Insomnia is marked by habitual sleeplessness and it affects about 20 percent of adults. While it can be a result of a wide range of adverse health concerns, studies have repeatedly shown that preexisting mental health problems are often considered to be a risk factor for sleep problems. Others studies continue to indicate that insomnia is also a risk factor for many psychiatric disorders. Here is a list of mental health concerns that are associated with insomnia.
There are a lot of different signs and symptoms of clinical depression. Some of these signs and symptoms are sadness, anxiety, feeling empty, hopelessness, pessimism, feeling guilty, feeling worthless, feeling helpless, not enjoying things you used to enjoy, trouble with concentration, memory loss, trouble making decisions, appetite changes, weight changes, restlessness, irritability, and thoughts of death and suicide. Depression can also result in fatigue, headache, stomachache, dizziness, apathy, social withdrawal, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and isolation from friends and family. It is generally associated with lack of motivation and lack of caring, but many people describe it as feeling sick or “off” without experiencing very many significant physical health concerns.
According to many studies people who have had clinical depression at any point in their lives are especially susceptible to sleep problems and insomnia during their middle ages. Additionally, oversleeping and fatigue is also thought to possibly cause depression, so depression is clearly associated with poor sleep habits. The link probably has to do with the fact that sleep is associated with leaving people alone with their thoughts. Since depressed people have a lot of negative thoughts, they may end up falling asleep faster and sleep for longer so that they do not have to deal with their thoughts.
Alternatively, negative thoughts can cause physical side effects that keep you awake for longer, which ultimately causes insomnia. Unfortunately, poor sleep habits can then exacerbate depression because it can initiate a cycle of poor general health, fatigue, lack of motivation to regain fitness, and lack of motivation in general that can then manifest itself as worse depression. Interestingly, many antidepressants can also lead to better sleep habits, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, and Paxil, which probably means that less severe depression leads to less severe insomnia.
There are a lot of different types of anxieties, including phobias, social anxiety, and panic disorders. Most anxieties are associated with some sort of abnormal panicky experience that affect people for little to no physical reason. Symptoms of panicking include sudden fear, palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, sense of choking, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, fear of dying, numbness, tingling, chills, or hot flashes. Generalized anxiety can also cause restlessness, fatigue, difficulty with concentration, irritability, anger, muscle tension, and personality changes.
Anxiety, much like depression, is a huge risk factor for insomnia and can also be triggered or exacerbated by insomnia. Many doctors believe that reduced anxiety can help you sleep better because many of the physical signs of stress associated with anxiety are typical causes of poor sleep. Techniques often used to reduce nighttime anxiety are meditation, daytime exercise, making a to-do list, music, and trying to channel anxiety into some sort of healthy activity. Doing these activities are ways to manage anxiety and it often results in slightly better sleep habits.
About sixteen million adults in the United States have disorders related to alcohol use and abuse. Signs of a disorder include an uncontrollable urge to drink, lack of control over how much you drink, negative thoughts that occur whenever you are not drinking alcohol. Many alcoholics need a drink in the morning, to be social, and to escape from feelings.
Another sign of alcohol dependence is that you cannot relax or fall asleep without drinking. Because of this alcoholism and insomnia are correlated. One study also shows that binge drinking can cause insomnia to manifest itself years later, even if the binge drinking has stopped.
A lot of insomnia is correlated with both short term and long term stresses. Stress is how the body responds to both real and perceived harmful situations. It can cause emotional problems, such as agitation, frustration, mood changes, feelings of being overwhelmed, feelings of losing control, relaxation difficulties, low self-esteem, nervousness, feelings of loneliness, feelings of worthlessness, worry, racing thoughts, forgetfulness, disorganization, inability to focus, poor judgement, pessimism, procrastination, substance abuse, and depression.
It can also cause you have low energy, headaches, upset stomach, muscle pain, chest pain, frequent infections, loss of sex drive, ringing in the ear, cold hands and feet, sweaty hands and feet, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, jaw clenching, appetite changes, and teeth grinding. Long term stress can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, strokes, obesity, eating disorders, impotence, acne, psoriasis, eczema, hair loss, ulcerative colitis, colon problems, and other gastrointestinal problems.
Insomnia is also often stress related. This type of insomnia is correlated with elevated sympathetic nervous system activation at night. The sympathetic nervous system is the involuntary part of your brain that controls your fight or flight instincts. When it is activated, your heart rate will increase and you will find it more difficult to relax. In order to sleep, you need parasympathetic nervous system activation, which is the part of your nervous system that controls digestion, certain reproductive functions, and resting. At any given time, both types of nervous systems will usually be doing some work, but stress related insomnia seems to be correlated with too much sympathetic nervous system activity.
Insomnia may just seem like it is just a very frustrating lack of sleep, but it also causes a number of physical and mental health concerns. It can trigger these concerns, it can exacerbate them, or it can be a result of them, so if you have any sort of psychiatric concern, make sure you are also paying attention to your sleep habits. Once you start experiencing unhealthy sleep patterns, you can experience further psychological problems in addition health problems.