How does sleep affect your mental health? The impact of sleep deprivation
Having trouble sleeping? Working long hours and feeling sleep deprived? You may want to know how sleep and insomnia affect your mental health. When you have trouble sleeping, you'll likely feel more stressed, anxious, and depressed. Insomnia may even make you suicidal. It can also worsen the symptoms of an existing mental illness, which may in turn make it more difficult to sleep well.
On the other hand, good quality sleep can improve your overall health and mental well-being and may even increase your life expectancy. One new study suggests that people with good sleeping habits are less likely to die early.
The data derived from the study also suggests that about 8% of deaths are attributed to poor sleep patterns. This goes to show just how critically important sleep is to us humans.
We'll discuss ways to improve your sleep quality shortly, but first, let's look at the bidirectional relationship between insomnia and mental illness.
The bidirectional link between insomnia and mental illness
According to the study, which is the largest of its kind, people living with a mental disorder are more likely to have insomnia than the general population.
The research was led by Dr. Michael Wainberg of the Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics.
Wainberg stated that the link between sleep and mental health is bi-directional, as inadequate sleep can worsen mental health, and poor mental health can lead to poor sleep quality.
The researchers discovered that poor quality sleep patterns were a feature of all mental disorders they studied, regardless of the type.
For instance, someone with a mental illness may wake up more often and have trouble going back to sleep.
At the same time, if you're sleep-deprived, you're more likely to feel stressed, anxious, and even suicidal. Poor quality sleep can also trigger psychosis, mania, and paranoia and worsen existing symptoms.
This is how insomnia affects your mental health: When you get less sleep, you may feel mentally drained, frustrated, and anxious. These issues can make you lose more sleep. And the more sleep you lose, the more the stress, depression, or mania worsens. It goes on and on, a vicious cycle.
But in the midst of it all, making conscious choices to improve your sleep quality can help.
Steps to take to get better sleep
1. Make your space more relaxing and sleep-inducing
The condition of your bedroom can influence how easy it is for you to fall asleep. Ensure your mattress and beddings are comfortable. It's also helpful to use dim, ambient lighting rather than accent light in your bedroom. Red lights promote sleep better than blue lights, so they're more suited for bedrooms.
2. Have a bedtime routine
One effective way to promote better sleep is to have a bedtime routine and respect it. For example, you may go to bed every 10:30 pm.
Your body naturally works like clockwork (the circadian rhythm). The same way you feel hungry at about the same time daily is how you'll feel sleepy at a regular time when your body adjusts to that routine.
3. Try mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation can significantly improve sleep quality. It also helps with stress relief, reducing anxiety, improving cognition, and increasing body satisfaction. Practicing mindfulness meditation is definitely one way to go if you're looking to curb insomnia while battling mental issues.
4. Avoid caffeine at night
Caffeine found in many beverages tends to prevent sleep until it wears off. And caffeine can take up to 6 hours for half of it to leave your system, and about 10 hours to leave completely. So it's advisable to avoid taking coffee or tea in the afternoon/evening. Coffee is best taken in the morning to get you alert.
5. Seek medical help
If you've tried all you could and it seems nothing works, it's time to see an healthcare professional. They can offer you prescription pills or suggest psychotherapy to discover the underlying issues that prevent you from sleeping better.