Mental health stigma stops those suffering from lack of sleep seeking help
People are not seeking help for a lack of sleep and fatigue because they think there is a mental health stigma associated with it.
Despite 10% confessing to having survived on just one hour of sleep a night, the nation is not seeking medical help due to the public stigma associated with the issue.
The British Psychological Society conducted psychological interviews with 12 people, each lasting approximately 40 minutes, and found that the public’s perception of fatigue is linked to mental health, as part of a study by Benson for Beds.
‘The stigma attached to feeling fatigued, which is a perception that we are not in control and cannot handle our stress, prevents people seeking help,’ says Dr Simon Moore, British Psychological Society lead psychologist.
According to the psychological analysis, fatigue is stopping people from living full lives. Interviewees describe fatigue as a state where, due to their lack of energy and motivation, they feel both mentally and physically slow.
‘It feels like a force pushing me to the ground,’ commented one participant.
The survey also found that 31% of the nation admit a lack of sleep makes them feel depressed and 30% feel anxious when tired. 49% of the nation feel moody and distracted when tired, while 34% admit they function poorly at work most days due to tiredness.
A further 15% admit they put things off in their lives, with Gen Z being the most likely to cancel social plans (18%).
The psychological investigation unveiled that knowing how to differentiate between feeling sleepy and being fatigued can help us to deal with sleeping problems.
‘Whilst participants found that feeling sleepy is positive and a natural order for our body, there is a lack of understanding around what fatigue is which, if left untreated, can stop people from living full lives because they do not know how to overcome it,’ says Moore.
One participant said: ‘Fatigue implies weakness, less strength and discipline; you can’t bring yourself to your optimal level at work.’
The worry of not being able to sleep actually left participants feeling even more sleep deprived as a result. According to participants, the ‘eight-hour sleep myth’ can cause more stress, as knowing you won’t achieve this amount of sleep can add to the feeling of anxiety at bedtime.
‘If I go to bed late and know I won’t get my hours of sleep, I will get stressed and feel even worse,’ commented one participant.
‘Our bodies are not designed to deal with modern day stress. We are in a constant state of psychological fight or flight, leading to our batteries running dangerously low,’ says Moore.
‘What we are seeing here are potentially two types of people and two sets of symptoms: those that are sleepy and potentially sleep deprived, and those that are fatigued but confusing it with sleepiness and seeing “sleeping it off as the solution. Confusing the two issues is causing us to fear conditions we may not even have, and alter our behaviours in ways that aren’t actually helping (such as going to bed early but not being able to actually fall asleep),’ says Romiszewski.
‘Being sleepy at the right times is actually good and healthy for you. Ask yourself, are you able to nod off right now? If you can’t, your symptoms may not be sleepiness. They are fatigue and can’t necessarily be cured by forcing bed in the first instance. Being fatigued - having brain fog or just feeling like you need to “rest” all the time - is not the same as feeling sleepy. Yet we start changing our sleep routine behaviours, and altering our daily healthy behaviours, compromising nutrition, exercise and social lives in order to “cope”. This can unfortunately make fatigue worse and actually cause sleep problems as we move away from the consistency of a regular routine which our bodies thrive on,’ says Romiszewski
Stressful lives are to blame for stopping us sleeping well, with 28% revealing their stressful day keeps them up at night. The stress of work specifically keeps 16% of Brits awake, and not getting enough exercise is the key reason 11% cannot sleep.