Sleep: A Mental Health Crisis?

August 22, 2022 3 min read

The phrase "mental health" isn't a perfectly defined idea. However, I think most of us would agree that our mental state (emotional, psychological, biological, neurochemically etc.) must have a significant impact on how we view the world, what we find desirable, and what we find dangerous. In fact, without these basic concepts being clear to us, it is exceedingly difficult to know how to move "forward" in life. If we don't know what we want, the odds that we are going to stumble across it hover dangerously close to zero.

But, how do we know what we want? And how can we be sure that what we want is the best thing for us? In short, we can't. However, we can use what we know about the past, what we understand about the present, and how we feel about both to draw out a mental map for what is likely to bring us more joy and fulfillment, and what is likely to bring us more anger, dread, and misery. 

That is definitely part of "mental health," but we also need to consider our capacity for moving towards the future that we want. We are familiar with terms like stress, anxiety, depression, ADHD, BiPolar, etc. These conditions definitely impair our ability to get what we want out of life (or, at least, to want what we get out of life). 

Now, I'll bet you can guess what I'm about to tell you: Sleep affects your risk and prognosis for all of these mental states and disorders. And, I don't just mean that it's like eating doughnuts when you're trying to lose fat. I mean it's like having a KFC gravy IV running in your arm 24/7 while trying to lose weight. 

Reduced sleep (like getting 6 instead of 8 hours consistently) increases your risk for BiPolar (a devastating and very difficult to treat psychiatric DISEASE) by about 50%. Additionally, one's risk for reporting symptoms that reach the level of "clinically significant anxiety" are increased by about 80-90% with a single night of poor sleep.

The all-time American favorite: ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is one of the most common diagnoses of American school-age children--often around adolescence. Here's an interesting coincidence that you might want to look up yourself. Something else that happens during adolescence is what we sleep geeks call a "phase shift"--meaning the biological clocks of these kids are wired to make them stay up later and, therefore, need to sleep later into the next day. Unfortunately for these kids, they usually are doomed by the schedule of their school and activities, and consequently make up the most sleep deprived group of Americans.

Fun fact: (again, please look this up yourself), the symptoms and findings necessary to diagnose ADHD are EXACTLY the same symptoms and findings in chronic sleep deprivation. Seems like another crazy coincidence to me.

This email isn't the place for me to teach you everything you'll ever need to know about mental health and sleep, but I hope that I have sparked an interest. You can find more information on my as well as information on how to get better sleep for you and your children. One simple, easy, and obvious first step is nutrition, and I also have an offer below for my nutritional sleep supplement.

I hope you find some of this information helpful, or at least interesting enough to dig deeper for your own sake, or the sake of those you love.

Have a nice week!


Kirk R. Parsley, MD