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苦悩する男
苦悩する男

ストレスからくる不眠のメカニズムとうつ病との関係

苦悩

現代はストレス社会と言われます。私たちは日々ストレスの中で生活していると言っても過言ではないかもしれません。ストレスが精神的・身体的に悪影響を及ぼすということは現在では多くの方に知られていることですが、ストレスは不眠を発症する大きな原因ともなります。さらに、ストレスが過剰に溜まってしまうと単なる不眠ではなくうつ病による不眠となってしまうこともあります。

ストレスと不眠・うつ病のメカニズムについての基本を理解しておくことは健康的な毎日を送るためにとても有益なことと言えます。

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ストレスと不眠はやはり関係がある

悩み

「最近よく眠れていない、ストレスが溜まってるのかなあ」などと感じることはありませんでしょうか。私たちは日々の生活・仕事の中で多少のストレスは常に感じています。多少のストレスは日々の緊張感を保ち、仕事の効率などを向上させます。また、多少のストレスを日中に感じているくらいの方がよく眠ることもできるでしょう。

しかし、ストレスが過剰になってくると眠ることがなかなかできなくなってきます。体や気持ちが疲れているのに、睡眠に入ることができなかったり、あるいは眠ってもすぐに目が覚めるなどの状態になってしまいます。つまり不眠の発症です。

ストレスが不眠に関係があるということは医学的にも、経験的にも相当確実な程度で正しいとされています。極端な例ですが、例えば山で遭難してしまい、命に危険が生じるかもしれないような極度なストレス状況では眠ることなど到底できないことは想像に固くありません。

ストレスと不眠の間には具体的にはどのような関係があるのでしょうか。また、ストレスによる不眠が「限界」を超えてしまうとどのような悪影響が現れてくることになるのでしょうか。

ストレスによって不眠が生じるメカニズム

ストレスによって不眠が生じてしまうのは以下のようなメカニズムです。

睡眠中は私たちの意識はなくなっていますが、睡眠中も脳が覚醒に近い時間帯があります。睡眠中に脳が覚醒に近い時間帯をレム睡眠といいます。一方で脳が完全に休んでいる睡眠時間帯をノンレム睡眠といいます。睡眠中はこのレム睡眠・ノンレム睡眠を繰り返すことになります。

そして、このレム睡眠・ノンレム睡眠はストレスが溜まっていない場合にはおおむね90分のサイクルで繰り返されることになります。しかし、ストレスが溜まってきてしまうとこのレム睡眠とノンレム睡眠のサイクルが短くなってきます。

そうなると、脳が十分に休んでいないレム睡眠の時間が多くなりますので、深い眠りに入ることができる時間帯が少なくなり、その結果、深い眠りを味わうことができないという不眠の状態になってしまいます。これがストレスによる不眠のメカニズムです。

また、ストレスは自律神経の働きを乱し、胃腸などの健康を害します。胃腸などの調子が悪ければ痛みなどで深く眠ることができません。このようなストレスを原因とした身体疾患が不眠の原因となることもあります。

ストレスが限界を超えてしまうと・・・

このようにしてストレスは不眠の原因となります。不眠はその症状自体も大変つらいものですが、日中の注意力散漫、仕事の効率低下など様々な弊害を引き起こしえます。そしてストレスが限界を超えるとうつ病になってしまうことがあります。

うつ病は、いわば「脳の風邪」であり、脳が疲労の限界を超えて正常に脳内物質分泌などの作用ができなくなってしまっている状態です。このような状態となると、不眠はさらにひどくなり、精神的、肉体的にはとても疲れているのに全く眠れない、深夜に何度も目が覚める、日中には眠れるものの夜は眠れず完全に昼夜逆転となってしまうなど不眠の症状がひどくなってしまいます。さらに不眠だけではなく、やる気の減退や気持ちの病的な落ち込みなどの症状も現れてきます。

ストレスが耐えられる限界を超えてしまうと単なる不眠だけではなく、一種の精神疾患としてうつ病となってしまうことには特に注意したい点です。

うつ病は心療内科・メンタルクリニックなどの薬の投与で十分に治る病気ですが、ストレスを感じて眠れないという不眠の症状を覚えることが多くなったと感じた場合には、可能な限りストレスの原因を解消するように努めること、早めに心療内科等を受診されることが早く健康的な毎日を取り戻すためにはとても重要ということができます。

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まとめ:ストレスと不眠の関係のまとめ

以上、本文で述べましたストレスと不眠の関係などについてのポイントをまとめますと以下のようになります。

  • 精神的なストレスがあるとさまざまな不眠症状が現れます。不眠症状は眠りに付けないというタイプから眠りについてもすぐに目が覚めてしまうタイプなど非常にさまざまなものがあります
  • ストレスが不眠の原因となっている場合、睡眠中のレム睡眠とノンレム睡眠の間隔が短くなります。その結果、深い眠りに入ることができていている時間が短くなり不眠状態となります
  • ストレスが過剰に溜まってしまうとうつ病が発症してしまうこともあります。うつ病となると不眠はさらに悪化するとともに、不眠以外にもさまざまな体調の不調などが現れますので、心療内科などの受診が重要となってきます   

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