In our hectic daily lives the quality and quantity of our sleep is often overlooked. And this is due to a myriad of reasons including children, work, stress, and interpersonal issues, to name a few. For many, this is even the case in the face of regular reminders about how sleep is connected to our mental health on the news and social media.
So, what exactly does happens when we close our eyes? And how can we improve the quality of the rest we are able to get?
Benefits of Sleep
I’d venture to guess that everyone has, at one point or another, not gotten enough rest and felt irritable or had trouble concentrating. And this universal experience is really indicative of the larger impact that rest has on our lives. Sleep is a biological function that impacts our hormones, immune system, and metabolism. Likewise, sleep impacts us neurologically in regard to our mood, cognition, and attention. And the list goes on for both as research and science around sleep improves.
In regards to mental health, we know that many diagnoses, like depression, anxiety, and PTSD have symptoms that relate to sleep disturbances. For instance, studies show people who are suffering from depression may find it hard to fall asleep. Some people with anxiety may report similar issues with insomnia, if they find themselves worrying while in bed. PTSD can be associated with anxiety and nightmares that impact the quality and quantity of sleep hours. Likewise, studies have shown that symptoms of mania and psychosis can emerge due to sleep deprivation.
This is all to say, getting an appropriate amount of shut-eye, without interruption, on a regular basis, may be significantly helpful in deterring the onset of mental health symptoms.
Improving my Sleep
So, the science is there, but it doesn’t change the fact that life happens. What can we do?
- Set up a routine. Try to be consistent in going to sleep, in the same place, at the same time each night. Likewise, try to wake up at the same time each morning.
- Try to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Make sure your environment is comfortable.
- Set the thermostat to a comfortable setting, shut the lights off, turn off noise so it’s quiet.
- Electronic screens have been shown to negatively impact our sleep because of the blue light that they emit, so give yourself 30 minutes of screen-free time before trying to sleep.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or large meals before bed.
- Exercise during the day.
- Try not to drink a lot of fluid before bed.
Using a Professional
These are just some general tips to help improve your routine. In some cases, medication or medical intervention, like a CPAP machine, may be necessary. Be sure to visit your primary care doctor on a regular basis to inform them of concerns regarding your sleep. For example, if you wake up in the middle of night, struggle falling asleep, or if someone is concerned about your breathing while you’re sleeping.
As previously mentioned, sleep disturbances can be a consequence of a mental health diagnosis. If you feel you are overwhelmed, struggling with your mental health, or just need someone to talk to, you can reach a qualified clinician at Suffolk Family Therapy and schedule an intake appointment at your earliest convenience. To do so, call 631-503-1539 or visit our website.