Sleep And Mental Health
SLEEP, a simple five letter word, yet a vital activity that allows us to function at our best during the day, be productive, and think clearly. Studying the consequences of sleep deprivation is certainly not new. In fact, the first study in this area dates back to1896! Although getting enough sleep is common knowledge as how important it is to eat our veggies, it’s an area many of us struggle with! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that at least 33% of us have some form of insomnia (not getting enough sleep) during their lifetime. The information below will explore the consequences of inadequate sleep, how mental health illnesses are worsened with lack of sleep, and most importantly, how we can develop sleep hygiene to lower and even prevent the negative consequences of not getting enough sleep.
The image below from the National Sleep Foundation shows us according to our age, how much sleep we should aim for.
Physical and Cognitive Consequences of Poor Sleep
Sleep deprivation negatively alters parts of the brain responsible for memory, controlling our behavior and emotions, and our ability to make decisions. Simply put, not getting enough sleep makes it difficult for the brain to function at its optimal level. Studies show that getting enough sleep improves learning, recalling information, and forming new pathways in the brain to learn and remember fresh information.
Not only does lack of sleep harm brain functioning but it also worsens physical health illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart conditions, and diabetes. The repairing and healing of heart and blood vessels are usually done during sleep, and this usually occurs when you are at a deep resting state. A common occurrence of inadequate sleep are late night snacking and overeating during the day. People who do not get enough sleep find that they overeat during the day because the hormones responsible for hunger and feeling full are altered. There are countless other consequences of not getting enough sleep, but the ones most important to mention includes a damaged immune system and challenges with healthy growth and development.
Mental Health Consequences of Inadequate Sleep
Sleep deprivation, even partial sleep deprivation is shown to worsen mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and bi-polar disorder. Insomnia rarely exists in isolation and is often a symptom of another mental health disorder. Sleep problems are also more likely to affect those with psychiatric disorders compared to people in the general population. Poor sleep patterns can make us vulnerable to certain mental health disorders, and mental health illnesses also contribute to poor sleep. A common example is anxiety which increases arousal and irritation in the brain.
Developing a Sleep Hygiene in a Fast-Paced, Media-Driven World
Though many of us are aware that sleep is important, it can still be challenging to get the rest we need due to a busy schedule, social media, and countless other things. An important way to address these challenges is to develop and stick to a sleep routine also known as sleep hygiene. Consider these following tips:
- Sleep at the same time every day, even on weekends
- Wake up at the same time every day
- Put away all electronics and electronic geared activities 2 hours before bedtime. Being exposed to anything that generates light excites our brains thus making it a challenge to fall asleep.
- Exercise early in the day but not right before bedtime. Studies show that exercise can contribute to restful sleep.
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping. Do not put a TV, an office desk, or anything that can distract you from sleep.
- If it helps, have a pre-bedtime routine. This may include activities before bedtime such as a bath, meditation, or light reading (a physical book not an electronic book).
- Set your bedroom to a comfortable temperature, between 60 degrees to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep the bedroom dark enough to be able to fall asleep.
If you experience trouble falling asleep after 10 minutes, and implemented the above tips, move to another room and engage in a calming activity such as meditation or reading. It is important that reading material is something that will not excite and overstimulate the brain. You can also move to another room and sit for a few minutes before going back to bed. If you still have trouble falling asleep, consider talking to your doctor for further recommendations. Just like eating healthy, drinking enough water, and exercising; sleep should be a priority if we are to function at our optimal best!
If you have any questions or comments about this article you can contact the author, Kavita Adatia, at KAdatia@fsaelgin.org