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Sleep and Mental Health

person sleeping in their bed with the glasses next to them

Sleep has a direct impact on mental health. Insomnia, for instance, can contribute to the development of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Moreover, people who have these conditions often experience sleep problems. The links between mental health and sleep are established but still being studied. Here, we’ll explore why sleep is crucial to healthy moods and brain function.

 

Brain Activity and Sleep

While the body rests during sleep, the brain is engaged in fluctuating activities known as sleep stages. These stages are part of the overall sleep cycle and are essential for normal brain function. The brain is involved in NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep that is associated with slowed brain activity and REM sleep, which involves more intense dreaming. Both of these sleep stages are important because they’ve been shown to support cognitive functions like learning and memory. These stages have also been shown to have a direct impact on emotional and mental health, according to the Sleep Foundation.

 

Sleep and Mental Health Conditions

Poor sleep is often a factor involved in a number of mental health conditions. For instance, 75% of people who suffer from depression have marked sleep problems such as insomnia. Some people with depression sleep excessively. Poor sleep is also associated with conditions like anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. The presence of these conditions also impacts sleep. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 50% of people with insomnia have a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety. When these conditions are properly managed, sleep is improved. Similarly, when insomnia is treated, mental health symptoms may dissipate or disappear. 

 

How to Improve the Quality of Sleep

Getting good sleep is sometimes out of our control. However, there are steps we can take to improve the quality of our sleep on a routine basis, such as:

 

Practice Good Sleeping Habits

Try to structure your nighttime routine to enhance your sleep routine. For instance, try to get to bed at about the same time each night. 

 

Eliminate Electronics an Hour before Sleep

Refrain from your screens like your television and smartphone about an hour before your intended bedtime. Your brain needs time to wind down from the stimuli of the day. Watching TV or surfing the internet keeps your brain stimulated and can detract from the sleep process.

 

Use a Sleep Aid

Many people rely on sleep aids, especially during bouts of insomnia, in order to promote quality sleep. Talk to your healthcare provider about taking a sleep aid or supplement designed to enhance sleep. While many are safe, your doctor can tell you what remedies may be right for you or safe for you given the other medications you currently may be taking.

 

Practice Physical Fitness

Exercise is associated with healthy sleep practices. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, people who practice 30 minutes of aerobic activity each day enjoy improved sleep.

 

It’s important to get quality sleep on a routine basis. If you’re suffering from sleep disturbances and experiencing mental health symptoms, try these ideas. You may need to consult your doctor if they continue. Some conditions such as sleep apnoea may require treatment.