by Brooke Faulkner
Sleep. It’s not just a morning love affair with your warm cozy bed, it’s essential to your survival. It is as important as eating, breathing, and keeping an adequate water intake. Slumber is a way to refresh your eyes and your body while the brain restores itself. It helps your mind clear out the unnecessary “clutter” that accumulates within it throughout the day. Sleep helps you in your waking life to make decisions, create and organize memories, make creative connections, and learn/remember how to perform specific physical tasks.
Despite the importance of sleep on our functioning, it is severely lacking. In the US, 70 million adults suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and movement syndromes (commonly known as restless leg syndrome) are only a few of the most common 70 different types of known sleep disorders.
Over half of all insomnia cases in the United States directly correlate to psychological stress, anxiety, and depression. Chronic sleep problems affect 50 to 80 percent of patients seen in a psychiatric practice, compared to just 10 to 18 percent of the general U.S. population.
The point: those suffering with depression and anxiety are more prone to sleep disorders, and those with sleep disorders are more prone to suffer from anxiety and depression.
Cause or Effect?
For many years, sleep problems were thought to be a symptom of mental problems, but new studies suggest that the opposite may be true. New or worsening mental health conditions may actually stem directly from a lack of sleep.
A lack of sleep can cause a decrease in alertness and diligence along with a general decline in mood and energy. Sleep issues such as insomnia have more than just drowsy effects on your brain. They have negative effect on other parts of the body like the central nervous system, the immune system, the digestive system, and the respiratory tract.
Whether a lack of sleep is causing an increase in mental illness issues, or the mental illness issues are causing a lack of sleep, both exacerbate one another, and trying to pinpoint which came first will really only keep us going in circles. So instead of searching for the answer to which came first, let’s focus on what is easily within reach. Sleep; let’s get some.
Focus on these to improve sleep:
Sleep Hygiene: This involves creating a series of different habits that are necessary to have a restful slumbrous sleep.
- Make sure you are spending an appropriate amount of time asleep.
- Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes or less.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants like nicotine before bedtime.
- Try quieting the mind with meditation.
- Use essential oils.
- Try an at home yoga class.
Feng Shui your bedroom:
- Keep technology out of the bedroom.
- Find a comfortable temperature for sleeping.
- Create a mindset before bed that you will help you have a successful night’s sleep.
Mental health issues can go far deeper than a sleep problem and often need specific treatments on their own to be resolved or relieved. But correcting one pillar of health, one habit that directly affects mental stability, can help make overall treatment more effective. At the end of the day, it may not be the end-all-be-all but treating a sleep problem can help to alleviate the mental health issues an individual is suffering from. By addressing what is within your control, and acknowledging the status of your own mental health, you can help yourself contribute to an effective treatment.