Stress and moods are complicated, and the relationship between each and sleep is equally complicated. In some people, though, stress and mood disorders can bring on insomnia.
Stress also has a major effect on sleep. Stress can be best understood as a reaction to either an external stimulus (such as a difficult work situation or an upcoming wedding) or an internal one (such as illness or pain), or both. People respond to stress in different ways. Some people, especially younger people, use sleep as an escape from emotional distress and may spend a large portion of their day in bed. Under these circumstances, sleep can occupy 12 hours of the day or more. Others find stress leads to insomnia.
It's important to remember that stress can result from positive as well as negative situations. Graduations, weddings, vacations and other pleasant events can cause stress and anxiety as well. They can also affect your sleep. Insomnia related to these kinds of events usually goes away when the event is over (unless you're still scrambling to pay the bills from that elaborate wedding).
To limit the effect that stress has on your sleep, you need to work on how you react to stress.
Did you know that depression, anxiety, and other emotional disturbances can affect your sleep? The reverse is also true: Poor sleep can cause depression, anxiety, irritability and even changes in personality. Sometimes both occur at once, resulting in a very difficult cycle to break. Understanding the possible connection between sleep disorders and mood disorders can help you get to the root of both problems.
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental disorders that interfere with sleep. There are many types of depression and variations on the way it can affect sleep patterns. One type of depression, called manic-depressive disorder, can produce an extreme form of insomnia in which the individual sleeps only four hours or less each night. The sleeplessness causes an exaggerated and potentially harmful sense of euphoria rather than sadness.
If you believe that a mood disorder is affecting your sleep and the symptoms persist for more than three weeks, it is advisable to seek professional help. The first call should be to your doctor, who can examine you to rule out a medical problem. If no physical problem is found, then consider consulting a counselor or therapist to help you deal with your possible mood disorder. Your doctor can usually make a good referral to a competent therapist. Other sources might include trusted friends who have used counseling.
Some people with such conditions may be on medication. Unfortunately, as you’ll learn on the next page, these controlled substances can cause insomnia, too.