What are the association between mental health, mental illness, and sleep disruption? We’ve known for 130 years that in severe mental illness, there is always, always sleep disruption, but it is a fact that is mostly ignored.
Several groups are studying conditions like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders and trying to understand them in terms of sleep disruption. In those individuals with schizophrenia, much of the time, they were awake during the night phase, and then they were asleep during the day. Other groups showed no 24-hour patterns whatsoever — their sleep was smashed. And some had no ability to regulate their sleep by the light-dark cycle. They were getting up later and later and later and later each night. It was disrupted.
So what exactly going on? The interesting things are that mental illness and sleep are not merely associated, but they are physically linked within the brain. The neural networks that predispose you to normal sleep give you normal sleep, and those that give you normal mental health, are overlapping. Where is the evidence for this? Well, genes that have been shown to be very important in the generation of normal sleep, when mutated, when changed, genes also predispose individuals to mental health problems.
Sleep disruption actually precedes certain types of mental illness, and it has been shown that in those young individuals who are at high risk of developing bipolar disorder, they already have a sleep abnormality prior to any clinical diagnosis of bipolar. The other bit of data was that sleep disruption may actually exacerbate, make worse, the mental illness state.
So what have we got to examine? We’ve got, in these connections, some really exciting things. In terms of the neuroscience, by understanding these two systems, we’re really beginning to understand how both sleep and mental illness are generated and regulated within the brain. The second area is that if we can use sleep and sleep disruption as an early warning signal, then we have the chance of going in. If we know these individuals are vulnerable, early intervention then becomes possible. And the third, which I think is the most exciting, is that we can think of the sleep centres within the brain as a new therapeutic target. Stabilize sleep in those individuals who are vulnerable, and we can certainly not only make them healthier but also alleviate some of the appalling symptoms of mental illness.
This is a pragmatic response to good health. If you have good sleep, it increases your concentration, attention, decision-making, creativity, social skills, health. If you get to sleep, it reduces your mood fluctuations, your stress, your levels of anger, your impulsivity, and your tendency to drink and take drugs.
Why lack of sleep?
Sleeplessness may be a result of the use of alcohol and other drugs, mania, dysthymia, anxiety issues, depression, etc. Diseases like heart diseases, brain diseases, diseases affecting the bones and muscles also cause insomnia.
Normal Sleep and Hypnotic Sleep
There is a big difference between normal sleep and hypnotic sleep. In fact, hypnotization does not mean sleep. It is suggestibility. This suggestibility originates from certain instructions. Hypnosis is suggestibility which is brought about by artificially freezing the body and creating certain thought processes in the subject. Hypnosis is a different state of consciousness than the normal. Basically, we all tend to experience three states of consciousness, namely sleep, dream, and wakefulness. We usually are in a state of consciousness apart from the time we spend on sleep. In a deep sleep, we would not be conscious of ourselves or what is happening around us. But in a hypnotic state, a subject’s consciousness is not completely lost. The subject will be conscious of what is happening external to her. She/he will be able to react and make decisions based on them. So we can call hypnosis as a different state of consciousness than the normal.