How to cope with sleep problems
There's a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Living with a mental health problem can affect how well you sleep, and poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health.
Poor sleep leads to worrying. Worrying leads to poor sleep. Worrying about sleep is like your mind trying to fight itself. That's a horrible place to be.
You may find a sleep problem can lead you to:
- have negative thoughts, feel depressed or anxious – if you have little sleep you may feel less able to rationalise worries or irrational thoughts
- feel lonely or isolated – if you feel tired you may not want to be sociable or see friends
- experience psychotic episodes – if you have a psychotic disorder or bipolar disorder, a lack of sleep may trigger mania, psychosis or paranoia, or make existing symptoms worse
For me sleep problems are a tell-tale sign of declining mental health. The worse I sleep, the less I feel able to cope during the day. The less I am coping, the worse I seem to sleep.
How can my mental health problem affect my sleep?
There are number of ways a mental health problem can affect your sleep. For example:
- Anxiety can cause thoughts to race through your mind, making it difficult to sleep.
- Depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can lead to oversleeping – either sleeping late in the morning or sleeping a lot during the day. If you experience difficult or troubling thoughts as part of depression, this can also cause insomnia.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause nightmares and night terrors, disturbing your sleep. This can mean you feel anxious about falling asleep, which could lead to insomnia.
- Paranoia and psychosis may make it difficult for you to sleep. You may hear voices or see things that you find frightening, or experience disturbing thoughts, which make it hard to fall asleep.
- Mania often causes feelings of energy and elation, so you might not feel tired or want to sleep. Racing thoughts caused by mania can make it hard to fall asleep and may cause insomnia.
- Psychiatric medication can cause side effects including insomnia, disturbed sleep or oversleeping. You may also experience sleep problems after you stop taking psychiatric drugs.
This page covers some tips and ideas to help you get good sleep. Remember, you might need to try a few different things before you find what works for you:
Sometimes the methods that I've used before to help me sleep won't work as well, and that's OK, things change. You just need to try different things until you find what works again.
Watch Jonny Benjamin talk about how his mental health affects his sleep, and how he has learned to manage it.