Many medical conditions can disrupt sleep. Conditions that cause pain and discomfort interfere with sleep, but medical conditions such as anxiety, ADHD and PTSD can also affect sleep habits.
Depression, anxiety and insomnia often occur together, and PTSD frequently causes nightmares. A combination of sleep apnea and COPD can worsen both conditions, while sleep problems are often seen in children with ADHD.
Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia
Depression and anxiety have long been known to cause changes in sleep patterns. Depression may lead to either insomnia or increased sleepiness, while the worry associated with anxiety disorders often causes insomnia.
The relationship between anxiety and insomnia appears to be a two-way street. According to research at the UniversitÃ© Laval in Canada (2005), insomnia increases the risk of relapse after generalized anxiety disorder treatment. The finding supports research that suggests insomnia increases the risk of anxiety and depression (Duke Health, 2007).
Depression, anxiety and insomnia feed off each other, with each condition increasing the risk of the other. A better understanding of these disorders may lead to more effective depression, anxiety and insomnia treatments.
PTSD and Sleep
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause numerous symptoms, including frequent nightmares, and PTSD sufferers are much more likely to experience nightmares than other people. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (2010), up to 96 percent of PTSD sufferers may experience nightmares.
PTSD nightmares differ from normal nightmares. PTSD nightmares occur earlier in the sleep cycle than most nightmares, and can cause body movements. The nightmare often involves elements related to the original trauma. Fortunately, PTSD nightmares often become less frequent with proper treatment, such as therapy.
Sleep Apnea and COPD
Both sleep apnea and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are common medical conditions. The risk of both sleep apnea and COPD increases with age. Because the two disorders often occur together, some suspect that sleep apnea and COPD might be related.
A study published in the Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society (2008) suggests that sleep apnea and COPD are not directly connected. According to the study, 10 percent of the adult population in the United States suffers from COPD, and 5 percent experiences sleep apnea. Given that both sleep apnea and COPD are relatively common, a certain number of people would develop both diseases simply by chance.
The study’s findings revealed that chance alone explains why some people develop both sleep apnea and COPD. While a common factor does not cause sleep apnea and COPD, the symptoms of COPD worsen if sleep apnea is also present.
ADHD and Sleep Disorders
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sleep disorders are often seen together. Like anxiety and insomnia, ADHD and sleep disorders have a complex relationship. Sleep disorders associated with ADHD include:
- Periodic limb movement disorder
- Restless legs syndrome
- Sleep apnea
Sleep disorders can also mimic ADHD symptoms. Sleep deprivation in children can lead to hyperactivity, moodiness and aggression, which can be mistaken for ADHD. Have your child see a pediatrician if you suspect behavioral problems.
Duke University Health System. (2010). A vicious cycle: Insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Retrieved September 21, 2010, from http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/health_articles/a_vicious_cycle.
National Sleep Foundation. (2009). ADHD and sleep. Retrieved September 21, 2010, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/adhd-and-sleep.
Stephenson, M. (n.d.). Anxiety and insomnia – a reciprocal relationship? Retrieved September 21, 2010, from http://www.neurologyreviews.com/nov05/AnxietyInsomnia.html.
Teel, P. (2010). ADHD and sleep. Retrieved September 21, 2010, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/adhd-and-sleep/.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. (2010). Nightmares and PTSD. Retrieved September 21, 2010, from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/nightmares.asp.
Weitzenblum, E., Chaouat, A., Kessler, R.