Sleep isn’t just a time to reset and recharge after a long day, our sleep patterns also have a profound effect on our mental well-being. Just as a toddler’s mood may plummet when in need of a nap, adults can also become cranky when the quality and quantity of our sleep wanes. When the pressures of adult life leave us feeling overwhelmed, sleep is a remedy to calm the inward (and sometimes outward) tantrums that may be brewing inside us.
Many adults fail to prioritize getting high quality sleep. In turn, their physical and mental health can suffer. Having an overdrawn emotional bank account is a direct effect of chronic sleep deprivation.
For example, you find yourself working overtime to land a new client account. You know that sleep is important, but you’re willing to make the sacrifice in exchange for a substantial raise and a status boost in your company.
While on the surface, your determination to succeed is admirable, sleep deprivation can take its toll on your success in the long run. Maybe you begin lacking patience with your family, reacting more harshly than usual, or feeling lackluster about the day ahead. On the commute to and from work, you might find yourself becoming easily agitated with traffic. Before long, client deadlines feel like mountains to move, and details begin to slip through the cracks. Was your sleep sacrifice really worth it?
“You’re putting energy in the bank when you go to sleep,” says Barry Krakow, MD, medical director of Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences, Ltd. in Albuquerque, N.M., and author of Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: 7 Keys to Sleeping Through the Night. “On a cellular level, the body is literally repairing and restoring itself. Without it, you can’t do what you want- physically or mentally.”
Are you not sleeping because of stress or are you stressed because you’re not sleeping? Maybe both as the sleep/stress relationship is highly intertwined. Both stress and sleep deprivation can lead to depression; in fact, people who are diagnosed with mental health disorders present with signigicant sleep challenges. Yet, it remains uncertain whether their diagnoses create an atmosphere that makes sleep evasive or whether a lack of sleep contributes to their state of unsound mental health.
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Sleep and Mental Health (as presented in the Harvard Newsletter) indicates, “Chronic sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population. Sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)”.
The Huffington Post features an article that illustrates how the sleep debt may have a reciprocal relationship with mental health diagnoses. While sleep isn’t necessarily a cure-all for mental illness, it may help to alleviate a patient’s associated symptoms. Conversely, when any person is well rested, they experience better cognitive function, are less irritable, and more motivated. If you’ve been neglecting your emotional wellness, getting better sleep is one surefire way to turn things around. Keep reading for ways you can improve the quality of your sleep.
Have you noticed feeling down on days that you’re not well rested? What have you done to prioritize sleep and mental well-being in your own life?