Insomnia as a Mental Illness? | Sip2Sleep®

Insomnia as a Mental Illness?

What do anxiety, depression, mental health, and insomnia have in common? Numerous studies have shown that those with chronic insomnia also have a mental health disorder—the two are intricately intertwined. It’s well known that sleep is vital for mental health (as well as physical health) because sleep is when our body repairs itself. Your brain gets to work sorting information, the nervous system gets a welcome break, and you prepare for the following day.
However, those with insomnia, which is defined as struggling to fall and/or stay asleep, do not get any or enough of this necessary healing process. It’s no wonder mental illness and insomnia often go hand in hand. Worse, existing mental health conditions can trigger insomnia. It’s a catch-22 and a vicious cycle, but one that can be addressed with the right tools.

Insomnia and Mental Illness: A Unique Relationship

Research shows that up to 80 percent of adults with a mental illness have trouble falling asleep. However, these co-morbidities go both ways. Psychiatric disorders can trigger or worsen insomnia, while insomnia can trigger or worsen a mental illness. In some cases, there is no clear cause and effect relationship, but instead a situation where both conditions are symptoms of a shared co-morbidity. One example is how those with type-2 diabetes can present with unbalanced blood sugar levels that lead to anxiety and insomnia.
There is also acute or short-term insomnia that everyone experiences, such as from picking up a one-off night shift or jet lag. Acute insomnia is rarely something to worry about and one of the rare times taking an OTC sleep aid may be helpful in getting back on track (though you should not depend on them regularly). The presentation of your insomnia, along with other symptoms, is key in helping a doctor determine how a mental illness affects your sleep abilities.

Insomnia as a Primary or Secondary Condition

If you have chronic insomnia, it is either primary or secondary. Primary insomnia is not caused by any other psychological or medical condition. Secondary insomnia results from other conditions like anxiety, depression, asthma, thyroid issues, and so on. Depression is one of the most common co-morbidities with insomnia. One study revealed that over 90 percent of people with major depressive disorder (MDD) also reported insomnia symptoms. Overall, those with insomnia may develop depression more so than those without insomnia.
Anxiety is the second most reported co-morbidity with insomnia, with one study showing that up to 36 percent of people with insomnia also have anxiety. A Swedish study suggested in a 2020 population study that those with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are seven times likelier to be diagnosed with insomnia (or be medicated for insomnia). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) presents with disrupted sleep as a core symptom, which can in turn lead to other issues like anxiety. One study by Trusted Source showed that up to 80 percent of people with schizophrenia also present with disturbed sleep. Of course, those with substance abuse disorder or in withdrawal also often show signs of disturbed sleep.

Insomnia and Health

Insomnia present as trouble falling and/or staying asleep, waking up too early, or feeling sleepy the following day. The condition was added to the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition as a standalone disorder for the first time—in the 4th edition, it was defined as a primary or secondary disorder. In order to qualify in the 5th edition, insomnia must “cause significant functional distress or impairment” and “be present for at least 3 nights per week for at least 3 months.”
Insomnia can be triggered or worsened by many factors, and there is a genetic component to it. Mental health conditions are associated with insomnia as are certain medical conditions such as sleep apnea, pain, neurological issues, substance use, stress, medications, and irregular work schedules. In addition to CBT-I under the guidance of a sleep doctor for insomnia, treating underlying conditions (including mental health conditions) and natural sleep aids can be critical tools in managing your insomnia. Many people rightfully want to avoid OTC sleep aids with antihistamines or Rx medications, and alternatives are available. Sip2Sleep® is a natural, drinkable sleep aid made of just two ingredients: tart cherry extract for inflammatory reduction, and Venetron® for stress reduction.
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