A new study finds a striking association between poor sleep and mental health disorders. According to Philips’ 2019 World Sleep Day Survey, only 1 out of 10 people globally report sleeping extremely well. Based on the survey, approximately 62% of adults reported sleeping somehow or not at all well.
According to a press release from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), sleeping difficulties are linked with a couple of mental disorders like anxiety and Tourette syndrome, and autism.
During the release, the study’s lead author, Amal Alachkar, Ph.D., said, “The telltale sign of circadian rhythm disruption, a problem with sleep, was present in each disorder.”
Dr. Alachkar added: “while our focus was on widely known conditions including autism, ADHD, and bipolar disorder, we argue that the CRD psychopathology factor hypothesis can be generalized to other mental health issues, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, food addiction, and Parkinson’s disease.”
By carefully examining peer-reviewed literature on the most widespread mental health disorders, the UCI researchers discovered significant evidence connecting sleep disruption and these mental disorders.
What are the Mental Conditions Examined in the UCI Research?
UCI researchers examined the association between circadian rhythm disruption and different mental health conditions, which include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a severe condition that affects millions of children worldwide. It often begins in childhood prolonging into adulthood. The affected person usually finds it difficult to focus; therefore, one acts impulsively without thinking through the consequences.
- Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD severely degrades a person’s memory and thinking over time. Brain cell connections continuously degenerate, eventually destroying memory and other essential memory functions.
- Major depressive disorder (MDD). MDD is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest, interfering with one’s ability to function.
- Bipolar disorder (BPD). BPD is another mood disorder that causes extreme mood swings that often last days or weeks. People with BPD usually exhibit marked periods of abnormal happiness that alternate with depressive sadness.
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although it’s not universally considered a mental disorder, ASD often affects how people communicate and interact with the world.
- Schizophrenia spectrum disorder. People with schizophrenia may experience many other debilitating symptoms like disorganized thinking, delusions, hallucinations, and other unusual behaviors.
- Tourette syndrome. It’s a condition that makes an individual make sudden, rapid, or repetitive sounds and movements called tics.
What Happens If Your Circadian Rhythm is Disrupted?
You may experience issues like daytime sleepiness, insomnia, and reduced productivity if you are not sleeping and waking up per your circadian rhythm.
However, Dr. Cedernaes points out, “It is important to note there is an inter-individual variation in our sleep-wake patterns, so not everyone looks the same. This variation is partly tied to biological preference and partly due to work or social constraints.”
Although not involved in the study, Alicia Roth, Ph.D., of Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center, suggested that mental health conditions may be associated with the stigmatization people experience for their schedules.