Surprising Link Between Sleep Deprivation Psychosis And Mental Illness
The term sleep deprivation means getting less than the necessary amount of sleep. For adults, that ranges from 7 to 9 hours per night, and children and teens need even more than adults. A study conducted by sleep researchers at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute and the University of Oxford in the U.K. discovered that “sleep disruption is a driving factor in the occurrence of:
- Other mental health problems.
Insomnia is usually thought of as a symptom of depression, but now it might be a cause of it.
What Is Sleep Deprivation Psychosis?
In sleep medicine, sleep deprivation is defined based on the duration of sleep, which is the total amount of time a person spends asleep. However, the reality is that being well-rested is more than just about how many hours you sleep. Because of this, the terms “sleep deficiency” or “sleep insufficiency” are used most often to describe factors that reduce the quantity and/or quality of sleep and keep a person from waking up refreshed.
Deficiency or Insufficiency?
When used this way, sleep deficiency has a wider meaning. For example, an individual who sleeps a total of eight hours but wakes up many times, which splits their sleep into fragments, may have insufficient sleep. Even though their sleep duration technically reaches the recommended amount. Sleep terminology can be different from an everyday speech where the term sleep deprivation may be used with a broader meaning that refers to poor sleep in general, not just total sleep duration.
Is It Different From Insomnia?
Although both insomnia and sleep deprivation involves failure to get enough sleep, experts in sleep science point out the difference between them:
- Insomnia: People with insomnia have trouble sleeping even when they have plenty of time to get enough sleep.
- Sleep deprivation: These individuals don’t have enough time allotted for sleep due to behavior choices or everyday obligations.
For example, sleep-deprived people with a busy work schedule usually have no problems sleeping longer on weekends to try to “catch up” on the sleep missed during the week. But a person with insomnia still struggles to sleep even when they have enough time.
Is Sleep Deprivation Psychosis A Mental Illness?
By itself, it’s not considered a mental illness. Still, it is a symptom of nearly every mental illness and psychosis. People with psychological disorders nearly always report not sleeping well. This suggests that sleep deficiency is a leading cause of mental illness.
Types Of Sleep Deprivation Psychosis
Sleep insufficiency and sleep deprivation may be put in different categories depending on a person’s situation. They are:
- Acute Sleep Deprivation: This refers to a short period, usually a few days or less, when a person has a marked reduction in their sleep time.
- Chronic Sleep Deprivation: Also known as insufficient sleep syndrome, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has defined this as curtailed sleep that persists for 3 months or longer.
- Chronic Sleep Deficiency or Insufficient Sleep: This describes ongoing sleep deprivation as well poor sleep that occurs because of sleep fragmentation or other disturbances.
What Causes Sleep Deprivation Psychosis?
Several factors can cause or contribute to sleep deprivation including:
Poor Sleep Hygiene
Poor or inadequate sleep hygiene is caused by bad sleeping habits such as:
- Background noise
- Extreme temperatures
- Irregular bedtimes
- Caffeine intake before bedtime
- Sedentary lifestyle
Sleep deprivation is typically caused by voluntary choices that reduce the amount of sleep time available. A person who decides to stay up late to binge-watch a TV show may experience acute sleep deprivation. An inconsistent sleep schedule might promote these decisions and make them seem less intentional at the time.
Obligations at work are another common reason for sleep deprivation. People who work multiple jobs or extended hours often don’t have enough time for sleep. Shift workers who have to work overnight may also find it difficult to get enough sleep.
Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that causes dozens of sleep interruptions during the night. This affects both sleep duration and quality
Other medical conditions
Pain or general anxiety disorder (GAD) can also interfere with the quantity and quality of sleep.
Are There Any Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation?
The main signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
- Extreme daytime sleepiness might result in “microsleeps” during which a person dozes off for a matter of seconds.
- Reduced concentration
- Slowed thinking
- Reduced attention span
- Memory problems
- Risky or poor decision making
- Lack of energy
- Mood changes including feelings of anxiety, stress, or irritability
Symptoms can depend on the extent of the sleep deprivation and whether it is acute or chronic. Research has indicated that certain individuals are more likely to experience symptoms after inadequate sleep and that this may be linked to a person’s genetics.
What Are The Results Of Sleep Deprivation?
The consequences of sleep deprivation and sleep deficiency can be serious and extensive, such as the following:
Unintentional Errors And Accidents
- Slowed reaction time while driving and the risk of unintentional microsleeps.
- Struggling to function in work or school.
- Mood changes may affect personal relationships.
Risks For Physical And Mental Health
Sleep plays a crucial part in the functioning of nearly every system in the body. Therefore, a continuous lack of sleep creates significant risks to physical and mental health such as:
Studies have found strong connections between sleep deficiency and cardiovascular problems including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Coronary heart disease
Lack of sufficient sleep appears to affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar which increases the risk for metabolic conditions like diabetes.
