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Insomnia and risks to mental wellbeing

Insomnia is a sleep disorder where the person finds it hard to catch sleep or maintain sleep for a healthy duration and hence feels mentally and physically exhausted throughout the day.


We have heard people attributing their bad moods to ‘waking up on the wrong side of the bed’. Let us understand how sleep plays a critical role in maintaining mental health. Sleep is the body’s daily recuperating process where it gets the much-needed rest. The brain uses this time to process the emotional information and also evaluates and sorts the thoughts and memories. This helps the consolidation of emotional data in the brain. Thus, lack of sleep can affect one’s emotional reactivity and in severe cases also cause suicidal behaviour.


Sleep and mental health conditions


The interconnection between insomnia and mental health is complex and bidirectional with each impacting the other. Lack of sleep can cause mood swings, anxiety, depression and similar mental health symptoms. Also, pre-existing mental health conditions can cause insomnia.


Depression


According to research, around 75% of those in depression suffered from insomnia. Some others show excessive sleep during the daytime which is a condition called hypersomnia. Poor sleep can be the cause of depression and also worsen the depressive symptoms already present.


Anxiety


Anxiety is essentially excessive fear or worry which keeps the brain in a state of hyperarousal thus contributing to insomnia. Those who suffer from sleep problems tend to worry and overthink more often and thus more prone to anxiety disorders


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


People who have experienced trauma frequently have flashbacks and nightmares of the incidents from the past. This makes them hypervigilant and always on alert. PTSD can cause or maintain the symptoms of insomnia.


Treating Insomnia


Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: CBT is a talk based therapy where a professional counsellor discusses the sleep related issues of the client in detail. The thought patterns of the client are assessed in a way to manage stress and anxiety.


Sleep hygiene: Sleep hygiene involves setting healthy sleep time habits and routine. This can include: Setting a fixed time to go to bed, ensuring a comfortable, quiet and hygienic bedroom environment, restricting/ stopping use of electronic devices an hour before bedtime etc.,


Exercises and Relaxation techniques: Regular physical exercise during the daytime and deep breathing and mindfulness just before bedtime can improve sleep quality significantly.


Medication: Doctors may prescribe medicines to induce sleep as a short term remedy so that the patient gets adequate rest.


Getting adequate sleep is essential for physical and mental wellbeing. It is thus critical to address sleep related issues that we might face at the earliest to ensure overall good health. 



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