Mental Health

Mental Effects of Sleep Deprivation (and How to Get Better Sleep)

by Bill Nguyen

The average American is notorious for being sleep-deprived. In fact, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 Americans do not get sufficient sleep on a regular basis. Results were based on identifying a healthy sleep duration as seven or more hours per night. But what harm can missing a few hours of nightly winks cause? And what steps can one take to ensure a better night’s rest?

REM sleep is a phase of sleep in which one’s ability to learn and memorize is enhanced. When this period of rest is interrupted or not reached at all, one may experience faltered memory or impaired thinking. This may affect how one functions throughout the day and may stunt productivity, as the person is in a constant state of drowsiness. Effects of sleep-deprivation may also prove lethal. For example, a weary individual may drive comparably (and, in some cases, worse than) someone who is under the influence of alcohol. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration marks driver fatigue as causing 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths every year.

But before solutions for achieving better sleep can be discussed, one must first address the factors contributing to bad sleep. Mental illness may play a paramount role in one’s inability to sleep. Individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, or ADHD may experience regular difficulty sleeping, inducing the aforementioned effects of sleep deprivation. However, a lack of sleep is commonly a result of an individual’s inability to maintain a regular and healthy sleep schedule, oftentimes due to a tight workload or poor time-management skills.

So what can one do to ensure a good night’s rest and avoid the detriments of sleep fatigue? For starters, an individual can greatly reduce their intake of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before going to bed as the three substances are infamous for causing restlessness. Eliminating their consumption entirely would be ideal, but a significant reduction in consumption would serve as a viable alternative. For those suffering from anxiety or any form of restlessness, meditation can help clear the mind from intrusive thoughts and allow one to fall asleep comfortably. Furthermore, those with busy schedules or poor time-management skills can reflect upon their situation and create a schedule that will best allow for regular sleep. Exercise can also lead to better sleep as it causes one to fall asleep faster and with fewer interruptions. Additionally, the National Sleep Foundation offers a resource for improving sleep hygiene. However, for those struggling with serious mental disorders or cases of restlessness, medication may be necessary for allowing proper sleep.

Sleep is vital to preserving one’s mental wellbeing. In order to remain healthy and alert, one must aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night (although the exact number varies depending on the individual). An individual struggling from sleep deprivation must take time to thoroughly address their situation, identify steps that can be taken to ensure a better night’s rest, and consider seeking support from a medical professional or psychologist specializing in sleep psychology.

Sources and Further Readings:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Report

Harvard University Article on Sleep Deprivation

Lesser-Known Facts on Sleep

National Sleep Foundation Resource

 

ADHD: Dire, yet Severely Misunderstood

By Bill Nguyen

Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, often referred to simply as ADD or ADHD, is a neurobehavioral condition that affects how an individual reacts to his or her surroundings. With the disorder being muddled in misconceptions and controversy, it is important to become educated on the legitimate symptoms and treatments of ADHD in order to judge the condition appropriately.

Those struggling with ADHD are commonly characterized as having fragile attention spans and extreme hyperactivity. This two-dimensional image, when coupled with ADHD’s flamboyant portrayal in popular media, leads to a shallow and inaccurate understanding of the disorder. In reality, those diagnosed with ADHD display myriad minute and apparent symptoms, with many of the symptoms notably developing with age. Children with the condition may become easily distracted, possess a tendency to squirm or fidget, have difficulty interacting with other children, or experience slow emotional development. It is a misconception that children with ADHD gradually “lose” their symptoms as they become adults. This is far from the case; as children mature, their symptoms evolve accordingly. Adults with ADHD tend to experience poor time management skills, restlessness, irritability, and an uncontrollable urge to interrupt others. Note that the symptoms displayed by adults directly parallel the symptoms found in children.

Conflict and disagreement persist within the medical community on whether or not ADHD is being overdiagnosed or underdiagnosed. Those arguing the former believe in the inaccuracies surrounding self-reported symptoms, asserting that small irritations are being dramatized or that symptoms are a result of a separate condition entirely. Conversely, those siding with the latter argue that ADHD is being popularly regarded as a fake condition, despite the undeniability of the harm it does to lives. Consequently, people suffering from the disorder are refraining from seeking treatment. The conflict possesses great implications: if individuals are misdiagnosed, they may suffer the side-effects of wrongfully-prescribed medication, but if undiagnosed ADHD victims are not treated, they risk permanently living with the symptoms.

Thus, it is imperative that more in-depth diagnoses are conducted on individuals at risk of ADHD. This would, in turn, mitigate the threat of a misdiagnosis and the harm of having no diagnosis. However, there are many more ways individuals with ADHD can cope with the condition. Organizations like Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) provide free webinars, online resources, and support groups for people suffering from ADHD.

ADHD is a condition rife in misconceptions and controversy. However, becoming educated on the disorder will allow individuals to make appropriate judgments and not fall victim to stigma and misinformation. With controversy surrounding ADHD brewing, being educated on the disorder is becoming increasingly critical.

Sources and Further Readings:

https://add.org/resources/

https://www.pearsonclinical.com/landing/adhd-resources.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=ADHD_CLINA15774_12956&utm_campaign=7010N0000003TSW&cmpid=7010N0000003TSW

https://www.pearsonclinical.com/landing/adhd-resources/adhd-in-adults.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-distracted-couple/201403/adult-adhd-overdiagnosed-underdiagnosed-or-both

 

The Growing Problem of Suicide in America

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal a startling statistic about suicide in the United States. Since 1999, deaths by suicide have increased by approximately 30%. Further, suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state, according to the latest Vital Signs report by the CDC. The CDC report also found that many decedents did not have a known mental health condition.

Common triggering events include relationship problems, physical ailments, financial stress, housing or employment loss. Substance abuse was also a common occurrence in those who died by suicide. States and communities can take action to help address this growing problem and identify people who are at risk. To read the Vital Signs report, visit the CDC Vital Signs website.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That number is 1-800-273-8255.

Could Alzheimer's Prevalence Triple by 2050?

In the 1980s, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) began funding Alzheimer’s Disease Centers throughout the United States in response to the imminent threat of an Alzheimer’s public health problem. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, made similar commitments of investment. Our understanding of Alzheimer’s has grown as a result of efforts of academic researchers and the pharmaceutical industry to identify treatment approaches and medication to treat the symptoms of the disease.

Still, the disease mystifies us. According to the “2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” about 5.7 million Americans are now living with Alzheimer’s dementia. This number is expected to grow to more than 7 million by 2025 and as many as 14 million by 2050.

There are no available treatments to cure or even effectively slow the progression of Alzheimer's Disease. Curing Alzheimer's, while a distant lofty goal, is the only way to decrease the burden of this disease on families and communities. Meanwhile, the research and medical community must work together to identify evidence-based practices that reduces the burden of this disease. Collaborative care models will prove beneficial once tried and tested in a variety of settings.

Below is a roundup of literature on Alzheimer's Disease.

The Polluted Brain: Evidence builds that dirty air causes Alzheimer's, dementia (Science)

Study: Traumatic brain injuries linked to dementia (US News)

Blood test for toxic amyloid may detect Alzheimer's 8 years before symptoms, study says (Alzheimer's News Today)

Long-term SSRI use may slow progression to Alzheimer's Dementia (American Psychiatric Association)