Conditions wrongly categorized as mental illness-2: Insomnia

Conditions wrongly categorized as mental illness-2: Insomnia

There is nothing worse than a restless mind at night. Wandering incessant thoughts, keeping awake all night without a wink, difficulty in falling asleep, tiredness during daytime, can be the signs of a sleep disorder, is they occur persistently. Commonly known as insomnia, lack of proper sleep often causes restlessness, worries, depression and irritability. Improper sleep affects a person’s physical health. However, more significantly, it affects one’s mental condition and stability as well.

Proper sleep is important to maintain good health since this is the time that the body uses to heal itself and repair the damaged cells, tissues and vessels. Sleep deficiency is directly linked to increase in the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Besides, it often adds to mental stress, which can further trigger several mental disorders. Therefore, many, mistakenly assume insomnia to be a mental disorder. The series “Conditions wrongly categorized as mental Illness,” talks about the conditions that are commonly misinterpreted as mental illnesses.

It is important to understand that though sleep disorder is not a mental condition, it may, however, lead to mental instability and related disorders. Often, sleep disorders are impending signs of mental conditions like bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and others.

Understanding insomnia

Insomnia is the most commonly known sleep disorder. Primarily characterized by an inability to get sufficient amount of sleep, required for the efficient functioning of the body throughout the day, insomnia rarely occurs in isolation. Often, insomnia is accompanied by other physical or mental conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “an estimated 50-70 million U.S. adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder.”

Insomnia can be both long-term and short-term. Short-term insomnia can be the result of stress, travel, exhaustion, lifestyle or work schedules and can be addressed by adopting some hygiene and lifestyle changes such as exercising, taking hot baths, drinking warm milk before sleeping or changing the bedroom environment. However, in case of long-term insomnia, while it can last for more than three weeks, it would require a consultation with the doctor for a cure. Long-term insomnia can also be a symptom or indicate some major underlying health condition.

Insomnia and mental health

Even though insomnia is not a mental disorder in itself, it is closely related to many mental conditions. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), while most of the insomnia cases are the result of depression, anxiety or psychological stress, a sudden dramatic decrease in sleeping ability can be indicative of anxiety disorders. “Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is frequently associated with poor sleep. Panic attacks during sleep may suggest a panic disorder. Poor sleep resulting from nightmares may be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Treatment of sleep disorders has also been studied in relationship to schizophrenia, ADHD and other mental illnesses,” added NAMI.

Besides, substance abuse can be another major cause of insomnia and related mental disorders. Substances such as alcohol, or hallucinogenic drugs like LSD or ecstasy can, on the contrary, cause insomnia. It is commonly believed that being sedative and hallucinogenic in nature, intoxicating substances help in inducing sleep, but this is not always true.

An old study, “Epidemiologic study of sleep disturbances and psychiatric disorders. An opportunity for prevention?” by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), revealed that while 40 percent of those with insomnia suffer from a psychiatric disorder, the risk of developing major depression was much higher in those who had insomnia.

Road to recovery

The first line of treatment for insomnia is certainly correcting one’s sleep habits and adopting a lifestyle that encourages good sleep. Additionally, an individual should also take necessary care to resolve the underlying issue that may be causing insomnia. However, in case the condition is severe, it is important to seek immediate medical help, as the condition can further trigger serious mental illnesses.

If you or your loved one is suffering from any mental health issue, the California Mental Health Helpline can help you find the best mental health facilities in California. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online to seek information about mental health treatment centers in California.

Read the other articles of the series “Conditions wrongly categorized as mental illness”:

1: Autism