How Your Sleep May Be Affecting Your Mental Health
Both sleep quantity and quality are important for our physical and mental health. I think this is something most people recognize, have read about, and have directly experienced. We don't have as much energy during the day and tend to be a bit less motivated when our sleep isn't good. While quantity and quality are both important, I would argue that sleep quality slightly outweighs quantity. Many of us feel like 8 hours of disrupted sleep still leaves us feeling groggy and "out-of-sorts" the next morning. Really restful sleep, even if it's a bit shorter, often helps us feel good.
Many mental health problems are related to sleep issues - sometimes the mental health problem comes first, and sometimes poor sleep makes the mental health problem worse. Common mental health problems that have a correlational relationship with sleep include anxiety, depression, insomnia, and bipolar disorder, among some of them. Chronic pain and illness also can greatly affect sleep - it's hard to get comfortable or pain will wake you up - and poor sleep often makes pain and other symptoms worse. Research has found that brain activity during sleep also plays a big role, with REM sleep being especially important.
How can we get better sleep quality? It often starts with sleep hygiene. I know most people will groan and complain about a lot of the sleep hygiene suggestions, and yet there is a lot of scientific evidence and people with personal experiences supporting them. A couple of suggestions are:
go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day
avoid bluescreens (TV, phones, tablets, computers) at least an hour before bed
avoid caffeine after 2pm, as well as alcohol in the evening
make sure your room is quiet, dark, and a comfortable temperature
do a relaxing activity before bed - such as progressive muscle relaxation, taking a bath or shower, or reading - do all of these activities in a room that is not your bedroom (your bed is for the 2 S-es : sleep and sex)
While there are many more sleep hygiene suggestions, it can be overwhelming to look at the list. My suggestion is to start with one or two changes and see how that helps. For people with chronic pain, also making sure medications are taken appropriately at bed time and any supplements/alternative medicines are also considered can help. We can definitely improve our sleep quality and its really important to.
If you're struggling with your mental health or any sleep concerns, feel free to book a free consultation.