Sleeping is no mean art: for its sake one must stay awake all day – Friedrich Nietzsche
Studies have proven that there is a strong link between good quality, 7-9 hour of sleep per night, and good mental health. In this article we are going to explore the problem of sleep deprivation when considering our mental health, what you can do to get a good night’s sleep and how sleep helps to keep us healthy.
Unfortunately, there is somewhat of a snowball effect when we explore the impact of worry and sleep. That is to say that, when we worry we sleep less and when we sleep less we worry. We need to discover a way to deal with the anxiety and worry as well as find a solution to our sleeping problems. Only then will we be able to sleep soundly and worry less (Mind.org.uk, 2016).
Sleep impacts your mental health in many ways. There are two categories of sleep which usually occur in approximate 90 minute cycles. These categories are quiet sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). During quiet sleep you body goes through physical changes as it repairs both the body and the mind. Your body temperature drops, muscles relax and your breathing and heart rate decrease (Harvard Publishing, 2019). Good quality, deep, quiet sleep involves physiological changes that help boost the immune system.
REM is the period of sleep where we dream. Physiological characteristics match those of when you are awake, and this REM sleep has been shown to increase brain function, improve memory and learning, and makes an important contribution towards emotional health (Harvard Publishing, 2019).
Sleep deprivation is a key cause of psychological disorders, as levels of stress hormones and neurotransmitters become the ultimate concern.
There are over 70 different types of sleep disorders. The most common being insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, various movement syndromes and narcolepsy.
Insomnia – habitual sleeplessness; inability to sleep.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea – a sleep-related breathing disorder that involves a decrease or complete halt in airflow despite an ongoing effort to breathe.
Movement Syndromes – clinical syndromes with either an excess of movement or a paucity of voluntary and involuntary movements, unrelated to weakness or spasticity.
Narcolepsy – a condition characterized by an extreme tendency to fall asleep whenever in relaxing surroundings.
It is evident that some 90% of people with depression suffer from insomnia. While bipolar sufferers experience a 69-90% increase in the level of insomnia during manic episodes, some 23-78% of bipolar patients suffer excessive sleep during depressive episodes. Sleep deprivation can result in manic episodes (Harvard Publishing, 2019).
Sleep problems affect more than 50% of people who have a generalised anxiety disorder. One study found that children with anxiety had both problems falling asleep and achieving a satisfactory quality of sleep.
Various sleep disorders impact 25-50% of children who suffer from ADHD. There is such a great correlation between ADHD symptoms and lack of sleep that it is difficult to separate them.
So, what can we do when the quality of our sleep deteriorates? You can make changes to your lifestyle, physical activities, sleep hygiene, adopt relaxation techniques and consider doing some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Lifestyle changes – most people know that caffein should be avoided before sleep, but it is also alcohol and nicotine that you need to circumvent if you want a good nights sleep. Alcohol depresses the nervous system, which initially aids in getting us to sleep, but the effect wears off after a couple of hours and the quality of our sleep deteriorates. Nicotine stimulates both your heart rate and your thinking. While abstaining completely is best, when you want to improve your sleep, cutting down you intake of caffein, alcohol and nicotine in the hours before sleep is essential.
Physical activity – This helps improve the quality of sleep, makes it easier to get to sleep and helps alleviate symptoms of awakening during sleep
Sleep hygiene – It has been suggested that people learn insomnia and therefore can learn good sleep hygiene. I have got into a sleep routine. I have one cold and a hot drink that aid sleep. I will use lavender drops on my pillow if I have especial trouble getting to sleep, but my drinks as well as my supplements Gaba and Mentat (Please note: I am not a Doctor and you should discuss things with your doctor before taking any supplements) are normally enough to give me a good nights sleep.
Relaxation techniques – meditation and deep breathing exercises are an absolute winner when it comes to sleep. Going through the muscles in you body and systematically tensing and relaxing muscles can help relieve racing thoughts symptoms and anxiety.
Sleep is the best meditation – Dalai Lama
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – therapy can help to combat the mental side of sleep disorder symptoms. You can start to think more positively about your capability to fall asleep, and therapy can also help you with the idea that you have to suffer, and blame a lack of sleep for your suffering during waking hours.
A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctors book – Irish Proverb
Humans are not supposed to be awake at night. People who do regular night shifts and are regularly awake at night are thought to be more prone to cancer and heart disease(Sleep Matters – The Impact of Sleep on Health and Wellbeing, 2019).
Good quality sleep improves your mood, gives you the energy you need to live healthily, improves cognitive and immune system function and should be considered as important as good diet and exercise. Until sleep deprivation is considered as a mainstream health problem then we can do little to change things.
Putting Stigma to Shame encourages our readers to make more people aware of the problems that poor quality and/or quantity of sleep has on the public at large. It can only contribute to a greater level of understanding and decrease in the amount of suffering for those who have, or live with someone who suffers from, a form of sleep deprivation.
We encourage you to sign up our Allies Page and start the conversation about mental health and sleep.
Until next time, sleep well!
The Putting Stigma to Shame Team 🙂
Mind.org.uk. (2016). Sleep problems | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems. [online] Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/sleep-problems/#.XRiTiS2ZMWo [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].
Harvard Publishing (2019). Sleep and mental health – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].
Sleepfoundation.org. (2019). The Complex Relationship Between Sleep, Depression & Anxiety | National Sleep Foundation. [online] Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/health-impact/complex-relationship-between-sleep-depression-anxiety [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].
Sleep Matters – The Impact of Sleep on Health and Wellbeing. (2019). Mental Health Foundation.