Sleep Disorders Impact Your Brain Health

Your eyelids get heavy and your breathing slows down. The house gets quiet. Your body recognizes it’s time for bed. You’re exhausted from the fullness of the day… work, school, family, friends, the basics of feeding yourself and doing daily chores.

You lay down in bed, desperate for sleep, only to realize there’s no sandman coming to sprinkle dream dust on you. Instead your brain speeds up to a mile a minute, your legs start twitching, you can’t get comfortable, you toss and turn. FOR HOURS.

What is going on?

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According to polls and census data on Long Beach, roughly 40% of our community has trouble with sleep, whether that’s difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or, conversely, oversleeping. It’s no surprise, then, that fifty-one percent of people report feeling tired or having little energy.

Sleep disorders are shockingly common, yet most people suffer in silence, laying in bed watching the minutes tick by. The most common sleep disorders include:

  • Insomnia: difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep
  • Sleep Apnea: breathing disorder that causes snoring or stops breathing while sleeping and leads to daytime sleepiness and morning headaches
  • Restless Leg Syndrome: an uncontrollable urge to move limbs
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder: thrashing movements while sleeping
  • Narcolepsy: inability to stay awake even in stimulating environments
  • Sleepwalking: walking around while sleeping
  • Sleep Terrors: feelings of fear and danger that cause screaming and violent movement while asleep
  • Bruxism: grinding teeth while sleeping

The study of sleep is ongoing, but a study by Harvard found that sleep disruptions from sleep disorders affect levels of neurotransmitters and sleep hormones, impairing a person’s ability to think and regulate emotions.

Sleep problems may actually increase the risk for developing certain mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and mania. For people with psychiatric disorders, sleep problems are 50-80% more likely than in the general population. By treating sleep disorders, patients may see improvement in their psychiatric symptoms.

We get it. Sleep is important. We recognize its importance in our children, scheduling nap times and setting bedtimes. But adults do not prioritize sleep, and the fallout is huge.

“Poor sleep is making us sick,” said Joshua Flatow, psychiatrist at Pacific Mind Health. “Our societal demands make it almost impossible to get proper rest. Shift work can lead to or compound sleep problems, as can our dependency on electronics, whose blue light emissions dysregulate our circadian rhythms. The band-aid of energy drinks are only making things worse, as they are causing heart problems, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.”

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Pacific Mind Health Has a Comprehensive Approach to Treating Sleep Disorders

At Pacific Mind Health, the approach to treating sleep disorders is comprehensive. Joshua Flatow, a psychiatrist at Pacific Mind Health, said the first step is to fully evaluate patients, including lab studies to identify metabolic or hormonal causes of sleep disturbances and psychiatric evaluations to identify mental health contributors.

“Because psychiatric issues and sleep disorders are so entangled, it’s important that we find the root cause and construct a treatment approach from there,” said Dr. Flatow. “Too often doctors prescribe a sedative, which may lead to more sleep but not quality sleep. At Pacific Mind Health, our team of qualified professionals may use medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, medical devices, or some combination to provide optimal treatments to our patients.”

Poor Sleep Can Impact Your Overall Health

​In the same way that exercise and good nutrition are important to your body, sleep is important to your brain. Mental and emotional resilience are directly linked to proper sleep, and chronic sleep deprivation can make you vulnerable to medical and psychiatric conditions. Rest assured, though, there is help available.

Pacific Mind Health offers comprehensive mental health care for a range of psychiatric conditions. If you are looking for a psychiatrist in Los Angeles or Long Beach, California, or telepsychiatry in California, please contact us to schedule an appointment.