Treating sleep and circadian problems to promote mental health: perspectives on comorbidity, implementation science and behavior change

Allison G Harvey, Treating sleep and circadian problems to promote mental health: perspectives on comorbidity, implementation science and behavior change, Sleep, Volume 45, Issue 4, April 2022, zsac026, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsac026

Abstract

Insufficient sleep and mistimed sleep are prominent, yet under-appreciated and understudied, contributors to poor mental health and to mental disorders. The evidence that improving sleep and circadian functioning is an important pathway to mental health continues to mount. The goal of this paper is to highlight three major challenges ahead. Challenge 1 points to the possibility that comorbidity is the norm not the exception for the sleep and circadian disorders that are associated with mental disorders. Hence, the sleep and circadian problems experienced by people diagnosed with a mental disorder may not fit into the neat diagnostic categories of existing nosologies nor be adequately treated with single disorder approaches. The Sleep Health Framework and the Transdiagnostic Intervention for Sleep and Circadian Dysfunction (TranS-C) are discussed as alternative approaches. Challenge 2 points to the large time lag between the development of a treatment and the availability of that treatment in routine clinical practice. This is a key reason for the emergence of implementation science, which is a flourishing, well-developed, and quickly moving field. There is an urgent need for more applications of implementation science within sleep and circadian science. Challenge 3 describes one of the greatest puzzles of our time—the need to unlock the fundamental elements of behavior change. There is potential to harness the science of behavior change to encourage widespread engagement in sleep health behavior and thereby reduce the staggering burden of sleep and circadian problems and the associated mental health problems.

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