When you’re out and about, your mind is already working overtime.
As the sun rises and sets, your brain is processing the information and trying to come up with ways to keep your body and mind healthy.
But there are times when you can still feel stressed and anxious.
“I think there’s always a moment when your mind starts to wander and you feel a little bit out of control, and that can be really uncomfortable,” said Dr. Amy Breslau, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.
“If you’re not able to stop that, you have a tendency to get caught up in the thoughts and emotions and it can be very hard to control that.”
For example, if you’re constantly worried about what’s going to happen at work, it can make you feel anxious and stressed.
“So we think about that every day in our minds.
But the problem with that is you just don’t know how to deal with it.
So, if it’s not a physical thing that’s affecting you, but just a mental thing, then you might want to look at whether there’s something else that’s causing that, what might be happening to your brain,” Bresleau said.
So what’s happening?
Theories about sleep disorders have been around for years, but the latest research from Dr. Elizabeth Bader, a professor of sleep medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues adds to the evidence that sleep disorders are a problem that’s more common than previously thought.
The researchers conducted a study on 9,500 people over a 10-year period to look into how people experience stress and depression.
They then used a sleep-tracking device called the Sleepy Robot to measure how long people spent asleep each night.
“It’s a very reliable measurement device,” Bader said.
“The results were very consistent with people reporting that they spent more time sleeping than they did in the past.”
In addition to measuring how much time people spent sleeping, the researchers also asked them questions about how often they got stressed, tired, or anxious.
And if they did, the sleep problems correlated with sleep disorders, which Bader called “significant predictors of poor quality sleep.”
The study found that people who were more stressed or anxious were more likely to report sleeping problems.
And those who reported sleeping problems also had higher rates of depression and anxiety than people who weren’t experiencing any of those symptoms.
“Sleep problems can actually be the result of a mental health disorder,” Baser said.
She and her colleagues found that sleep problems were more common among people who also reported depression, anxiety, and depression in the previous year.
“That’s not surprising,” Baseslau said of the results.
“Depression is a common mental health problem and anxiety is a prevalent mental health condition, and so we know that when people have depression, they have a more severe and more serious mental health issues than people without depression,” Basinglau added.
“But depression and stress are two very distinct conditions and sleep problems in general can be the symptoms of either one.”
When the researchers looked at sleep problems among people with chronic depression, the findings were even more alarming.
“There was a strong correlation between sleep problems and depression, which indicates that those who are depressed may be more vulnerable to developing sleep problems,” Bayslau explained.
The team also found that a history of depression was associated with sleep problems.
“People who had been depressed for a long time, who had high levels of anxiety, have higher levels of sleep problems than people with no mental health problems, and those people may also have higher rates,” Badeslau noted.
Bader and her team believe that these findings support the idea that people with sleep issues may need to look beyond the symptoms that they have to look more closely at what’s causing them, and the underlying causes of sleep disorders.
She also said the findings could help people with depression and other mental health conditions find a more effective treatment plan.
“Our hope is that this can help people to find ways to manage their stress better,” Badinglau continued.
She added that while it’s still early days for sleep research, her team is optimistic that the research will lead to new treatments that can improve sleep.
“We’re trying to understand what’s driving stress and whether or not sleep helps us manage that stress and make us feel better, and how that can help us reduce stress,” Badellas said.