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The Impact of Sleep on Our Mental Health

Do you spend your nights awake, counting sheep? If you suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders, you are not alone. Chronic sleep problems affect 10-20% of adults across the U.S., and 50-80% of individuals diagnosed with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Sleep deprivation affects our psychological state, so it is no wonder that sleep and mental health are closely connected.

The Daylight-Saving Time Disruption

Last weekend, on Sunday, March 14, 2021, at 2A.M., most Americans lost an hour of sleep due to Daylight Saving Time, also known as “spring forward.” According to sleep scientists, the cells in our bodies keep track of time, meaning that changes in our sleep patterns can trigger stress in our brains, causing sleep deprivation, disorientation, and even memory loss. Sleep disruptions can markedly affect our moods and can cause an increased risk of mental illness and vice versa. Of course, one season of time-change is unlikely to cause these issues, but it is important to be mindful of how sleep, or lack thereof, affects our overall health.

We Spend One-Third of Our Life Sleeping

Sleep is essential. It is as important to our bodies as eating, drinking, and breathing. Sleep is vital to maintaining good mental and physical health, and it enhances our recovery from mental and physical exertion. One of the first signs of mental distress can be revealed as sleep disturbances, which can include lethargy, tiredness, interrupted sleep, or significant sleep deprivation.

Dr. Imad Melhem, Chief Medical Officer at Diversus Health, says, “Stress is commonly associated with sleep disturbances. COVID-19 has amplified stress levels felt by the general population over the past year. It is likely that more people may struggle with sleep deprivation or sleep disturbances than in other years.”

We can all benefit from improving the quality of our sleep. For many of us, making minor lifestyle adjustments can help us improve our sleep habits. Individuals suffering from insomnia or other sleep disturbances may find that lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep affects their mood, energy, concentration levels, as well as relationships and the ability to function at work or during important activities in their lives.

Simple Ways to Improve Our Sleep Hygiene & Habits

Common sleep problems can be categorized as poor sleep hygiene. Dr. Melhem says, “Improvements in sleep settings and habits can help reduce disruptions to our sleep schedules.” The following list of examples can be used to cultivate healthier sleep habits:

1. Have a set bedtime to help maintain a steady sleep cycle.

2. Adjust the light, noise, and temperature in your bedroom.

3. Find ways to wind-down before bed, such as engaging in relaxation techniques like listening to ASMR or, for some people, reading a chapter from a book.

4. Modify your eating and drinking routines. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and other stimulating substances in the evening.

5. Add an exercise routine to your agenda. Getting regular exercise and natural light exposure during the day can help you get better sleep at night.

6. Get a comfortable mattress, bedding, and pillows that support your body.

7. Meditate or practice slow and steady breathing techniques that can calm your mind at bedtime.

Reach Out for Help

Every individual’s sleep problem is different, so treatment for sleep problems and mental health problems vary from one person to another. Sleep conditions can have a major impact on an individual’s quality of life, which is why it is important to receive proper care by working with a trained health professional. Our mental health providers at Diversus Health can work with you to identify the correct cause of the problem and recommend the appropriate approach for treatment as well as review the potential risks and benefits of different treatments, including prescription medications.

If you or someone you know is suffering from sleep problems, contact us at Diversus Health to schedule an appointment today. If you are in a crisis and need immediate assistance, contact our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.

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