodes and consolidates memory during sleep, which then affects ability to learn and be attentive while awake. Emotional memory is also affected by sleep, with poor sleep causing more negative memories to be stored. Sleep is necessary for the processes of thought and emotional regulation, so recurrent sleep disruption can consequently weaken them. A long-term study found that adults who repeatedly experienced insomnia were four times more likely to develop depression than those with regular sleep patterns. Depressed patients who continue experiencing insomnia then have difficulty responding to treatment.
Sleep and mental health share a mutual relationship wherein each can affect the quality of the other. Poor sleep can lead to poor mental health—and vice versa—which then impacts a person’s ability to function during the day. Monitoring your sleep is essential to tracking its connection to mental wellbeing, and Somnology’s SLaaS Platform can help with this task. With SLaaS, you can record your nightly sleep quality and receive recommendations on how to improve it. Continue reading the SleepTalk Blog for more information on SLaaS features and the relationship between sleep and mental health.