Why Sleep is Important for Mental Health

An estimated 83.6 million adults living in the United States are sleep deprived.

Are you getting enough sleep at night?  If you are not getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sound, quality sleep each night you are not alone.  In fact, research shows as many as 1 in 3 Americans are not getting enough sleep each night.  Getting a good night sleep can often seem like an impossible task, especially when your mind is racing and you are feeling anxious or stressed.  Staring at the ceiling waiting for sleep to come can be frustrating.  But a bad night’s sleep can leave you feeling more than just a bit tired and grumpy the next day.  Over time, chronic sleep deprivation can have negative consequences for both your physical and mental health.  

How Sleep Impacts Your Health

The relationship between sleep and health is well known.  Think of sleep for the body and brain like a battery that needs to be fully recharged each night.   Sleep allows your body to recover from all of the mental and physical activities that you participated in throughout the day.  Getting a good night’s sleep is just as important as breathing fresh air, eating nutritious foods and keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day.  

The relationship between sleep and health goes hand in hand. If you are feeling anxious you may have trouble sleeping and if you have trouble sleeping you may feel anxious throughout the next day.  Poor sleep is also associated with the following physical health problems: weight gain, heart disease, increased risk of stroke, gastrointestinal disorders, headaches and it may also increase your risk of accidents.  Lack of sleep can also make it difficult for you to regulate your emotions throughout the day and has been associated with increased levels of depression.

How Do You Know If You Are Getting Enough Sleep?

When it comes to sleep recommendations there is no one size fits all. Some of us are can get by on much less than seven hours.  Other people need nine or more hours of sound sleep to feel rested.  Equally, some of us are night owls and others enjoy getting up at the crack of dawn and feel energized.  Typically, if you wake up most mornings without the aid of an alarm clock and you generally feel well rested in the morning than you are getting enough sleep. However, if this is not the case, you may need to reevaluate your sleep schedule or the quality of your sleep if:

  • You feel frequently feel tired throughout the day
  • Rely on caffeine to get you through the day
  • Have trouble concentrating during the day
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night

If you are feeling impacted by lack of sleep, the good news is that the negative effects or sleep deprivation are reversible and the benefits of a good night’s sleep are felt immediately.  In fact, sleeping just 60-90 minutes longer each night has been shown to make you happier and healthier.  

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

It is natural when you try and quiet your mind at night that your thoughts race ahead to tomorrow. With so much to manage in your day-to-day getting a good night’s sleep can seem challenging, but with a bit of planning ahead it is easily achievable. Here are some tried and true tricks to get you sleeping soundly in no time.  So, here is to waking up feeling refreshed with plenty of energy to tackle the important day ahead. 

  • Daytime Activities Can Sabotage Your Sleep:  Take an inventory of daily habits or activities that might impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep.  Waking at the same time each morning and avoiding naps is important to being able to fall asleep at a reasonable time each night.  Be mindful of caffeine and alcohol intake both of which have negative effects on your quality of sleep, as well as the ability to fall asleep quickly.  Avoid eating heavy meals or sugary snacks close to bedtime.   Exercise each day, but if possible do not exercise a few hours before you would like to fall to sleep.
  • Keep The Bed Just For Sleep:  Did you know that the blue light emitted by your cell phone screen, television or tablet  physically impacts your ability to fall asleep and remain asleep?  Unfortunately, the blue light that screens emit restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle.  Yes, screens before bed can be a hard habit to break, as many of you may find watching television in bed relaxing or you may enjoying scrolling through your phone or reading on your tablet before bed.  But all these practices can surely sabotage a good night’s sleep.  
  • Quiet Your Mind:  Its natural when we try and quiet our mind at night our thoughts race ahead to tomorrow. Its is important to remember that you are always in control of your thoughts and when they are invited to enter the space you have created.  Tonight, try these three simple steps to quiet your mind: relax, journal, and describe.  An hour or so before bed relax by taking a nice warm bath and then sitting with a warm caffeine-free drink.  If you enjoy herbal tea, there are a number of great teas that promote healthy sleep.  Take out a pen and piece of paper or a journal if you have one is even better.  Spend ten minutes or so writing down all the things unresolved from the day and any anxieties, stresses or fears that you are still holding onto. Once you have created a list spend a few minutes describing what tomorrow will look like.  Think of how you will manage the day with confidence and tranquility.  Where will you fit in time for yourself and what will you do for self-care?  Adding journaling to the end of your day can be a great evening ritual for self-awareness and stress management. 

Reference: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6506a1.htm

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