How Sleep Impacts Our Mental Wellbeing. And Vice Versa

The relationship that exists between the quality of our sleep and our mental wellbeing is a close one. Either of the two can have an adverse impact on the other. Poor sleep can affect our mental health, causing us to worry and experience anxiety. In turn, this leads to a further decline in the quality of our sleep. The result is that we feel tired and sluggish the next day, and it is this lethargy that makes recovering from mental health issues even more difficult. It can also mean that treatments are less efficient.

Because of the link between poor sleep and mental health issues, chronic sleep difficulties are seen as a major indicator of potential or undiagnosed conditions, and they should never be ignored. Here are a few ways in which mental health can have an adverse impact on our sleep:

 

Anxiety

 

Our waking hours provide us with ample opportunities to distract ourselves from unsettling thoughts that could be the forerunners of anxiety. But when we go to bed and things go quiet our mind is free to roam. Thoughts start to 'race' through our heads and no matter how tired we are, we just can’t seem to ‘switch off’. We worry about anything and everything, including how we'll get through the next day after a poor night's rest.

 

Depression

 

Depression can lead to us sleeping too much. This is because when we're depressed our body encourages us to withdraw and we will often prefer being alone. Our body achieves this by making us feel exhausted, and by encouraging excessive sleep. People with depression will experience tiredness all of the time and will feel a strong urge to sleep during the day. On the other hand, people with depression can also find themselves frequently waking up and are unable to go back to sleep. This leaves them feeling even more exhausted the following day.

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

 

PTSD can cause nightmares and vivid flashbacks that keep sufferers awake during the night. People with PTSD are often afraid of going to bed, so they avoid sleeping as much as possible, a situation that frequently leads to insomnia.

 

Panic Disorder

 

People with a panic disorder may experience frequent attacks throughout the night. They can wake up feeling clammy and short of breath and might even need to leave their bed to get some fresh air before they can calm down again. This creates a pattern that leads them to associate the bed with fear, which again opens the door to insomnia.

 

What You Can Do

 

First and foremost; if you suffer from a chronic lack of sleep, poor sleep quality, or if you can identify yourself in any of the situations mentioned above, you should seek out a health professional ASAP. If you are already consulting a doctor for a mental health issue and you feel that lack of sleep is impacting your recovery, or if you suspect your condition is the cause of your sleep loss, here are some tips that can help you get a better night’s sleep.

 

Clear Your Mind Before You Get into Bed

 

It is difficult for us to be rational in the middle of the night, and lying awake when it seems like everyone else is sound asleep can make us feel very lonely. This scenario is an invitation to depression and anxiety. Even people without mental health problems can find themselves staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night. Almost inevitably, their thoughts turn to the past and worries about the future.

 

Allocating a daily, 20-minute time slot to write down everything that is on your mind, along with anything that is likely to cause you to worry during the night, can help alleviate the situation. This method is a therapeutic way of 'closing down' your anxiety before you retire to your bed.

 

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

 

CBT is about learning to manage your anxiety or panic during your normal awake time. It can also help negate their impact at night. CBT, as with other techniques like Mindfulness, can train your brain to recognise negative thoughts and help you push them away. It can equip you with a variety of long term skills that will enable you to improve and manage your anxiety and your moods. There are many available resources online, as well as books in your local library to help you master these techniques. Psychological Services are also available from the NHS. Ask your GP for a referral.

 

Create a Sleep Routine

 

A regular sleep routine helps prepare your body for sleep by synchronising your body clock. To create a sleep routine that works best, you should try keeping a sleep diary. Document your sleep times and make sure you stick to the same sleep schedule every night.

 

You should get up at the same time every morning. Setting your alarm and getting up as soon as it goes off can help improve your mood. Also, avoid the temptation to spend lots of time in bed during the day. This can disrupt your sleep pattern by making you feel less sleepy at night.

 

Another tip that can help is to keep your bedroom for sleeping. If you do find yourself lying in bed feeling anxious or sad then get up and go to another room. Watch TV or read a book in another part of the house until you feel sleepy again, then go back to bed.

 

Consider Medical Treatment

 

If your sleep loss has reached the chronic stage, it's important to remember that support is available. There is no need to struggle with your mental health concerns alone. Talk to your GP and they will explain your options and can prescribe medicine and treatments to help get your sleeping habits back on track.

 

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