Sleep and Mental Health
Amy Highland from The Sleep Help Institute explains why a good night's sleep is essential for our physical as well as mental wellbeing.
Sleep and mental health go hand in hand. When you don't sleep well, you don't feel well -- both physically and mentally. You might think of a lack of sleep as something that would cause physical fatigue, but mental fatigue from a lack of sleep is real, too.
Think about it: how was your mental state the last time you didn't sleep very well? It's easy to lose your patience, have a hard time concentrating, and maintain an overall healthy mental state when you aren't firing on all cylinders. It's easier to make mistakes, too, which could be dangerous.
But sleep and mental health aren't a one way street. Your mental health can have an effect on sleep, too. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can make it tough to get the rest you need -- and make it even harder to deal with mental health struggles.
What can you do if you're stuck in a difficult cycle of poor sleep and poor mental health? Ideally, you can deal with both -- and improve both, too.
What Sleep Does to Mental Health
People who suffer from insomnia are at a higher risk of depression and suicide, and when you're sleep deprived, it can be tough to find the energy to do the activities that make you feel happy. Fatigue can make you feel like you're too tired to see friends and family, and you may feel lonely or left behind. And even if you feel like you've got enough energy to spend time with others or engage in self care, you might feel sluggish, impatient, and have a hard time appreciating activities because you just aren't in it.
What Mental Health Does to Sleep
Mental health conditions can have a negative effect on sleep. For example, you may find it more difficult to fall asleep with depression, and overall, it can cause shorter sleep time and decrease sleep quality.
If you're feeling stressed or anxious, it might be hard to fall asleep. It's common to lie awake at night with worry, especially if you struggle with anxiety.
Improving The Quality of Sleep and Mental Health
Quality sleep and good mental health are top priorities, and taking care of one aspect of your life can help support the other. Making time for sleep, relaxation, self care, and therapy can help you sleep better at night, and feel better emotionally and mentally each day. Try these tips to improve your sleep and mental health.
- Prioritize sleep. Plan ahead, giving yourself enough time to sleep at least seven to nine hours each night. Know what time you need to wake up in the morning and count backwards to determine what time you need to fall asleep. Make sure you're planning your schedule around sleep, and not the other way around.
- Prioritize self care, too. It's easy to get caught up in the net of your to do list, and put yourself at the end of it. Just remember that taking care of yourself puts you in a better position to take care of everything else. Take the time to do things you consider fun, relaxing, and rewarding.
- Deal with stress and anxiety before bed. Don't let your worries keep you up at night -- deal with them head on. Think of ways you can manage stress, such as doing yoga or meditation before bed, or taking a warm bath. A notebook next to bed could help you write out any stressful thoughts that are better dealt with in the morning.
- Support healthy sleep with good habits. Good sleep can be hard to come by sometimes, but healthy sleep habits can help. Maintain a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine that offers consistency and helps your brain and body predict when it's time to go to sleep and time to wake up. And avoid sleep pitfalls that can make it hard to get the sleep you need, such as late night screen time or caffeine.
- Talk to your doctor about treatment. Serious mental health issues and chronic sleep disorders require support. Your doctor can help you manage conditions with treatment and offer suggestions for things you can do to improve your mental health and sleep at the same time.
While it can be a struggle to maintain good sleep and mental health, this self care is essential. Managing sleep can help mental health, and vice versa, so make both a priority to support overall health and wellness.