Sleep and Mental Health

A troubled man holds his heal in deep thought. - 1/18/2022

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 Americans is not getting sufficient sleep. Healthy sleep habits are essential to good mental health. If you’re asking how so, read on. 

The bottom line is that you make better decisions and enjoy better overall well-being when your brain is rested. Did you know that approximately 50% of insomnia cases are related to depression, anxiety or psychological stress? Harvard Health Publishing reported in August 2021, that 50 to 80 % of psychiatric patients reported chronic sleep problems compared to 10 to 18 % of patients in the general U.S. Population. It’s reported that sleep deprivation can increase mental distress by as much as 2.5 times more. Furthermore, poor sleep can cause you to feel irritated, and you may even snap at loved ones. Over time, such behavior can erode at your most treasured relationships. 

According to the CDC, good sleep can prevent worsening effects felt by depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, but it involves much more than just closing your eyes for 8 hours. A lot happens to your body while you sleep. Our bodies experience healing cycles during sleep, that make sure we feel good while we’re awake. The psychological reactions that occur while we sleep encourage optimal brain function, but lack of sleep contributes to poor cognition. According to a 2018 study neural connections are strengthened during restful sleep. 

You don’t have to look far to know what the benefits are: 

  • Increased energy
  • Improved mental health 
  • Better cognition 
  • Good mood
  • Positive relationships

Understanding what good sleep is and how to get into the habit is the first step. Let’s start with the recommended amount of sleep based on age.

Proper sleep for healthy development at different ages of our lives:

Infants: 12 to 16 hours a day

Toddlers/preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours a day

Children 6 to 12 years old: 10 hours a day

Teens: 8 to 10 hours a day

Adults: 7 to 9 hours a day

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

Good sleep habits that work if you stick with them:

  • Create a calm sanctuary that encourages rest and relaxation.
  • Disconnect from technology before bedtime. 
  • Avoid screen time, and instead opt for soothing music.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. 
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugar consumption before bedtime. 
  • Exercise regularly to release feel-good hormones.
  • Avoid exercise right before bedtime.
  • Reserve your bed for sleep – no gaming or laptop work projects. 
  • Avoid alcohol consumption at bedtime or as a means to fall asleep.