The importance of sleep for our health is overlooked far too often. According to the Government of Canada, 1 in 3 adults aged 35 – 64 are not getting the recommended amount of sleep and 1 in 2 adults experience trouble going to sleep or staying asleep. Why is a poor sleep schedule a problem?
Did you know that adults who do not get sufficient sleep are over twice as likely to report having poor mental health? This leads me to the purpose of this blog post; sleep and your mental health. Let’s take a focused look into the ways that poor sleep can impact your mental health and the steps you can take to improve your quality of sleep.
Functionality & Work
It’s expected for us to feel foggy from time to time (general lack of alertness, sharpness, and slowed down reactions) with the amount of work our brains go through daily. But if this feeling starts to become a normality, we must step back and review our lifestyle choices. Here are three examples of how a lack of sleep can impede mental function:
- Lack of Focus: Sleep deprivation makes it harder for our brains to focus on a singular target. This impacts our ability to learn and translate information that is given to us.
- Impaired Memory: Our sleep cycle plays a vital role in keeping our short-term memory strong. Lack of sleep cause forgetfulness and confusion.
- Slowed Processes: The overall reduction of inattentiveness, alertness and reduced reaction time mean all processes are being slowed down. These processes play a role in daily performance (work, family, and recreation).
Mood & Health
Let’s review the relationship between sleep and our mental health/mood. Insufficient sleep can cause temporary spikes in agitation, irritability, and stress. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to serious mental health developments such as depression. Here are three examples of how a chronic lack of sleep can lead to long term issues:
- Depression: Studies show a direct correlation between lack of sleep and the likelihood of experiencing depression. The two build off each other making the situation worse together.
- Anxiety: Similar to that of depression, anxiety, and lack of sleep tends to build off one another making both issues worse until one has been addressed. Studies have shown that insufficient sleep can trigger more frequent episodes of anxiety and vice versa.
- Anger & Irritability: Sleep deprivation can cause a deterioration in our ability to control our anger and irritability. Everyday experiences can trigger an episode of anger that would otherwise be controllable.
Improve Your Sleep
Fortunately, there are steps we can take to help improve our sleep frequency and quality. Here are four examples of actions you can take to impact your sleep hygiene positively:
- Overuse of Stimulants: Consuming large caffeinated beverages (coffee, pop, etc.) or other forms of artificial energy throughout the day will harm your quality of sleep. There are many natural alternatives to adding more energy throughout the day.
- Introducing a Routine: Routines have shown to help mitigate stress levels and improve relaxation. This will embed healthy habits such as having a proper bedtime, avoiding prolonged naps, and tackling stressful tasks when most alert.
- Putting Down the Devices: Studies have shown that using our devices close to bedtime creates enough stimuli to make it hard to relax and fall asleep. It’s important to set limits between you and your devices when it is time to sleep.
- Visit a Medical Professional: If lifestyle changes are not making a meaningful and lasting change to your ability to sustain sleep, it is time to seek the help of a medical professional.