Sleep Deprivation Worsens Anxiety and Depression Symptoms

by ProfKeith

I write about the importance of sleep quite a lot because it’s the simplest boost you can give to your body and mind.

Researchers around the world agree that good, quality sleep is the key to strong brain cognition, better health, and can even ease symptoms of depression and other mood disorders.

The Science of Sleep

Specific biological “rhythms” regulate critical functions in your body.  Ultradian, circadian, and infradian rhythms begin before birth and continue until your last breath.

They determine how and when you sleep but they’re so much more than that.  These rhythms regulate heart rate, digestion, hormone balance, libido, metabolism, mood, and even fertility.

Sleep is when your brain “backs up” everything you’ve experienced during the day.  If you’re training on a new job, studying for a test, or even starting a new hobby, you need to sleep to cement the knowledge in long-term memory.

Experts estimate that more than half the population is sleep-deprived.  If you’re one of the many people around the world who puts sleep on the back burner to do other things, you need to reconsider your priorities.

Sleep deprivation is linked to higher risk of accidents, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, lack of focus, faulty memory, inflammation, and rapid aging.

Anxiety and depression symptoms are also worsened when you don’t get adequate sleep every day.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 350 million people suffer from depression.  The Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research found that approximately 510 million suffer from anxiety.

These mood disorders are now at epidemic levels and poor sleep has much to do with it.

Sleep Can Ease Anxiety and Depression Symptoms

When you’re riddled with anxiety or depression, you already struggle with concentration, motivation, completing tasks, and joining in activities you once found enjoyable.  Coping with stress is a challenge you face daily.

Sleep deprivation makes these symptoms much worse.

Researchers with the University of Illinois – Chicago College of Medicine published the results of their study in the medical journal Depression and Anxiety.

They discovered that a specific portion of the brain (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex or DACC) must work harder to fight negative feelings or reactions to circumstances in those who are anxious or depressed.  Emotions are even harder to regulate if the individuals are also sleep-deprived.

“Reappraisal is something that requires significant mental energy,” explained assistant professor of psychiatry, Heide Klumpp.  “In people with depression or anxiety, reappraisal can be even more difficult, because these disorders are characterized by chronic negativity or negative rumination, which makes seeing the good in things difficult.”

The 78 participants ranged from age 18 to age 65 and all had been diagnosed with anxiety, major depression, or both.  All completed pre-study questionnaires that determined common sleep habits.  MRI scans measured their brain activity to determine their reactions to violent images – and their ability to reassess the images when given positive information.

Almost 75% of participants with the least sleep or poor quality sleep were unable to reappraise the images with the new information.  In other words, even though the images ended up not being as negative as perceived, their brains were unable to correct their initial impressions.

“Higher DACC activity in participants with lower levels of sleep efficiency could mean the DACC is working harder to carry out the demanding work of reappraisal,” Klumpp stated.  “Our research indicates sleep might play an important role in the ability to regulate negative emotions in people who suffer from anxiety or depression.”

Sleep deprivation is linked to depression symptoms worsening, obesity, diabetes, inflammation, and much more.

Anxiety and Depression Symptoms To Watch

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, common symptoms of depression or anxiety may include:

  • Feeling sad, anxious, or “empty”
  • Hopelessness or pessimism
  • Guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities they once enjoyed (including sex)
  • Fatigue or a feeling of “sluggishness”
  • Problems focusing, recall, or decision making
  • Too little or too much sleep, interrupted sleep
  • Too little or too much appetite (weight gain or weight loss)
  • Restlessness, irritability, or anger
  • Talk of death, suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Physical symptoms that seem to have no cause or do not respond to treatment (such as pain, fatigue, or digestive issues)

Sleep Isn’t a Magic Cure for Mood Disorders, However…

Sleep isn’t a miracle cure for any disease or condition.  However, it can go a long way to helping your body fight or overcome many physical, mental, and emotional hurdles.

One thing is certain, if you don’t get enough, your body and mind suffer.  There’s a reason it’s used as a method of torture during war.  You need good, quality sleep.

If you don’t get enough quality sleep…

  • Higher likelihood of weight gain.
  • More tissue inflammation throughout your body.
  • Damage to libido.
  • Mood fluctuations during the day.
  • Workouts are less effective.
  • Driving skill is comparative to drinking and driving.
  • Prone to skin irritation.
  • Higher risk of substance abuse.
  • Slower reflexes.
  • Inability to concentrate, memorize, or recall.
  • Higher risk of disease and early death.
  • Greater likelihood of chronic pain.

Getting more sleep makes you more productive.  It helps you think clearly, gives you the energy you need through the day, and helps to regulate anxiety and depression symptoms.

The sooner you make sleep a priority, the better you’re going to think and feel.

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