(PLUS TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S REST)
Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sleep deprivation affects your mental health and can leave you feeling exhausted, irritable, and distressed. Poor sleep quality, insomnia, disturbed sleep—we call it many names—but the results are the same, and the ongoing lack of restful sleep can be detrimental to both your physical and psychological health.
Although individuals with mental health conditions are more likely to have sleep disorders, sleep deprivation can affect anyone. Problems can become chronic and lead to more serious mental health conditions, so it’s important to pay attention to your patterns and take action when necessary.
Sleep and Stress
Many of us have experienced the troublesome effects of sleep deprivation after a night of insomnia. Mood changes like agitation and anger can occur throughout the day as well as an inability to concentrate on our daily tasks. Lack of sleep often makes it more difficult to handle even minor stresses.
If difficulties start to occur frequently, daily annoyances can become extremely frustrating. You might find yourself feeling exhausted and short-tempered, and everyday irritations can turn into a sense of ongoing aggravation as you struggle to cope. Your problem can even become a source of stress as you worry about your inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night.
Sleep and Mental Health Conditions
Some mental health conditions can cause disturbances, but sleep problems can also worsen the symptoms of many mental health conditions. The most common conditions impacted by sleep disturbances are:
- bipolar disorder
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Poor sleep can also play a role in the development of certain psychological conditions. Because of this, the relationship between sleep and mental health conditions is often referred to as bidirectional or circular in nature.
Experiencing some feelings of anxiety is normal, but individuals with anxiety disorders tend to have more sleep problems. Sleep deprivation can also cause feelings of anxiety, so for those with an anxiety disorder, this may become a circular pattern that exacerbates both the sleep and anxiety issues.
Sleep problems also appear to be a risk factor for developing anxiety disorders, particularly if the sleep problems are chronic and go untreated.
Sleep disturbances like insomnia can be a symptom of depression, but lack of sleep may also lead to depression. Though it’s not uncommon to feel occasionally down or sad, depressive disorders can be quite debilitating and impact your ability to manage the normal activities of your life.
Addressing sleep disturbances early on can be helpful in reducing the risk of depression or lessening the symptoms of a depressive disorder.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by significant changes in mood, ranging from periods of depression to elevated, manic moods. Individuals with bipolar disorder commonly have sleep disturbances, especially insomnia, irregular sleep-wake cycles, and nightmares.
Changes in sleep patterns can be a symptom of bipolar disorder. But sleep disturbances can also contribute to the course of the condition, including treatment outcomes and quality of life issues.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a common mental health condition that affects both children and adults. ADHD is typically associated with sleep problems, and sleep disturbances may intensify the symptoms of the condition.
ADHD is most often diagnosed in childhood, and children with this condition may be affected by various sleep-related issues. Some of the more common sleep disturbances include difficulty falling or staying asleep, difficulty waking, and daytime sleepiness.
Tips for Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
Sleep experts often refer to our sleep hygiene when assessing for sleep disturbances. Basically, sleep hygiene consists of the rituals and behaviors associated with your sleep. Some behaviors are better than others, and proper sleep hygiene can go a long way in improving your night’s sleep. Here are five steps that can help you get a better night’s rest:
1. Create a comfortable sleeping environment.
Have a comfortable mattress and pillows, and have your room as dark as possible. Consider wearing an eye mask at night to keep light out. Try to keep your bedroom quiet and cool with a temperature of around 62-66 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
Throughout the week, including the weekend, try to go to bed at the same time and awake at the same time. Setting your internal clock with a consistent schedule helps your body establish its sleep-wake cycle. There are sleep apps that can help you achieve this.
3. Exercise regularly.
Whether you jog, cycle, walk, swim, or practice yoga, various forms of regular exercise contribute to getting restful sleep. Moderate to vigorous exercise can be stimulating, so it’s best to avoid it within four hours of your bedtime.
4. Monitor what you eat and drink.
Try not to eat heavy meals near bedtime, and try to refrain from drinking alcohol within three hours of sleep. Though alcohol may help you fall asleep, it’s actually disruptive to sleep cycles. Lastly, no caffeine after 2 p.m.
5. Have downtime before you go to bed.
About an hour before bedtime, start winding down. Take a warm bath, read something pleasant, do some easy stretching, or listen to relaxing music. Try to avoid the television and electronics, including your phone. If you have any stressful thoughts, write them down as a way to get them off your mind.
It may take a bit until you get in the habit of your new routine, but it can help you get the rest you want and need.
Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can also be effective in addressing sleep-related problems. If you’re concerned about the quality of your sleep and how it’s impacting your mental health, please contact us. We can help you develop a plan to improve your sleep.