The Importance of Sleep for Your Mental Health
Updated: Sep 9, 2021
This week Christine Huegel with the MA Sleep Institute is sharing about the importance of sleep and mental health.
All too often, sleep is considered as something that has to be squeezed into a hectic schedule, as opposed to the precious and restorative process that it should be. This is a problem because a lack of sleep can cause numerous health problems that go far beyond the irritability and low energy experienced the day after a sleepless night. Going without sleep on a regular basis puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and an increased susceptibility illness, among other negative effects. However, there is another strong connection that sleep has with your overall health: your mental well-being.
Sleep and Mental Health
The relationship between sleep and mental health is a complex intertwining of overlapping symptoms. Lack of sleep worsens the symptoms of mental health conditions, and the same symptoms are big contributors to loss of sleep. Once sleep deprivation kicks in, it’s hard to know what symptoms are the result of insomnia and which are due to poor mental health.
Sleep disruption has a negative effect on neurotransmitters and increases the production of stress hormones. This impairs critical thinking as well as the regulation of emotions. In turn, psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and depression, are amplified by impulsive behavior and other heightened symptoms. If you are looking for additional tips to better your overall sleep and health, find out the most effective ways to improve your sleep.
Those with depression who experience prolonged insomnia are less responsive to treatment, as well as more susceptible to relapse. In addition, depressed patients with sleep deprivation are more likely to have suicidal thoughts or die by suicide.
A large majority of those with bipolar disorder report the prevalence of insomnia during manic episodes as well as immediately prior. In turn, the lack of sleep amplifies the manic episode.
Those with anxiety disorders - such as PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, panic disorder, and phobias - experience a longer sleep onset (time it takes to fall asleep) as well as more restlessness while sleeping. Because lack of sleep is related to increased levels of cortisol, anxiety and panic symptoms worsen.
The Essential Role of Restorative Sleep
While poor sleep can lead to deteriorating mental health, restorative sleep is highly effective for the improvement and prevention of mental health disorder symptoms. That’s because duringslow-wave sleep, your brain waves slow their pace and enlarge. This phase of sleep is vital for both emotional and physical restoration. Here are some tips for getting more restorative sleep.
Create a Sleep Sanctuary
The ambiance and comfort level of your bedroom plays an important role in the length of sleep onset as well as your quality of sleep. Be sure that your bedroom is free of clutter and eliminate electronics from the area. If you live in a noisy city, you might consider a white noise machine to block out distracting noises. An essential oil diffuser can provide soothing scents such as lavender, and if you are waking up with aches and pains you might not have the best mattress supporting you as you sleep. Consider investing in a new one.
Establish Self-Care Routines
Basic self-care is easily neglected in our busy world, however, without it, your sleep will be disrupted more than you know. Establish a nightly wind-down routine to prep your body and mind for a good night’s sleep. Turn off tech devices an hour before bedtime and engage in relaxing activities, such as meditation, a warm bath, reading, or journaling.
Follow a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Your body loves consistency and does a fine job of adjusting itself to healthy patterns. In fact, you can train your body to be better at falling asleep and staying asleep by establishing consistent sleep and wake times. Dedicate seven to nine hours of sleep and stick to your schedule - even on the weekends.
The importance of quality sleep holds true for everyone, but perhaps especially for those coping with mental health conditions. Without consistent restorative sleep, mental health symptoms worsen. By making sleep a priority, you proactively address your mental health symptoms and give yourself the best chance possible to live a healthy and happy life.
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