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How Mental Health Influences Your Sleep and Vice Versa
Presented by BetterHelp. Read ON!
It’s not uncommon to feel a little grumpy or particularly agitated in the morning after you don’t get enough rest the night before. Many people claim they don’t have enough caffeine in their system or that they “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” if they seem irritated with those around them. But will coffee and a good dream really help you if you consistently don’t get enough sleep?
The quality of your sleep actually directly influences your mental health. If you’re experiencing insomnia, nightmares, or poor rest several nights in a row or even just on a regular basis, it can impact the way you’re feeling throughout the day. Coincidentally, your mental health can also have an impact on how well you sleep at night. If both are in poor condition, it can turn into a vicious cycle that seemingly never ends.
The Cycle of Sleep and Mental Health Influences:
Poor Sleep Impacting Mental Health:
Your brain activity fluctuates as you’re sleeping, correlating with your sleep cycles and how deeply you’re falling into slumber. The stages of sleep influence your overall brain health because of activity in each part of the brain increases and decreases throughout the night. While this contributes to areas like your memory and response time, it also plays a role in your emotional and mental health.
According to research, because sleep contributes to your emotional processing, not getting enough rest prevents you from consolidating positive memories. This directly ties into your "emotional reactivity", which can also influence the severity of your mental health disorders. Studies also showed that sleep abnormalities correlated with the influence and disturbance of a person's mood. On the other side, better sleep helped to improve mood throughout the day and subsequent sleep patterns after that.
Poor Mental Health Reducing Quality Sleep:
On the other hand, your mental health also plays a significant role in the quality of your sleep. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and high stress affect your ability to fall into a deeper sleep, which is necessary for the fluctuation of brain activity mentioned earlier. Your heart rate and breathing rate are typically increased with stress-inducing conditions, which take longer to regulate as you're trying to go to sleep.
Some mental health conditions can even directly influence sleep disturbances. For example, bipolar disorder can either induce insomnia or extreme fatigue, depending if the person is in a manic or depressive state. When meeting with your mental health care provider, it’s important to discuss the role of sleep in relation to any mental health conditions you’re trying to treat. They could either be contributing to your wrecked sleep schedule, or your poor sleep quality could be increasing the risk of developing symptoms.
Managing a Balance to Improve Both
Starting with the obvious suggestions first, you’re going to want to make sure you’re getting enough sleep every night. That means making sure you’re in bed on time every night to ensure you have at least six to nine hours of sleep. In many cases, you may need to add an hour or two to that time just to make sure you’re actually sleeping for long enough. For example, if you have to get up at 6 AM but it takes you an hour to actually fall asleep, you’re most likely going to want to be in bed by 10 PM to get a solid eight hours of rest.
On top of keeping your sleep schedule in line, you should also monitor your stress levels before bed - plus, right when you wake up. How you start your day mentally greatly influences the rest of your day. Many people make the mistake of grabbing their phone right when they wake up and scrolling through the news or social media.
You may believe that this is giving you time to fully wake up and get enough energy to get ready, but what it’s more than likely doing is making you anxious and irritated. If there’s something negative going on in the news, arguments on Facebook, or pictures from your friends giving you FOMO, your phone is the reason for your grumpy behavior when you walk into the office.
Get the Latest & Recommended articles in your InboxMaking sure you get enough sleep and trying to reduce your stress and anxiety before bed can help balance the two systems out. When you’re well-rested and energized, you’re more likely to remain focused for longer periods of time, maintain motivation, and be more optimistic.
Similarly, if you’re avoiding negative or stressful thoughts before you go to bed, you’re less likely to have a fitful evening of tossing and turning (this includes scary movies before bedtime!) If you’re experiencing poor mental health and a lack of rest, it may be time to take a closer look at how the two are impacting you throughout the day.
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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 21st August 2022.