Many people have heard of schizophrenia, but this isn’t to say that they understand what it is. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that about 1 in 100 people experience.1 It affects your thoughts, perceptions, and emotions, and typically starts while you’re in your late teens or early twenties. Not only can it disrupt day-to-day living, but it can make getting a good sleep hard, too. Read below to find out how schizophrenia and sleep are connected.

What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

You could be diagnosed with schizophrenia if you experience some of the following symptoms:

  • A lack of interest in things
  • Feeling disconnected from your feelings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Wanting to avoid people
  • Hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing things that others don’t
  • Delusions (which could include paranoid delusions)
  • Disorganised thinking and speech
  • Not wanting to look after yourself

Delusions and hallucinations are types of psychosis, and people with schizophrenia can suffer from psychosis when they’re unwell. Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality and can also show itself in a person’s strange actions, such as abnormal posturing. It can also mean that someone has trouble putting thoughts together to make sense and express ideas.

Common Sleep Problems in People with Schizophrenia

Sleep hours tend to be less regular for people with schizophrenia. Also, they could find themselves sleeping at any time of the day or night, rather than for a 7 – 8-hour block during the night.

People with schizophrenia may also not get the full sleep they need, or they could get too much sleep. In some cases, this is due to the drugs that are used to treat psychosis, or it can also be linked to the lack of a regular daytime routine. A regular daytime routine helps our bodies know when to sleep and when to wake up, so if there’s no routine then the body is confused as to what it should be doing. This can add irritation to an already frustrating condition, which makes sleep even harder.

Poor sleep quality can also be due to feelings of fear or anxiety that may be caused by the symptoms of schizophrenia. Anxiety is a natural human reaction when we think we’re under threat, and it can be difficult to get a good sleep. Read more about sleeping with anxiety in our article here, where you can also find some tips for a better sleep.

Sleep itself could change, too. Someone with schizophrenia may find that they get less deep sleep and more shallow sleep, instead. This can make sleep less refreshing, even if you get the full eight hours that you need. Without a refreshing sleep, you can feel tired throughout the day. If you feel tired, you’re more likely to feel stressed or worried – you’ll also find it more difficult to manage your symptoms.

People with schizophrenia can also have a higher risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). OSA occurs when there’s a physical blockage of your airflow, which can disrupt your breathing overnight. Someone with sleep apnoea will stop breathing for brief moments during the night, but they can be unaware that they have it. You can read more about sleep apnoea in our article here.

Do You Need to Get Help with Sleep Problems in Schizophrenia?

Just as a healthy diet and exercise are important to our health, a good night’s sleep is also key. If you don’t get a good sleep over consecutive nights, you’ll find that you don’t feel as good as you’d like. For someone with schizophrenia, a good sleep is very important.

Some of the dangers of a poor sleep are below;

  • Sleep problems can increase the risk of psychosis.
  • Sleep problems could be the first sign of onset or relapse of the illness.
  • Sleep problems make it harder to get better.
  • Sleep problems can lead to other health issues.

How Can You Get A Good Night’s Sleep?

Keep a sleep diary. Keeping track of your sleep will give you a better idea of whether you’re getting enough sleep, the right amount, or too much sleep. It’s also a good idea to show this to your doctor so that they can get a better idea of how you’re sleeping.

Try to eat a balanced diet. Following a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can help your wellbeing. Eating regularly may also help avoid psychosis being brought on by changes to your blood sugar levels. This’ll help you cope with some of the symptoms of schizophrenia and get a better sleep.

Try to de-stress. Stress can make the symptoms of schizophrenia harder to live with. Spending time outside and exercising can help reduce levels of stress. Walking, swimming, or even yoga can help you de-stress, or you could practice mindfulness. This is a great way of taking yourself out of your worries and focusing on the moment. Read more about its benefits and how you can practice it in our article, ‘Mindfulness’.

Do things you enjoy. This’ll help boost your confidence, and it could also help you stay well. Whether it’s cooking, listening to music, or doing some DIY, doing something you like will help calm your mind.

Have a good sleeping environment. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. The fewer distractions you have in your bedroom, the better your sleep could be.

Consider a weighted blanket. The extra weight offered by these blankets can create a sense of security, and they may help calm or comfort restless or stressed individuals. You can browse our selection of weighted blankets here – it’s recommended that you choose one that’s about 10% of your overall weight.

While these are tips for how you can help ease the symptoms to get a better sleep, the best way to help yourself is to visit your doctor. It’s important that you tell them of your symptoms, including any sleep problems. This will help them get a better idea of the problem, and they’ll find the right solution for you.

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