Sleeping for Sanity

Sleeping for Sanity
Source: Summarized from an article by By Morgan Jones

Recent studies have shown that many Americans are finding it harder and harder to get a decent amount of sleep. Why? Studies have pointed to physical issues, (obstructive sleep apnea), and mental health issues, (stress and depression).
It’s been proven that losing weight can greatly improve symptoms of sleep apnea. But what about treating mental health issues? In a question similar to the “chicken versus the egg” conundrum, could sleep problems traditionally thought to be symptoms of mental disorders actually be the cause of the mental disorders? Could treating sleep disorders help heal mental health problems?
Sleep Basics
It’s obvious that our bodies and minds want and need sleep, but what exactly is happening when we start snoozing? According to the Harvard Medical School, there are two main categories of sleep, each with its own important functions.
During rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, heart rate and breathing return to levels comparable to those seen when awake. At the same time, our bodies become paralyzed, ensuring that we don’t act out our dreams. This period of dreaming has been shown to contribute to emotional well-being, memory and learning ability, though the manner of connection is not yet entirely understood.When in “quiet,” or non-REM sleep cycles, heart rate and body temperature decrease and breathing slows and becomes regular. In this stage the immune system is bolstered and strengthened.
Sleeping builds our immune system and can even contribute to maintaining a healthy weight. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite.”Furthermore, it seems that the disruption of sleep affects stress hormones and neurotransmitters, interrupting one’s ability to think, process information, and regulate their emotions. It is because of this mechanism of sleep that, according to Harvard Medical School, “insomnia may amplify the effects of psychiatric disorders, and vice versa.”Harvard Medical School reports that while 10-18% of American adults overall are affected by chronic sleep issues, anywhere from 50-80% of patients in an average psychiatric practice are plagued with these problems.
The Sleep-Mental Health Connection
It has traditionally been the assumption that insomnia and other sleep problems were simply symptoms of the psychiatric issues that these patients with sleep issues were already being treated for.
“The medical profession is becoming more aware of the correlation between sleep and emotional disorders,” said William Kohler, M.D., Medical Director of the Florida Sleep Institute, in an interview with dailyRx. Some research has now shown that sleep issues might increase the likelihood of mental health problems. Harvard Medical school reports that it might even be the case that sleep problems “might even directly contribute to the development of some psychiatric disorders.”

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