Sleep and Mental Health: Give Your Brain a Chance

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Sleep and mental health are linked, and this woman is sleeping heavily.
March 12, 2024

We’ve all been there: As we lay in bed, wide awake in the middle of the night, we think to ourselves, “Should I look at the clock?” We engage in that debate for seemingly hours before we do ultimately look, only to see that we have to be ready to launch into our day in a few short hours. It’s not a good feeling, but it’s also a situation that can inflict damage. The link between quality of sleep and mental health is strong and direct, and unfortunately too many people are not starting their days with a full storage of energy.

As we continue our ongoing look at mental health self-care, we cannot progress very far before we get to sleep or our lack of it as it relates to our mental health. We all know that getting enough sleep and quality sleep is important, but all of us also understand that making sure this happens is much easier said than done. Below we’re going to dig into this issue that’s a problem for millions of people across the country. We hope that the information we provide helps some to improve their sleep quality and, ultimately, their mental health.

Sleep and Mental Health: The Baseline

As you may expect, the amount of sleep that a person needs varies based on several factors including age. According to Sleep Foundation, an average adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep per night. While that may seem like a manageable number, those of us out there who work all the time, have kids, pets and other “life” things to manage understand that more often than not, 7 hours is nothing more than a pipe dream. Even if we are physically in bed for 7 hours, we are not actually sleeping that much.

Sleep and Mental Health: The Statistical Reality

The news regarding the state of sleep for American adults is not good. According to the National Institutes of Health and the CDC, a full one-third of people in this age group report not getting enough sleep on a daily basis. That equates to more than 80 million people. This also includes 50 – 70 million Americans who have chronic, ongoing sleep disorders, and it does not include the countless people who have some sort of sleep disorder that has not been diagnosed.

Sleep and Mental Health: The Connection

While the specific link between sleep and mental health is still being established with ongoing studies, countless pieces of research exist that show that sleep deprivation has at least a statistical link to mental health challenges. What remains unclear to this point is whether one causes the other, vice versa or neither.

That said, everyone basically understands that a poor night of sleep will lead to fatigue, irritability or even anxiety the following day. Prolonged or chronic lack of sleep has been linked to mental health challenges that include depression and anxiety. It should come as no surprise, then, that sleep is a vital component to proper mental health.

Sleep and Mental Health: Some Ideas for Preventative Care

Given that sleep and mental health are related, it’s always a good idea to take stock of your own situation if you feel that you’re not getting enough sleep or enough quality sleep. Managing your sleep is no different than managing your diet or your exercise routine, and ignoring it will only lead to not only mental, but also physical problems.

Almost no matter what source you review, the recommendations for building and maintaining a sound and restorative sleep routine are similar. Below are a few ideas to consider if you’ve decided to focus on improving your sleep routine.

1.      Set a Bed Time

Yes, we are all very busy, and setting a bed time may seem all but impossible. However, parents do so for their children, and even if that bedtime is at 11 p.m., the simple step of having that time in place will help people prioritize sleep more than they would otherwise.

2.      Unplug

The average American adult spends hours every day on some sort of electronic device. Whether it’s a phone, tablet, laptop or television, the blue light technology and the stimuli created by these devices tricks our brains into a more intense level of functioning. Turn them off about an hour before your bedtime if at all possible.

3.      Have a Healthy Snack If Necessary

A lot of sources will tell you not to eat anything for at least a couple of hours before you go to bed. While that is optimal in many situations, some people simply need something to settle their stomachs so they don’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night. If that includes you, have something light such as a piece of fruit, as that will satisfy most people and not create other problems.

4.      Read a Book

When’s the last time you read a book, even for a few minutes? If it’s been too long to even remember, perhaps you could consider spending just 15 minutes doing so sometime soon. What you may find is that reading a book will lead you to immerse yourself into the story you’re reading. It’s also generally known that reading before bedtime helps calm your mind and relax you before sleep. Unlike reading devices with harmful blue light technology, a book is just you and the words on the page.

5.      Clear Your Mind

Finally, if you really want to sweep the day and your troubles under the proverbial rug, take some time for mindful meditation. This isn’t as difficult as it seems, and studies have shown that taking this step provides several advantages with regards to getting a good night’s sleep.

How SoCal Empowered Can Help

Ultimately, building a sleep routine does require a bit of a commitment, but like anything else, good sleep is habit-forming. After you engage in whatever steps you find helpful before your bedtime, it won’t be long before you find that these steps are just a part of your day. The importance of sleep cannot be overstated, and as your sleep improves, it’s likely your physical and mental health will as well.

If you or a loved one is struggling to the point where a more involved level of intervention is required, then you need to contact our team of mental health professionals at SoCal Empowered. We’re here to help, and we’re ready to work with you to figure out the best steps forward.

Contact us today if you need someone to listen.

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