Saturday, May 25

Impact of Sleep on Mental Health


There are all sorts of sleep aid products on the market to help us improve our sleep. From CBD sleep aids to specialised pillows and even luxury bedding. And for good reason. One night of poor sleep can leave us feeling grumpy, irritable, and fatigued and often restricts social and work activities the next day. Consecutive nights of poor sleep on the other hand can often leave us wondering if there is a deeper complexity at the heart of it like depression.

PriceCheck tip: CBD has zero psychoactive effects. However, research shows that CBD has some positive health benefits and can assist with relaxation and anxiety. 

But is depression and anxiety actually a by-product of poor sleep or is it the other way around? The answer is, it could be true either way. According to Dr Alison Bentley, Sleep expert working with Fitbit and Chairperson of South African Society for Sleep and Health – sleep and mental health are very closely linked.


“One may experience daytime symptoms like those of depression when we sleep poorly and experience anxiety when we battle to fall asleep. If we get a good night’s sleep, we feel much better during the day and our anxiety about falling asleep fades. The anxiety is usually very specific to lack of control of sleep and not associated with anything else. In this case, good treatment of insomnia tends to resolve the depressive and anxiety symptoms,” said Dr Bentley.

Conversely, up to 70% of people who have a major clinical depression or generalised anxiety disorder will have insomnia as a secondary symptom of those mental health problems. Most mental health disorders present with poor sleep as a symptom including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and bipolar disorder. In these cases, a few nights of good sleep will not solve the depressive or anxiety symptoms. Trying to “treat insomnia” alone in these cases is unlikely to resolve any of the symptoms – and insomnia may become resistant to treatment.


“It’s important to understand that there are different types of insomnia; when we are exposed to sudden stress which causes a few nights of bad sleep, it is called short-term insomnia. Most people, once the stress has worn off, will go back to sleeping normally. Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is defined as sleep difficulties for more than 3 months duration. It is maintained by anxiety about falling asleep as well as a change in sleep behaviours which seem logical but promote worsening sleep,” added Dr. Bentley.

The treatment protocols for insomnia start with understanding the quantity of sleep and the collection of data to monitor sleep. Since none of the laboratory tests like blood tests or X-rays can be used to diagnose insomnia, having a detailed sleep journal becomes critical.

CBD Sleep

Fitness trackers and smart wearables, such as Fitbit are known for having auto sleep monitoring features and even include advanced sleep tracking functionality that tells you about your sleep stages and sleep quality. You could then ideally present the data to present to your doctor to understand ways to improve your sleep behaviour.

By learning details about your sleep and changing some of your sleep behaviours you can start to build good sleep habits. Better sleep can lead to better mental health.


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