How is Sleep Related to Mental Health?
Sleep and mental health are closely linked. They tend to influence each other, so when you struggle with one, you’re likely to struggle with the other as well. When you’re depressed, anxious, or stressed, you may find it difficult to calm down, relax, and get the sleep you need and when you’re not able to sleep well, you’re not in a good place to deal with emotional challenges, as you may feel irritable and impatient or find it difficult to concentrate or retain information.
Sleep disorders are a major symptom of depression, and symptoms of sleep disorders can have a major impact on quality of life — they’re even a strong risk factor for suicide. Research shows that when sleep issues aren’t resolved while treating mental health, there is a risk factor for relapse and recurrence of mental health disorders.
Learn how mental health and sleep influence each other, and how you can take steps to improve both.
How Mental Health Affects Sleep?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than one half of insomnia cases are related to depression, anxiety, or psychological stress. Obsessive compulsive disorder is associated with poor sleep, and PTSD can cause nightmares.
How Sleep Affects Mental Health?
At the same time, poor sleep can put you at a greater risk of suffering from mental health disorders and make it more difficult to cope with symptoms. Treatments may be less effective as well.
Supporting Sleep and Mental Health
Treatment of mental health and sleep disorders is essential for improvement of symptoms, so you should talk to your doctor about how you can treat difficulties with mental health and sleep. But there are some steps you can take to support treatment and lay the foundation for good sleep and mental health.
Avoid sleep pitfalls
Make sure you’re not sabotaging sleep by avoiding bad habits. You should avoid screen time at least one hour before bed, and don’t consume caffeine late in the day, or you may be too stimulated to sleep well at night. Although alcohol or marijuana may help you relax and fall asleep, they’re not good choices before bed because you’ll experience less REM sleep and won’t get the deep, restorative sleep you need to fully recharge at night.
Maintain regular sleep habit
With regular sleep habits, your brain and body can benefit from consistency and know what to expect each night. You should keep a regular sleep schedule, going to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning, even on weekends and vacations. Go through the same bedtime routine each night, even if it’s extremely simple, so you can signal to your brain and body that sleep time is imminent and it’s time to start winding down.
Endorphins and activity can help with sleep and mood, and while hitting the gym isn’t a cure all, it can give you a boost to feel better. Physical activity is good for maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm because it signals to your brain and body that you’re being active, which is associated with daytime. Later, your body will be more prepared to wind down for night time, having understood that you were active during the day. Exercise can also help you feel more energetic if you’re struggling with sleep or feeling sluggish from depression. Endorphins trigger positive feelings, and some athletes describe the feelings following a good run or workout as euphoric.
Practice relaxation technique
Taking steps to combat stress and negative thoughts can be helpful for both sleep and mental health. Practice meditation or yoga (or both) before bed to wind down and give yourself a healthy mental place to get to sleep.
Give yourself a comfortable bedroom environment
Your bedroom should be a place where you feel calm, safe, and relaxed. Make sure you’re keeping it at a comfortable temperature and avoid clutter or bold design that may induce anxious feelings when you’re trying to get to sleep.
Research medication side effect
Medications taken for mental health or sleep disorders may have side effects that influence sleep quality or mental health, so it’s important to find out if that’s the case with any drugs you’re taking. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about alternatives if you’re experiencing unwanted side effects. Sleep medications should not be used long term.
Sleep and mental health often influence each other, and when you experience difficulty with one, you may have a hard time with the other as well. But that also means when you improve symptoms of mental health disorders or sleep disorders, you may also see improvement in symptoms of the other as well. Support good sleep and mental health with treatment, healthy sleep habits, and relaxation techniques.
Author: Alicia Sanchez
Alicia Sanchez is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com with a specialty in health and wellness. A Nashville native, Alicia finds the sound of summer storms so soothing that she still sleeps with recorded rain on her white noise machine.