The Importance of Sleep for Mental Health

We as humans don’t sleep as much as we used to. The more alarming thing is, we also don’t get to sleep as much as we need to, according to a recent report by Gallup.

The report found that over 40 percent of adults don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that adults need seven or more hours of sleep every night. However, almost half of them get less than that value.

The average is currently at 6.8 hours, which is down more than an hour from the sleep that people usually got in the 1940s. I’ll be honest, I’m not too great. I go to bed quite late and it takes me a while tossing and turning before I drift off into the land of nod.

The fact that people are getting less sleep than the recommended amount is troubling because this activity significantly affects your health. Sleep deprivation causes drowsiness, impaired memory and concentration, and reduced physical strength. Complications include increased risk for stroke and heart disease as well as the increased risk of an accident if you drive drowsy. Apart from physical symptoms and complications, lack of sleep also has significant effects on your mental health – and vice versa.

The Prevalence of Sleep Issues Among Mental Illness Patients

Every time you sleep, you go through different cycles of it, with each one having benefits to different parts of your body. When you’re not able to complete these cycles, your brain’s ability to think and regulate emotions get disrupted, according to an article from Harvard Health Publishing.

Sleep and mental health issues can be mutually reinforcing, which means they can impact each other.

  • Depression – Over 17.3 million people in the country have had at least one major depressive episode. Depression also affects about 264 million people worldwide. A study published in the Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience journal found that over 75 percent of people who live with depression also show symptoms of insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult for people to fall asleep. Conversely, a lot of people living with depression also suffer from excessive daytime drowsiness. And while sleep issues were seen as a product of depression, studies also found that sleep deprivation may intensify depression symptoms.
  • Anxiety – Anxiety disorder creates intense fear and worries that significantly affect the way a person lives their life. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. live with some sort of anxiety disorder. These disorders are often linked to sleep issues. The Sleep Foundation says that the worry and fear that anxiety puts a person in a state of hyperarousal. Their mind races, and they find it hard to fall asleep. Anxiety and sleep issues are mutually reinforcing, too. Sleep issues may add even more worry, making you more anxious, and making it harder for you to fall asleep.
  • Bipolar Disorder – Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme shifts in one’s mood, concentration, and energy levels. Their mood can change from extremely elated and energized (manic) to exceedingly sad and hopeless (depressed). A person’s sleep patterns may change significantly depending on the mood they’re in. A person in their manic state may feel like they need less sleep, while they may sleep too much in their depressed state.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – People with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. PTSD is a condition triggered by horrific events, causing severe anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares among patients.

Over 70 percent to 91 percent of patients say they have difficulty sleeping. About 19 percent to 71 percentreported having nightmares, depending on their exposure to physical harm. People living with this disorder often replay the negative events that occurred to them in their minds or are conditioned to stay alert all the time to avoid harm. Not having enough sleep just blurs their judgment even more, possibly intensifying their symptoms.

Conclusion: Improve Your Sleep, Improve Your Health

Lack of sleep can significantly impact your mental health. Conversely, mental health disorders and conditions can also wreak havoc on your sleeping habits. As such, it’s important to get professional help for both. Improve your sleep hygiene by having a set sleep schedule with at least seven to nine hours of shut-eye, avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, sugary drinks (like orange juice with or without pulp), and caffeine at night, getting exercise in the morning, and having a comfortable sleeping space.

Don’t be afraid to buya new mattress or pillow when they’re on sale, if it means you’ll get a more cozy rest.

If you still can’t get enough sleep, or still feel tired after getting a lot of it, don’t be afraid to consult your doctor. They’ll provide you with medication to help you get deeper and more refreshing sleep. They may also recommend treatment options, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), if your sleep is affecting your mental health. The better your sleep, the better your overall health.

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