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This series by Eric Litwiller of the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas looks at mental health in the Wichita area. It is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.

Commentary: Sleep and mental health are closely connected

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In a society where our value of self is often tied to productivity and staying busy, a common casualty is sleep. And if we’re not careful, our mental health will suffer greatly right alongside.

Sleep and mental health are closely connected. While chronic sleep deprivation affects about 20% of the US population, it can affect up to 80% of those who live with psychiatric conditions. And it’s particularly common in those with anxiety and depressive disorders, which are the two most common families of disorders in our population. The connection between mental illness and sleep is a bidirectional relationship, meaning that either can be both a cause and an effect of the other. Perhaps most concerning, a lack of sleep inhibits the consolidation of positive emotional content in our brains, with the result of so strongly influencing mood and emotional reactivity that it is tied to suicidal ideation and behaviors.

Mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder all have close connections to insomnia. So while a good night’s sleep won’t solve all of our problems, when coupled with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy it may be the low-hanging fruit that can significantly and positively affect our mental health.