The Importance of Sleep and Mental Health
Sleep is important for every function our body performs. The Sleep Foundation notes adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
We all know sleep is so important, but it still doesn’t stop many of us from neglecting good sleep hygiene. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.
But the importance of getting adequate sleep should not go overlooked.
Sleep impacts the physical and mental functions of our body—specifically the ability to fight diseases, build immunity, build metabolism, and prevent chronic illnesses. Sleep is a critical part of our daily routine that can have the greatest impact on our quality of life.
You can think of sleep for the brain in the same way you would think of gas for a car. We can’t function without sleep, because it’s how our body recharges itself.
Getting adequate amounts of sleep is critical if we want to maintain our overall health.
Is sleeping good for mental health?
Getting adequate amounts of sleep is critical to your mental health.
Research shows a direct relationship between sleep and depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions. If you’re wondering how is mental health related to sleep, it’s due to your brain activity.
Brain activity is known to fluctuate as you pass through different stages of sleep. Every stage you pass through in your sleep, plays a role in the overall health of your brain. These stages help you think better, learn better, and improve your memory. This is why they are so heavily intertwined.
The traditional view was that sleep problems were simply a symptom of mental health disorders. However, further research has indicated there’s a bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental health disorders. This means sleeping problems could be both a cause and a result of mental health disorders.
This new evidence has shifted the way we look at the relationship between the two.
How does sleep deprivation affect mental health?
Historically, when thinking about different mental health disorders—we thought that sleep deprivation was just a consequence of them. But more and more evidence is showing us that sleep deprivation could actually be a contributing cause to mental health disorders.
This means that lack of proper sleep hygiene could actually worsen your mental health problems.
There are many different mental health disorders that are adversely impacted by a lack of sleep. Some of these mental health disorders include:
We estimate that over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Studies also show approximately 75% of individuals suffering with depression are also showing symptoms of insomnia.
New research indicates poor sleep can exacerbate the symptoms of depression. This is further reinforcing a bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental health. In other words, a focus on improving sleep could be one way to help reduce the symptoms of depression.
Insomnia and anxiety disorders tend to go hand-in-hand. Different anxiety disorders are proven to cause insomnia. New evidence is also showing insomnia can activate anxiety in those at high risk for it.
There’s an especially strong relationship between the anxiety disorder, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and insomnia. Research on U.S. veterans shows that at least 90% of U.S. veterans with combat-related PTSD, have insomnia symptoms.
Anxiety causes stress, worry and fear. All of these emotions contribute to hyperarousal, which in turn leads to sleep issues.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts one’s communication and social interactions. Those who suffer from ASD (both children and adults) are shown to have a higher prevalence of sleep problems.
Sleep and mental health disturbances can make symptoms of ASD even worse. It also lessens the quality of life for those suffering with the disorder. Trying to address insomnia and improve sleeping conditions, can help improve the quality of life for those with ASD.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Sleeping problems are very common for those who suffer from ADHD. Those with ADHD may have trouble falling asleep, wake up often, and be excessively sleepy throughout the day.
ADHD also shows a bidirectional relationship with sleep. This means sleep deprivation is both a cause and consequence of ADHD.
How can you improve both sleep and mental health?
Treatment for mental health disorders varies for each person. Incorporating sleep and mental health care should be part of your self care plan.
Since mental health impacts quality of life so heavily, it’s important to work with a provider you trust. Checkout Connect2Heal if you want to find a mental health professional whose goal is to understand your whole self.
Treatment plans for sleep and mental health disorders can vary heavily, but here are some common ones:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT, otherwise known as talk therapy, is a great way to help with mental health disorders. CBT for Insomnia (CBT-I) also has a proven record of helping improve sleeping problems.
A large clinical trial was performed using CBT-I, and it actually show CBT-I reduces the symptoms of many mental health conditions.
Improve Sleep Hygiene
Bad sleeping habits are a huge contributor to insomnia and disturbed sleep. Creating habits that will help your body wind down and recognize it’s time to sleep, can help avoid sleep disruptions.
Some steps you could try implementing include:
- Having a set time you go to bed every night
- Turning off your screens two hours before bed
- Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine in the evenings
- Blocking out excess light and noise that may disturb you
- Getting a mattress, bedding, and a pillow that are comfortable for you
- Meditating or practicing other relaxation techniques to help your body wind down
- Reading a book or journaling before bed to relax your mind
- Moving your body throughout the day and getting light exposure throughout the day
Overall sleep and mental health are heavily intertwined. Both play a very critical role in our day-to-day health.
What sleep habits do you practice? Are there any you want to improve on? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.