Updated: Jan 2
Being tired is no fun. Whether you’re feeling sleepy before noon, or struggling to stay awake in the middle of the afternoon, that lack of sleep can be a major mood killer. We all know how those pesky zzz's can make it hard to focus on anything else and even have a significant impact on our physical health. But do we know how sleep disorders might affect our mental health?
Sleep disorders can cause serious disturbances in mental health and some people may even experience psychosis due to various factors such as sleeplessness or secondary to other medical conditions such as schizophrenia. With this in mind, it is important to note that sleep deprivation could exacerbate symptoms, behavioral issues and mood swings.
Sleep disorders can also lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse. According to a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, poor sleep hygiene and mental health has been linked to increased risk for depression and suicide. The study also found that those with sleep problems were more likely to use tobacco, overuse alcohol or become addicted to sleeping pills or tranquilizers.
Why the Sleep Hygiene Mental Health Link?
Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that provide essential traffic control for neural communication. Neural communication regulates our sleep-wake cycles and plays a role in mood and mental health.
How does sleep affect your mental health? When we don’t sleep properly, the neuro-transmitters can interfere with the body's normal production of neuropeptides — which are chemicals involved in mood and emotion — thereby resulting in depression and other mental health problems. In addition, the immune system is known to be regulated by sleep, and is also affected by sleep deprivation. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies produce substances called cytokines that increase the risk of developing depression, cancer and other medical conditions.
Ways of fighting back sleep disorders to elevate your mental health
Effects of poor sleep on mental health could be worse. Recognize the signs of insomnia. Left undetected, insomnia can seriously damage your mental health and also lead to depression. Insomnia can be defined as trouble falling asleep or sleeping for a shorter duration of time than normal before you wake up in the middle of the night. Use the following tips to understand how important is sleep for mental health:
1. Go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time every morning.
Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Use blinds or curtains to block out sunlight and make your room as dark as possible. Turn off or remove all electronic devices including TV's, cell phones, tablets and computers. Turn down the volume on your alarm clock or simply use one that doesn't make noise. Make sure your bedroom is climate-controlled by using a programmable thermostat to keep the temperature between 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Exercise regularly.
Regular physical activity is a great way to prevent insomnia and fight off stress. Studies have shown that regular exercise can decrease the amount of time we need to sleep. While it’s not recommended, you can use a stationary bike to help combat sleeplessness especially when you’re going through withdrawal from sleeping pills or other drugs.
3. Cut down on your caffeine intake.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can increase your heart rate and blood pressure and interfere with sleep. The chemical can stay in your system for up to 12 hours and cause you to wake up at night. Your best bet is to give up the caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, soda and chocolate after noon.
4. Take a hot bath before bedtime.
A relaxing warm bath can help you relax, unwind, and get ready for sleep by slowing down your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure as well as reducing muscle tension in the body which can help you fight insomnia.
5. Eat a healthy diet.
A healthy diet is a good low-cholesterol option that can help you sleep because it contains no stimulants and has natural calming ingredients like melatonin that may induce sleepiness. Also, it can help you control blood sugar to prevent high or low blood sugar which can also cause insomnia.
6. Keep stress to a minimum.
Stress is due to a lack of control and over time can have serious consequences on your mental health, including insomnia. Exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep are all effective ways to combat stress and the impact that it has on mental health. When it comes to sleeping pills or other drugs that may cause sleep disorders, it is important to identify if you are taking more than the daily dose that has been recommended by a doctor. If you think you might be experiencing addiction with regard to sleeping pills or other drugs, talk to a doctor or treatment program immediately in order to effectively treat this issue before it becomes more serious.
7. Watch TV shows, movies or listen to music that relaxes you.
While meditation or yoga might be effective strategies to reduce stress and aid in relaxation, there are still many people who find these activities difficult to practice at night. The good news is that there are other ways of relaxing that don’t require a lot of time or effort. For example, listening to soothing music or watching your favorite TV show before bed may help you sleep because it distracts your mind from the things that have kept you awake during the day.
8. Practice deep breathing.
You can effectively alleviate insomnia by practicing deep breathing as a method of relieving stress and anxiety. Breathing patterns are sometimes overlooked in relation to improving mental health because many people just “let the breath come and go”, however, this is not necessarily the best way to induce sleep. In fact, the simple act of breathing out during a stressful situation may make matters worse by allowing you to feel even more agitated instead of calming down. You can try breathing in for three seconds and then exhaling for three seconds before going on to another area or behavior that is causing you stress.
9. Practice yoga or meditation.
When it comes to relaxation and insomnia, there are few things better than yoga. Yoga is an excellent form of exercise that is proven to reduce stress, improve the mind, and promote relaxation. Yoga can help decrease blood pressure which helps you relax and sleep better at night. Yoga also has numerous health benefits such as helping to regulate the heart rate, metabolism, digestion and other bodily functions that can all lead to a deeper, more rested sleep.
10. Simplify your bedroom environment by keeping it free of clutter in order to invite sleep into your life.
Studies have shown that some people feel anxious when they wake up in their bedroom and can feel more relaxed if their bedroom is a peaceful, relaxing and quiet place. Remember to use your bedroom for sleep only because it is intended for nothing more than sleeping, relaxing and resting.
11. Take a hot shower before bedtime.
Showering at night may make you feel awake because of the warm water running down your body but in reality the warm water will relax you at the end of your shower which can help you sleep better at night or get to sleep faster.
There are many insomnia remedies available, so you should never feel like you have to suffer alone. Whether it is a sleeping pill or some other natural remedy, there’s no reason why sleepless nights need to persist. With the right treatment plan and a little time, any form of insomnia can be conquered!
Hope so the message "why is sleep important for mental health?" has been conveyed through this article.