Sleep makes up one third of our lives. Despite this being a large proportion of our day, many of us do not place enough emphasis on ensuring a good night’s sleep. It is critical for our daily functioning and we know that adults require at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night, with children and youth requiring more. Sleep has a strong relationship with mental and physical well-being and sleep disturbance is amongst the most common symptoms of those suffering from emotional difficulties. This makes it very important to address sleep disturbance in individuals suffering from a psychiatric illness.
Sleep is composed of different stages and is divided into non-rapid eye movement sleep (about 75%) and rapid eye movement or dream sleep (about 25%). All stages are equally important and play different but essential roles in the overall restorative role of sleep for the mind and body.
There are over 70 sleep disorders, However there are five general classes of disorders that are commonly seen: breathing problems during sleep (e.g. sleep apnea), leg cramps/movements during sleep (e.g.: restless leg syndrome), sleep walking, excessive daytime sleepiness, or insomnia. All these conditions interplay with mental disorders.
If you are experiencing a psychiatric illness, ensure that you discuss any sleep problems and ask your health care provider to address your sleep. This may require attention by your physician or a sleep specialist. They will be able to determine whether or not these are symptoms associated with your mental illness or it is a sleep disorder. Treatment may include medications, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, or mechanical treatments such as a special mouth guard or a breathing assisting machine known as CPAP. Caution should be entertained when medications are prescribed quickly and for prolonged duration without understanding the source of the problem.
Here are some tips to improve your quality of sleep such as – avoid caffeine about 8 hours before sleep, avoid alcohol at least few hours before sleep, relax at least one hour before bedtime for example by engaging in mindfulness breathing or meditation, avoid any electronics such as cellphones and display screens at least 3 hours before bedtime, exercise regularly in the morning, ensure regular sleep and wake times, avoid daytime naps and heavy meals before bedtime.
Dr. Miqdad Bohra and Dr. Jay Sethi.