October 23, 2021

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Study: Sleep issues linked to mental health disorders

3 min read

Oct. 12 (UPI) — People with mental health disorders are more likely to have sleep problems than those who do not have the disorders, a study published Tuesday by PLOS Medicine found.

Adults with severe depression, as well as anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder tend to go to bed later and wake up later than those without these illnesses, the data showed.

In addition, those with mental illnesses have lower “sleep efficiency,” meaning they sleep less soundly and wake up more frequently than people who have not been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the researchers said.

“We found that people who had ever been diagnosed with mental illness in their lifetime tended to have changes in sleep patterns, usually for the worse ,” study co-author Michael Wainberg told UPI in an email.

“That was true for all four categories of diagnoses we looked at and for nearly every sleep parameter we looked at,” said Wainberg, a post-doctoral researcher at Center for Addiction and Mental Health’s Krembil Center for Neuroinformatics in Toronto.

Earlier research has found that up to 80% of people with mental health disorders have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, according to Harvard Medical School.

One such study suggests that mental health disorders may interfere with the body’s circadian rhythms, the internal process in the body that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

For this study, Wainberg and his colleagues analyzed accelerometer data for more than 89,000 people ages 43 to 79 years, roughly 2,500 of whom had been diagnosed with one of the four mental health disorders.

Study participants were asked to wear an accelerometer, the Axivity AX3, a device that measures body movement, on their wrists for seven days.

The device enabled researchers to estimate the times participants went to sleep and woke up each night, as well as sleep duration. They provided information on participants’ sleep efficiency, or how soundly they slept, based on their movements after falling asleep.

Study participants also kept a record of when they went to sleep and woke up each day, along with their assessments of their sleep quality.

Participants who had been diagnosed with mental health disorders went to bed up to two hours later than those who did not have a diagnosis, the data showed. They also woke up roughly an hour later and slept about 50 minutes longer.

However, those with mental health disorders also tended to wake up more frequently during the night, need more naps during the day and have greater variability in their bedtimes and sleep duration than those who did not have these disorders.

The relationship between sleep and mental health is “bi-directional,” meaning poor sleep contributes to poor mental health and poor mental health contributes to poor sleep, according to Wainberg.

“We’re not advocating that everyone concerned about their sleep should go out and buy a sleep tracker,” Wainberg said.

“If you’re concerned about how you’re sleeping, you’re better off talking to your doctor and practicing good sleep hygiene — having a consistent day-to-day sleep schedule, not eating or using electronics right before bed, that kind of thing,” he said.

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