Sleep Problems: A cause of mental illness, or a symptom?
Do Sleep Problems Cause Mental Illness? Or Are They A Symptom Of It?
Americans are quite sleep deprived these days, but what you might not know is all of that not sleeping could be affecting your mental well-being. Or, is it that your mental health is leading to sleepless nights and yawn-filled days? The data paints a picture: Nearly one in five Americans suffers from some kind of mental illness, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health. Even more surprising, a whopping 50 to 80 percent of people living with typical psychiatric illnesses also report chronic sleep problems, compared to less than 20 percent of the general population.
Looking at the numbers, it seems clear that sleep and mental health are connected, but the question remains: How are they connected? Are sleep problems a cause of mental illness, or, rather, are they a symptom? To find out, and to learn more about the connection between sleep and mental health, we teamed up with Sleep Number. But hint: There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer.
Sleep issues can both cause and be a sign of depression.
“Disordered sleep can be both a symptom and cause of psychiatric disorders,” says Dr. Ash Nadkarni, director of Digital Integrated Care and instructor at Harvard Medical School. “For instance, in major depressive disorder, problems with early morning awakenings can be a cardinal symptom,” she says. “Alternatively, insomnia has been shown in longitudinal studies to be a risk factor for both new onset and recurrent depression.”
Sleep is restorative. When you miss out on shut eye, some pretty crazy things go on in your body. Because sleep problems can be both a symptom and a cause of mental issues, like depression, those who suffer from both can fall into a vicious Catch-22. Their mental health influences their sleep habits, which influence their mental health. It’s like the chicken or the egg: Eventually, it’s hard to tell which came first.
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