Decades of research strongly suggests that the role of good sleep is paramount for physical and mental health.
Sleep deprivation can cause irritability, exhaustion in the short term, as well as leaving behind long term health troubles.
In fact, poor sleeping patterns are also linked to an increase in risks of depression and anxiety, ADHD, mood swings, and even paralyzing nightmares.
Mental health and sleep are intrinsically connected. Lack of proper rest may play a significant role in development and maintenance of different mental health issues.
By fixing your sleeping habits and taking necessary precautions, you can keep your stresses and mental health concerns at bay.
Your daily routine, environment, nutrition, and habits can greatly affect your sleeping cycles and in turn your mental health.
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Increase in Stress Levels
If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed in the late hours of the night, without a break, then you are surely suffering from the disruptive effects of sleep deprivation.
Lack of sleep may increase feelings of irritability and anger, which makes even the mildest of stresses difficult to cope with.
Poor sleep can make daily hassles feel like catastrophic problems with no solutions and you may even feel frazzled, annoyed, frustrated, and short-tempered over petty concerns.
This only becomes worse with a persistently bad sleep cycle, as it triggers higher stress levels, and you may find routine tasks difficult or even impossible to complete.
Stress can also deeply affect your existing relationships and hinders the possibility of meeting new people.
Poor sleeping patterns and depression go hand in hand. Insomnia is a strong symptom of depression and may exacerbate it with time.
Approximately 21 different research findings discuss that people who suffer from insomnia also have a two-fold risk of suffering from severe depressive thoughts over those who sleep well at night.
Psychological health can be improved by treating insomnia. In another research that studied over 3,700 participants, it was discovered that poor sleeping patterns had an impact on symptoms of anxiety, depression, and paranoia.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was effective in treating insomnia and researchers found that participants who received this therapy showed reduction in depression, paranoia, anxiety, and even nightmares.
Proper sleep through the night also improved their overall health and well-being, including mood and ability to complete routine home and work tasks.
The ability to deal with everyday problems and stresses is strongly hampered when you are not getting the sleep you need.
This lowers your resilience and prevents you from approaching daily problems from a different perspective.
With an abundance of new information, workload, relationship expectations, etc., we need a healthy mind and body to face every challenge, but for that our body needs its vital ‘reset’ and rejuvenation time.
To process the influx of sensory information every day, we need emotional and physical resilience.
A study carried for 37 years on military veterans discovered that a good night’s sleep was the most accurate sign of mental resilience.
Hence, without a healthy sleep cycle, you may find petty everyday problems as severely daunting.
The relationship between anxiety and poor sleep goes in both directions. People with anxiety suffer more strongly with a disturbed sleeping cycle, and sleep deprivation causes intense feelings of anxiety.
This destructive cycle can perpetuate and deteriorate your mental health rapidly.
Experts found that difficulties in falling asleep was an early symptom of developing anxiety disorder in children and teenagers between the ages of 9 and 16.
People who suffer from poor sleep or insomnia are likely to develop an anxiety condition, especially if these problems persist over a long period of time and are left untreated.
Without ample rest, coping with bubbling anxiety becomes much more difficult as your body is sapped of its energy thanks to the chronic sleep disturbances.
Even seemingly healthy people may experience negative mental health effects of sleep deprivation.
It was found that acute sleep deprivation can lead to greater anxiety and distress levels in healthy adults.
Despite a healthy lifestyle, you may still suffer from poor sleep which may escalate feelings of anxiety and leave you agitated and distraught throughout the night and day.
Poor Decision Making
A sleep deprived mind is unable to make wise decisions. Sleep deprivation may cause you to take unnecessary risks or act against your better judgement.
You may commit to things against your moral or ethical code because your brain is unable to rationalize and contemplate on the pros and cons of everyday actions.
Our prefrontal cortex helps us in forming rational and practical decisions based on our ethical values.
However, those who suffer from poor sleeping patterns are often susceptible to making poor choices that may even have severe consequences.
When emotions are running high, your brain simply cannot make a logical decision, and this is a direct symptom of insufficient sleep.
Poor sleep can also affect our willpower and self-control. You may find yourself unable to refuse even the mildest of temptations like an extra high calorie slice of cake, or another glass of alcohol.
