Sleeping Your Path To Mental Health

Dr. Craig Hudson, MD | April 7, 2016

We used to think of insomnia and sleep deprivation as strictly a symptom of common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety disorders. In recent years however, researchers have begun to shift their views about the importance of sleep for maintaining a healthy mind. While it has yet to be proven conclusively that insomnia can be a cause of mental illness, most researchers agree that there is a strong link between getting enough shut eye and preserving your mental health.

Can Insomnia Really Hurt Your Mental Health?

Sleep is like hitting the reset button for the brain. While you slumber, your body uses this time to repair and restore brain cells. Without an adequate amount of deep sleep, your brain doesn’t have enough time to properly repair itself.

So, what happens when you don’t get enough sleep? How does your body respond? Most insomniacs will experience several repercussions due to lack of sleep throughout their waking hours. You might be tempted to brush them off as unimportant or of minimal concern, but you should be thinking about them as signs that your mental health is in jeopardy.

  • Mental Fatigue— A night of tossing and turning can often leave your brain frazzled the next morning. Difficulty concentrating can impact your decision-making abilities.
  • Emotional Lows— Irritability, grumpiness, anxiousness and mood swings are common with sleep deprivation.
  • Physical Fatigue and Changing Habits— Drowsiness and tiredness are physical symptoms commons experienced. These symptoms may also cause you to change your daily routine and miss out on events and your normal activities.
  • These by-products of insomnia are often closely related to mental illnesses like depression. An estimated 60-90% of patients with depression report also suffering from insomnia, while 20% of those people report suffering from sleep apnea. Insomnia is typically considered to be a chronic problem if it persists for more than two weeks.

    Steps for Health Sleeping Habits and a Happy Mind

  • Establish a routine and make the time to go to sleep and the time you wake up consistent each day. Before long, you’ll find yourself habitually getting sleepy at the same time every night.
  • Exercise at least four hours before bed. Exercise can be great for getting rid of excess energy and getting a night of restful sleep, but it can also give you a temporary boost of wakefulness, so avoid working out before bed.
  • Avoid morning napping and sleeping in late. Sleeping during your waking hours can actually impact the quality of sleep you get at night.
  • Sleep deprivation can be extremely disruptive to mental health. With the incorporation of healthy sleeping habits, the mental and physical symptoms of insomnia should subside.