The Critical Importance of Sleep for Mental Health

The critical importance of mental health

When you’re working on your mental health, sleep can be a big part of your overall recovery plan. There’s often a connection between anxiety, depression, ADHD and sleep — and when you’re dealing with a mental health condition, getting adequate rest is essential. 

A lack of sleep can also create a cycle of mental health episodes and restless nights. Insomnia and tiredness might make your condition worse, while issues like anxiety make it harder to fall or stay asleep. Read on to learn how to get better rest and tackle the mental health issues that affect your sleep patterns. 

How Poor Sleep Impacts Mental Health

Inadequate sleep can affect your ability to regulate your emotions, a key factor in maintaining mental health. Sleep helps reduce stress, and the brain replenishes critical neurochemicals while you rest.

People who get less than 6 hours of sleep a night are up to 2.5 times as likely to experience mental distress as those who get adequate sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers 7 hours of sleep or more per night as adequate sleep, but more than a third of the U.S. population doesn’t meet this sleep goal.

Negative Factors That Affect Sleep

Plenty of things can affect your ability to get good sleep, including existing mental health disorders. Here are a few of the external factors known to inhibit sleep:

  • Having an irregular sleep schedule
  • Spending time in bed while awake
  • Consuming caffeine or alcohol, especially near bedtime
  • Smoking
  • Exercising shortly before bedtime
  • Eating a large meal shortly before bedtime
  • Using digital devices, including cell phones or a laptop, right before bedtime

Mood also impacts the ability to fall asleep and remain sleeping throughout the night. If you feel upset, anxious or excited, you might have trouble getting to sleep, or you may wake up frequently during the night thinking about upcoming events in your life.

How Mental Health Disorders Can Lead to Poor Sleep

Individuals with specific mental health disorders may experience more problems with sleep than average. Specific links have been identified between depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD and sleep. In some cases, the symptoms of the mental health issue prevent restful sleep.

Anxiety and sleep issues are often interconnected. Someone with an anxiety disorder may stay awake worrying instead of drifting into dreamland, while a cycle of sleep anxiety can develop when someone becomes worried about an inability to fall asleep.

ADHD affects executive function, which can make it difficult to develop a regular bedtime schedule. A person with ADHD might also become hyper-focused on a task and forget to go to bed on time. 

In other cases, mental health issues might lead to excess sleep at inappropriate times. This is especially true for those who have depression and sleep problems. A person with depression might not want to get out of bed during the day, which could lead to sleeplessness at night. 

After a few sleepless nights, feelings of guilt and irritation may begin to develop. These unregulated emotions make it more difficult to address the underlying mental health problems.

Dealing With Anxiety, Depression, ADHD and Sleep

Developing and maintaining healthy sleep patterns is one of the best ways to ensure better rest. While certain mental health disorders make scheduling sleep harder, here are a few tricks and tips that could help you regulate your sleep:

Create a Conducive Sleeping Space

Being comfortable in your sleeping space is key to getting good sleep. Most people need darkness, quiet and a comfortable temperature to sleep effectively. Invest in comfortable bedding so nothing distracts you from snuggling into bed at night.

Part of having a soothing space for sleep involves removing distractions. Avoid putting a TV in your bedroom, and keep computers or other electronic gadgets out of that room. 

Purposeful relaxation is another technique you can use to encourage your brain to think of your bedroom as a tranquil space. Try meditating for 10 to 30 minutes before bedtime as part of your evening ritual leading up to sleep.

Scheduling Sleep With Alarms

Use alarms to set up your evening schedule and plan for bed. Set an alarm for about an hour before bedtime as a signal to turn off all digital technology and start getting ready for sleep. Another alarm 15 to 20 minutes before bedtime can let you know to make any final preparations, such as brushing your teeth or washing your face. Establishing a ritual of specific things you do right before bedtime helps your body anticipate that the next step in the process involves actually falling asleep.

You might also want to set an alarm about four hours before bed as a reminder to halt other activities that could interfere with sleep later in the night. By four hours before bedtime, you should have completed any exercise you plan to do that day and stopped any consumption of alcohol or caffeine. You might also want to avoid any large meals or snacks after this point.

Remember to schedule a consistent wake-up time as well as a consistent bedtime, since a regular daytime routine can help with both sleep and mental health. Plan for at least 7 hours of sleep every day and stick to that schedule as much as possible.

Tracking Your Sleep Patterns and Emotions

Since extreme emotions have a strong effect on mental health and sleep, consider keeping a journal at your bedside to record your thoughts and feelings before you go to sleep each night. Getting your emotions out in writing helps you deal with the things on your mind instead of letting them invade your sleep.

Tracking your sleep patterns is another good idea if you tend to wake up frequently during the night. Jot down the time you woke up along with any strong emotions or thoughts you had at the time. You can bring your journal to therapy appointments to work through any issues that might be keeping you awake at night. 

If you’ve been dealing with mental health issues that affect your sleep, help is available. Reach out to Restore at (877) 594-3566  to learn more about your options. Counselors are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to take your call, so contact us today.