This also explains why poor sleep may lead to bad eating habits and even eating disorders. Our prefrontal cortex needs appropriate resting periods to make logical and sound decisions.
Rapid Mood Changes
The brain’s prefrontal cortex and amygdala are responsible for regulating our emotions. Insomnia or poor sleeping habits immensely impacts the performance of these two areas.
The prefrontal cortex is susceptible to developing decrements due to sleep deprivation and this prevents the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex from properly functioning together.
This may cause emotional bursts and difficulties in controlling emotions, thereby increasing negative feelings that are more challenging to control.
The more negative emotions we face, the stronger our mood swings. This turns into a vicious, repetitive cycle that causes emotional volatility and vulnerability.
As your mind is constantly tired due to lack of sleep, it is unable to regulate emotions and you may feel increasingly irritable and grumpy.
MRI tests prove that when we get proper sleep, our prefrontal cortex and amygdala function together in harmony with the prior acting as an emotional steering wheel that keeps the latter from losing control.
Sleep deprived individuals may become angry within moments.
The National Sleep Foundation claims that drivers who do not get proper nightly sleep are likely to display severe road rage in traffic jams and get in altercations with other drivers on the road.
How to Sleep Better
Sleep on the right pillow
You may notice a drastic improvement in sleep quality when you find your perfect pillow.
Worn out, synthetic pillows may be preventing you from getting the rest you need and might even cause neck pains, and persistent headaches.
Sleeping on the right pillow can supply you with the ease and comfort that relaxes your body and keeps stress away.
If you wake up feeling groggy and restless, then it may be time to invest in a better pillow that keeps your body cool during the night and helps you sleep peacefully.
Body pillows can also improve quality of sleep, especially if you suffer from anxiety and restlessness.
By hugging a soft, U or J-shaped body pillow, you can channel your anxieties and worries out and feel comforted by its soft embrace.
Doing some research on the pillow types that suit you best can be incredibly helpful.
Increased comfort levels that allow you to relax and set your worries aside can significantly reduce anxiety and break its vicious cycle.
Reduce Your Exposure to Light
If you find falling asleep challenging when you are scrolling through social media on your phone, it is because of melatonin.
Melatonin is the naturally occurring hormone that is affected by light exposure and helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm.
You feel sleepy at night because it is dark, and your brain produces more melatonin when it is dark. When it is light, you feel alert and active as there is less melatonin.
Modern aspects of life can significantly alter melatonin production in our bodies and interfere with the circadian rhythm.
This is most noticeable when we use our phones during the night and are unable to sleep due to the screen’s light exposure.
Before you know it, hours have gone by as you scroll through and still cannot feel tired.
To ensure better sleep cycles, it is recommended to avoid using smartphones or other smart screens at least thirty minutes before bed.
This allows sufficient melatonin production, signaling the body that it is time for rest.
Incorporate Exercise During the Day
There is no alternative to daily exercise. People who exercise during the day also sleep better at night and wake up feeling rejuvenated and well-rested.
They also feel less sleep during the day. Daily exercise is extremely effective against symptoms of insomnia, sleep apnea, and even depressive thoughts.
A steady workout routine increases the time you spend in the restorative stage of sleep, hence eliciting the feeling of activeness and vigor.
You do not need a professional gym workout session to reap the many sleep benefits of daily exercise. A simple ten-minute walk daily can positively impact your sleep cycle.
Patience is also vital as it may take several months before you experience deep sleep-promoting effects of exercise, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Get Checked for Sleep Disorders
Sometimes, what keeps you awake at night is not something you can control—for example, sleep disorders. If you’re having breathing and snoring problems during sleep, you could be one of the tens of millions of people in the United States who have sleep apnea.
In obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the muscles that hold the soft tissues in your throat temporarily relax during sleep, causing you to stop breathing for several seconds. This can occur multiple times during the course of your sleep.
When left untreated, OSA can lead to complications and even death. To treat this condition, doctors prescribe continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy using a CPAP machine with CPAP supplies (learn more here), such as masks, tubes, and nasal pillows.
The machine and supplies provide a steady supply of pressurized air down the user’s airway to keep the throat from collapsing and alleviate breathing problems. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with your doctor or a sleep specialist immediately.