“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
— Benjamin Franklin
We Spend One-Third of Our Lives Asleep
Just like eating and breathing, sleep is an essential part of life. Sleeping is our body’s natural restoration system for both physical and mental wellbeing. It’s no secret that people with good sleeping habits more often enjoy better health and a higher quality of life.
Good Sleep is a Necessity in our Daily Lives
Sleep problems over the short term may not feel that bad, but in the long run, they can chip away at your sense of happiness and well-being. Valuing your sleep enough by creating practices that support quality sleep is one of the best things you can do to care for yourself.
The Importance of Sleep for Mental Health
Sleep and mental health go hand in hand. The way you sleep plays a vital role in the maintenance and development of many psychological problems. In the same way, many of us are also familiar with ways that we lose sleep due to the stresses we face in our daily lives and how this affects us as we go about our days.
This can be especially unfortunate as sleep can help combat many fallouts of several mental illnesses. The amount and quality of your sleep can heavily influence your outlook on life, your energy levels, sense of control over your emotions, and performance in day to day tasks.
Let’s take a look at some common sleep disorders and how they can impact your quality of life.
Insomnia is perhaps the most common sleep disorder faced by those across the globe. It can be characterized by having poor quality of sleep or difficulty falling or staying asleep. In insomnia, you either wake up at undesirable times or have trouble falling back asleep once you wake up.
It can contribute to a general lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, irritability, aggressive behaviors, and is closely related to symptoms of depression.
Treatment for insomnia involves a review of your current sleep habits and may include a combination of stimulus control therapy, learning relaxation techniques, sleep restriction, light therapy, and strategic use of natural supplements and other biological interventions.
After insomnia, sleep apnea is the second most prevalent sleep disorder. In sleep apnea, a person’s breathing gets interrupted at night due to blockage in the upper respiratory systems. Soft tissues in the throat may collapse into the airway, thus blocking the airflow.
Due to difficulty breathing, the brain wakes you up. This can cause sleep disturbances leaving the person feeling tired all day, having problems with concentration and productivity, and falling asleep during critical moments, while at work, driving, or even while on the phone.
The most common treatment for Sleep Apnea is using the continuous positive airway pressure device or CPAP at night.
Restless leg syndrome
Those who suffer from restless leg syndrome experience an uncomfortable sensation occurring in one or both of their legs in the evenings or while they are trying to fall asleep. These feelings range in description from itching, crawling, pulling, aching, throbbing, pins and needles, or an urge to get up and move around. This makes it difficult to sit or lie in one place for long periods of time and can be enough to cause sleep issues.
Symptoms can range from mild to intolerable and worsening in the evenings, however, supplements, medications, or other lifestyle changes can help to alleviate the symptoms.
Narcolepsy may occur in tandem with the other sleep disorders previously recognized and on its own is characterized by extreme bouts of sleepiness and fatigue throughout the day, with many of these episodes resulting in falling asleep.
As with sleep apnea, this may occur during important tasks, driving, typing, or talking with others. Unique to narcolepsy is the sudden loss of muscle tone called cataplexy, although not all people experience this. Narcolepsy may be misdiagnosed as depression or even ADHD in some cases. This disorder requires a thorough evaluation by a sleep specialist and can be managed with medications meant to aid wakefulness or through specific lifestyle changes.
The Effects of Sleep Disturbances on Mood
If you continuously feel low, you may not realize that sleep deprivation may be the culprit. Such small levels of sleep disturbances can lead to significant problems over time.
Lack of Energy & Motivation
You may feel less motivated and even experience some or all symptoms of depression,
such as feeling empty or sad.
Similarly, people with sleep apnea are five times more likely to suffer from depression. Of course, this affects not only your mental health but your relationships as well.
Sleep problems can also lead to impaired memory, weight gain, increased risk of heart diseases, and a higher likelihood of motor vehicle accidents.
Tips for improving your sleep
To sleep better and longer, consider the following strategies:
Sleep at regular bedtimes, even on weekends, to help regulate the circadian rhythm.
Reduce your consumption of caffeine or alcohol before you go to bed.
Take time out of your day to de-stress and exercise.
Improve your sleep environment. Take care of your bed and the room you sleep in, removing distractions and temptations to stay up later or stimulate your brain when you should be sleeping.
Get more exposure to sunlight during the day.
Avoid sleeping at irregular hours and only sleep at specific times during the night. Irregularities in the sleep schedule can cause “social jet lag”.
Poor sleeping habits may be standing in your way of living the life you want. Starting with the knowledge of the importance that sleep has on your mental health is crucial to make the necessary adjustments in your lifestyle and routine. Improving your attention towards sleep can not only alleviate mental illnesses but also greatly improve your overall health and well being.
Helping you achieve optimal sleep is a cornerstone of my approach to treatment. During our sessions, we will start with a thorough evaluation of your sleep and circadian rhythm and find effective ways to enhance your sleep so that you can function at your best.