Any person who has had a child will tell you the age-old argument between parents and children involves telling them they need their sleep to be healthy and the inevitable response, 'but I’m not tired' and so it would go.
The Harvard Medical School published research in their own health journal that may prove parents right, that sleep deprivation can affect a person’s mental health.
In fact in the US, chronic sleep problems affect 50 to 80 per cent of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10 to 18 per cent of adults in the general population.
Sleep problems are also common in patients who have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Studies with children suggest sleep problems raise the risk and directly contribute to the development of some psychiatric disorders.
Scientific research discovered that sleep disruption, which affects levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, among other things, does wreak havoc in the brain causing impaired thinking and emotional regulation.
Overall there are over 70 types of sleep disorders with the overlap between sleep disorders and various psychiatric problems such as depression, affecting over 90 per cent of children and between 65 and 90 per cent of adults.
The research into sleep disorders and depression is so compelling, based on a study of 1000 adults aged 21 to 30 in the US state of Michigan, found that people who suffered from insomnia, as their key sleep disorder, were four times more likely to develop depression than those who had normal sleep patterns.
In a similar study of over 1000 children, who had various sleep problems, 50 per cent also had ADHD.
The US National Sleep Foundation has outlined a recommended sleep standard by age group, these are:
- Children aged 5 to 10 years should get between 10 and 11 hours sleep.
- Adolescents aged 11 to 17 years should get between 8.5 and 9.5 hours sleep.
- Adults aged 18 plus should get between 7 and 9 hours sleep.
These figures were based on a two-year study published in Sleep Health.
Given these sleep guidelines, here in Australia, Reach OUT.com states that we know when we are getting the right amount of sleep if we fall asleep within 20 minutes of hitting the pillow. Don’t get up more than twice a night.
We are not tired, can stay focused and have enough energy during the day.
Conversely, we will know if we are not getting enough sleep when we still feel tired in the morning when we wake up. Have difficulty concentrating, become drowsy or fatigued, forgetful and moody during the day.
Getting the right amount of sleep is essential for restoring energy to your body and brain therefore to maintain optimal mental health, lifestyle changes can play a significant role in maximising sufficient sleep.
Lifestyle changes can include eliminating or reducing caffeine, alcohol and nicotine intake especially prior to bedtime.
Physical activity can induce increased deep sleep patterns while awakening less often during the night.
Try and maintain a sleep and wake up routine and only using the bedroom for sleeping or sex as well as keeping the bedroom dark and free of electronics like the computer or television.
There are relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation, which may assist in calming thoughts.
Talking to a counsellor who may use therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to support positive thought changes rather than negative expectations about sleep.
On many occasions medications are required especially with those individuals who suffer from mental health and sleep disorders. However, there are potential risks in taking some medications. Using depression as an example, some medications like serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are used for the treatment of depression, may actually cause or worsen a person’s sleep disorder.
Whereas medications, like ramelteon, that work on a person’s melatonin receptors, are used to treat a sleep disorder like insomnia may intensify depression. Therefore it is important that before you take any medications you consult with your medical practitioner to eliminate any possible debilitating side effects.
For sleep support, you can contact Sleep Health Foundation, 02 8814 8655, www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au; Australasian Sleep Association, 02 9920 1968, www.sleep.org.au, or locally the Sleep Clinics, 02 6024 2727.