Getting quality sleep is important for your health—especially your mental health. Sleep and your mental health are closely related and can create a vicious cycle if you start struggling with either one. According to Harvard Health, close to 20% of Americans struggle with some type of sleep disorder. That number increases to a staggering 50 to 80 percent among Americans who also have a mental health condition. March 13th-19th is Sleep Awareness Week, which gives us an opportunity to explain how sleep affects your mental health and what you can do to improve both.
Mental health and sleep depend on each other
Not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep can make it harder to manage your emotions and stress levels. You may find yourself having a hard time concentrating or making decisions. You might also notice that you rely too heavily on caffeine to get you through your day, which can increase or aggravate anxiety and other mental health disorders. On the flip side, getting good sleep improves your thought processing, learning abilities, memory, and energy levels.
How you can improve your sleep
Set yourself up for a successful night's sleep by setting the mood for sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends considering the following environmental factors for the best sleep:
- Temperature - Most people prefer a cooler room temperature, with the use of blankets. Others may prefer a warmer environment with just a sheet. Find whatever works best for you. In surveys conducted by the Sleep Foundation, 65 degrees Fahrenheit was the average “most comfortable” sleeping temperature.
- Light - Your natural circadian rhythm is responsive to a lot of environmental factors—light being the most influential. Invest in room-darkening curtains to help block out street lights, moonlight, and even sunlight (if you are a shift worker).
- Noise - While ambient noises are associated with a deeper, most restful sleep, other environmental noises can disrupt your sleep. Using a fan or sound machine is recommended, and can even help drown out unwanted noise.
- Bedding - A good quality mattress and pillows make a huge difference in the quality of sleep you get, and are always worth the investment if you struggle with sleep. Keeping your sheets and blankets fresh with regular cleaning is also recommended.
Here are some more ways you can support good sleep:
- Physical exercise - Getting more activity during the day can help you achieve a better rest at night by helping you exert your stored energy. The simple addition of an evening walk may be enough to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
- Mindfulness/Meditation - Calming techniques such as guided meditation or guided focusing are a great way to release stress and help yourself relax. Getting to a relaxed state before bedtime has been linked to having an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Limit caffeine and sugar - It is easy to consume too much caffeine or sugar if you’re struggling to sleep at night, which leaves you feeling exhausted during the day. But caffeine and sugar can both disrupt your sleep, even hours after you have your last sip of coffee. Consider limiting your overall consumption and stopping your caffeine intake several hours before your bedtime.
- Create a routine - As creatures of habit, bedtime routines help signal our bodies that it’s time to sleep by activating our relaxation response. Allow yourself time before bed every night when you can engage in activities that help to relax you and prepare your mind for sleep. This may include a relaxing bath or shower, time spent listening to calming music, focused thinking, or reading.
- Unplug - A growing body of evidence has shown that blue light can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm. One of the most common sources of blue light exposure in the evening and nighttime hours comes from electronic devices such as smart TVs, cellphones, and tablets. As part of your bedtime routine, set a time that you officially ‘unplug’ from devices. Consider making your bedroom a “screen-free” area.
- Get tested - Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea can go unnoticed for some time, while other conditions like restless leg syndrome, sleepwalking, and narcolepsy are more obvious. Speak to your doctor about scheduling a sleep test if you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of a sleep disorder.
Seek support if needed
A lack of adequate sleep can trigger or worsen stress and anxiety, causing a decline in your mental health. Similarly, if you struggle with declining mental health, it can make it difficult to sleep. Addressing mental health problems with a licensed therapist can help you achieve the quality of sleep you need. If you or someone you know is in the California or Nevada areas and struggles with poor sleep due to anxiety, depression, stress, or other mental health concerns, reach out to Medens Health for evaluation and treatment options. Contact us by phone or text at (833) 624-5400 or on our online portal.
The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.
If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.