Marielle’s anxiety disorder has not been linked to sleep problems: ‘Much is still being treated in boxes’
People who don’t sleep well are more likely to develop mental illness and have trouble recovering. “It is incomprehensible that psychiatrists are not trying to improve a patient’s sleep as a standard,” says sleep researcher Eus van Someren.
Marielle Vass is a bad sleeper. She also suffers from PTSD due to the difficult time she had in her childhood.
“Hyperals all day long”
“Because I don’t get through the night well, I wake up nervous in the morning,” Marielle says. “Then I continue to be hypervigilant during the day, always vigil, while I’m actually really stressed out. At some point you can deal with less and less, the anxiety disorder gets stronger. It’s a huge negative spiral that you end up in.”
The question is whether there is a connection between her sleep problems and Marielle’s anxiety disorder. And if so, what exactly is happening in the brain. The research is now underway in the Netherlands.
The brain stays alert all night.
“We want to know two things,” says Eos van Sommeren, head of the Department of Sleep and Cognition at the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience. “Why do people sleep poorly in the first place, and why are people who sleep poorly more likely to develop an anxiety disorder?”
Van Sommeren suspects this is because their sleep is so interrupted. “They don’t sleep until those few hours when you add it all up, but their brains keep waking up and staying alert all night.”
active and inactive
The new research aims to find answers to what exactly is happening in the brain and where sleep problems and anxiety disorders meet.
“We’ll look closely at brain waves, among other things. We want to identify which parts of the brain are active during interrupted sleep and which parts are inactive,” Van Sommeren says.
The link between poor sleep and depression has been proven
Van Sommeren and his team have already conducted research in recent years on the link between poor sleep and the development of depression. “We now know that there is a direct link. People who sleep poorly are twice as likely to be depressed as people who sleep well.”
“And it also makes sense: If you feel good about yourself and are stressed or stressed, after a good night’s sleep it’s often not that bad. If, on the other hand, you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, the opposite effect may be felt. Then the fears become Dark thoughts grow.
‘A lot of thought and treatment in the boxes’
There appears to be a similar relationship in anxiety disorders. Of all patients with an anxiety disorder, at least 80 percent seem to have poor sleep. “We already know this, but very little work with that knowledge,” says van Sommeren.
“There’s still a lot of thinking and processing in boxes. People are either getting treatment for an anxiety disorder or a lack of sleep. Whereas it’s about one and the other.” Marielle Vass has also shown little interest in her Broken Nights. “The connection between my anxiety disorder and my sleep problems has never been shown, while I had a feeling that they reinforce each other tremendously.”
“People are at their wits end”
The lack of interest in sleep problems has a big impact, says sleep researcher Van Someren. “I see people who are very smart, and we have to do something about it.”
“There are cognitive and behavioral therapies that can alleviate sleep problems, and sometimes medications can help too. I think we’ve become very reluctant to take sleeping pills. Should we wait until the insomniac becomes depressed or anxious and then give them the pills?”
A tie around your head
As the patient representative for Angst, Dwang en Fobie Stichting, Mariëlle Faas co-creates new search† She says, “I participated in a beta phase where we looked at how to measure your brain activity at home.” “This fits in a strap around your head. And there’s an app where I can fill in all kinds of things about my sleep rhythm. The researchers can then view and process the data remotely.”
“I think this research is very important. I hope that many people who sleep poorly and who suffer from anxiety and stress will be involved. Practitioners should learn to look more broadly and not just follow diagnostic treatment plans.”
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