People tend to consume more calories and carbohydrates when they’re sleeping deficient. This is just one of the ways that poor sleep might be tied to obesity and problems with weight management.
Sleep deficiency has been shown to lead to lower immune function, including a poorer response to vaccines.
Sleep helps your body properly produce and regulate levels of some hormones. This has the potential to increase susceptibility to hormone problems for people with sleep deprivation.
Sleep-deprived people are at a higher risk of developing pain or feeling that their pain is getting worse. Also, pain may cause further sleep disruptions starting a negative cycle of worsening pain and lack of sleep.
Mental health disorders
Mental health and sleep are closely entwined, and poor sleep has strong associations with conditions such as:
- Bipolar disorder
According to Russell Foster, head of Oxford’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, sleep research could be a huge benefit for mental health clinicians and patients. Disruption of sleep is a very common characteristic of mental illness. The Oxford study provides evidence for a link between psychotic experiences and sleeps disruption.
What Is Sleep Deprivation Psychosis?
This refers to mental disorders linked to sleep deprivation. Losing touch with reality is involved. Not sleeping deprives your brain of the time it needs to sort out the loads of information you are bombarded with each day. Without enough time for your brain to sift through it, process it, and filter out the unnecessary parts, it will grapple with distinguishing what’s real and what isn’t.
Which Comes First?
A Harvard study discovered that in children who were depressed, 90% had some sort of sleep problem. They concluded that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to suffer depression and other mental conditions including:
There is also a strong link between sleep deprivation and anxiety disorders. In addition, insomnia will make the problem worse. So if you’re not sleeping enough, you’re more likely to have anxiety. But, feeling anxious can make sleep difficult.
People with bipolar have episodes of extreme depression and manic happiness. Frequently, manic episodes occur after an extended period of limited sleep. Up to 69-99% of the time, people in a manic episode report sleeping less.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
Along with not being able to focus and pay attention, patients with ADHD also have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. They may also have restless leg syndrome or a sleep-related breathing problem. It is often difficult to decide whether a patient’s ADHD is affecting their sleep or if the poor quality of sleep is causing the ADHD.
Sleep deprivation leads to delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. In the same way, patients who were awake for 24 hours started to experience symptoms that appeared to be schizophrenia. The scientists who conducted the study theorized that the lack of sleep, even if just for a couple of nights, causes “chaos in the brain,” making it hard to filter information correctly.
Looking at all these important aspects of sleep deprivation, it shouldn’t be any surprise that research has found insufficient sleep to be related to a lower quality of life and a greater overall risk of death.
Things You Can Do To Improve Sleep
Avoid nicotine and caffeine especially at night. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants and will make it difficult to get good sleep.
Getting regular exercise helps balance your stress and hormones, puts you in a better mood, and eases stress and anxiety. These are all helpful in getting a good night’s sleep. However, do your exercising early in the day or you might be too energized to go to sleep.
This refers to your sleep habits. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will help you plan to get the right amount of sleep and you’ll have less trouble falling asleep. Keep your bedroom dark without lights or a television. Likewise, having electronic devices in the room with lights and sounds will interfere with your quantity and quality of sleep.
Meditation and breathing exercises can help you relax and prepare for bedtime. If your day has been stressful, meditation can help clear your mind of the day’s troubles and allow you to drift off to sleep.
Treatment Options For Sleep Deprivation Psychosis
If lifestyle and sleep hygiene changes aren’t enough to help you and you’re experiencing serious brain disorders along with your insomnia, you will need to seek treatment. Some medications can be prescribed to treat your mental disorder.
And sleep medications don’t cure the problem or address the underlying symptoms. The truth is, it can often make sleep problems worse over the long term. To avoid dependence and build a tolerance, only use sleeping pills for a limited time.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT can help improve your sleep by changing your behavior before bedtime and by changing your ways of thinking that keep you from falling asleep. Also, it focuses on correcting your relaxation skills and changing lifestyle habits that affect your sleeping patterns.
Since sleep disorders can be both caused by emotional health problems and trigger problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression, therapy is an effective way to treat the underlying problem instead of just the symptoms. A study at Harvard Medical School found that CBT was more effective at treating insomnia than a prescription sleep medication. Even a year later, patients who had CBT had the greatest changes in their ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Why Can’t You Sleep?
Lying awake, looking at the clock, why can’t you sleep? You don’t have to go through this night after night, day after day. Some people can help you get to the bottom of this problem. At Montare Behavioral Health, we are experienced in helping people find out what’s keeping them awake and keeping them from living their best life.
Our certified professional therapists are skilled in CBT and other behavioral therapies, as well as group and individual psychotherapy. So what’s keeping you up?
If you or a loved one believes they may have sleep deprivation psychosis, contact us today and let us help you.