Link Between Mental Health and Sleep

Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? We all know what that saying indicates someone is being cranky or unreasonable. Why? Because the quality of our sleep affects our mental health. Research continues to look at the connections between mental health and sleep. Currently, we know that mental health disorders make it harder to sleep well. Also, poor sleep, including insomnia, can contribute to mental health problems getting worse. Improving your sleep can help you have a better outlook and make it easier to function in your daily life.

While we sleep, the brain restores itself and processes the emotional information we have collected over the course of the day. Our brain establishes memories and processes thoughts and experiences while we sleep, especially during REM sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement, which is when dreams typically happen.

The Journal of American Medical Association estimates that over 300 million people worldwide have depression, a type of mood disorder marked by extreme sadness and hopelessness. 75% of those who suffer from depression also exhibit signs of insomnia, the inability to either fall asleep or stay asleep. It is not known if poor sleep causes depression or if depression causes poor sleep. It looks as if there is a bidirectional relationship between the two. Which comes first? We do not know, but we do know they work together.

Anxiety disorders also can be a cause of poor sleep or insomnia. Anxiety creates excess worry or fear and often is accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, feelings of panic, and the inability to feel inner peace and calm. Worry and fear contribute to one experiencing their mind racing and insomnia. It becomes extremely difficult to relax and calm, making it difficult to fall asleep.

Ways to Improve Sleep

-Set a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed around the same time every evening and wake up at the same time in the morning. This routine will help the body set its internal rhythm.

-Turn off electronic devices an hour before bedtime.

-Control the temperature. Studies show that sleeping in a cool room makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

-Exercise regularly. Regular exercise is good for your whole body, including your sleep.

-Avoid eating large meals or snacks before bedtime.

Avoid caffeine. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. A good rule of thumb is to stop consuming caffeine after 2 pm.

Alcohol does not benefit sleep. Some use alcohol as a sleep aid, but it often disrupts sleep later in the sleep cycle.

If you need support and would like to speak to a professional counselor about topics such as the one featured in this blog and are in the Chicago area, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.

Written By: Christine B., Masters Level Intern 2023

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