The impact of sleep on mental health
If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or any number of mental health disorders, you probably know what it’s like to lie awake at night. Let’s be honest, even those of us without an anxiety diagnosis have been feeling a little on edge recently…and that stops us from getting the sleep we need.
Health experts have known about the correlation between sleep and mental health for a long time. Until recently, the main focus was on how mental health disorders prevent people from sleeping well. Now, scientists are starting to explore how sleep disorders affect mental health conversely.
You probably don’t need a scientist to tell you that sleeping poorly has a negative effect on your mood. They don’t call it waking up on the wrong side of the bed for nothing.
Fortunately, there are some ways to get better sleep…which will ultimately improve your mental health as well.
How does poor sleep affect your mental health?
The typical sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and consists of four main stages of sleep, including deep sleep and REM sleep. Deep sleep is said to be the most important stage of sleep because of its restorative properties. REM sleep is the last stage of the sleep cycle, when you tend to dream. It may enhance learning and memory.
Getting enough deep sleep and REM sleep is what your brain needs to recover at night. In fact, neurochemistry studies suggest that sufficient sleep promotes mental and emotional resilience. On the flipside, getting consistently poor sleep leads to emotional vulnerability and negative thinking.
Is this starting to sound familiar? If you struggle to sleep at night, your mental health is likely to be negatively affected. If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, your sleep is probably suffering as well. That’s the bidirectional relationship of sleep and mental health.
Keep in mind that a common sleep disorder that negatively impacts mental health is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It reduces oxygen levels in the body, which results in disturbed and fragmented sleep. Research shows OSA occurs more frequently in people with psychiatric conditions. If you think you may have OSA, see your doctor for treatment options. Your mental health could improve as well.
Specific mental health conditions and sleep
Each mental health condition has a different effect on your sleep. Find your mental health disorder on this list (or use these symptoms to help you determine which mental health condition you may be dealing with).
Battling depression is incredibly challenging, and it may be even more difficult for those who have insomnia or other sleep disorders. Studies have found that those with insomnia are more than twice as likely to develop depression as those who don’t have insomnia.
If you struggle with depression, it might be worthwhile to consider whether you find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. If you do, your depression could improve with sleep treatment, according to research.
Bipolar is a condition marked by episodes of extreme moods known as mania and depression. Research shows that sleep patterns tend to change depending on the emotional state of bipolar patients.
If you think you might have bipolar disorder, you could benefit from various approaches to treating sleep problems. Studies point to the importance of managing sleep deprivation in fostering emotional regulation for those with bipolar.
There are a whole host of anxiety disorders that can exacerbate sleep issues and also be worsened by poor sleep. In fact, research confirms this bidirectional relationship between sleep problems and generalized anxiety disorder, recommending that children be screened early on for sleep disorders in order to reduce the burden of mental illness.
Even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder, you may have heightened anxiety and distress due to lack of sufficient sleep. This study found that sleep deprivation typically increases anxiety, depression, and other negative mental states. Check out these natural remedies for anxiety relief.
There is so much overlap between the symptoms of sleeping disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that it’s often challenging to tell them apart. These overlapping symptoms include:
- Having difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Having trouble waking up
- Dealing with sleep breathing issues
- Waking up at night
- Feeling daytime sleepiness
Fortunately, treating sleep problems tends to improve overall quality of life, behavior, and functioning in people with ADHD. Research shows that behavioral sleep intervention can produce all of these benefits in children with ADHD.
How to improve deep sleep and mental health
If you resonate at all with having sleep problems and/or mental health issues, there is hope for you. Here are some things you can try that have a powerful impact on both sleep troubles and mental health problems simultaneously.
Develop good sleep hygiene
There are lots of small habits you can adopt in order to maintain good sleep hygiene. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day if possible. Designate your bedroom as a space for sex and sleeping only (no work). Keep your electronic devices out of your room at night. All of these habits can work together to improve your overall sleep quality.
Avoid alcohol and nicotine before bed
You might think that alcohol helps you sleep, but it actually causes you to wake up more often during the night and reduces your overall sleep quality. Nicotine tends to speed up your heart rate, making it difficult to fall asleep. Giving up both of these substances altogether may be best for both deep sleep and mental health, but avoiding them before bed is a good start.
Utilize cognitive behavioral therapy
Lots of psychologists recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to anyone with sleep problems and/or mental health issues. CBT is a type of talk therapy that looks at patterns of thinking and aims to shift negative thoughts. It has been shown to improve sleep as well as anxiety and depression symptoms. You can try CBT at home or work with a therapist in your area.
Exercising regularly has numerous benefits for poor sleepers. It can help you fall asleep faster, get more deep sleep, and not wake up so often during the night. Consider exercising earlier in the day so that it doesn’t negatively affect your ability to fall asleep at night.
Cultivating a daily practice of meditation can have wonderful effects on your sleep and mental health, especially if you struggle with racing thoughts that prevent you from sleeping well. Start out slowly and find the style of meditation that works best for you. Don’t miss this guide on how to meditate when you’re stressed.
Add Hapbee to your bedtime routine
Sometimes you just need a little extra help getting a good night’s sleep. Hapbee is a wearable device that can improve your sleep quality. Use the Bedtime signal (sleep trigger) about 30 minutes before going to bed and feel your eyes start to get heavy. Switch to the Deep Sleep signal (sleep regulator) when you go to bed in order to increase deep sleep and reduce the likelihood of waking up at night.
Hapbee can help you get the sleep you need…which in turn has the potential to improve your mental health. Order risk-free with our 30-day money-back guarantee.
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