Insomnia driving you crazy?
Tips on getting better night’s sleep and the connection to mental health for National Sleep Awareness Week
By Angela Poch, CLC, CN.
Type the words “sleep & mental health” into Google and you’ll get article after article from reputable sources relating how important sleep is to our mental well-being. From medical journals to blogs by psychologists, the interconnection between body and mind play out very closely when it comes to sleep and poor mental health.
While the studies of neurochemistry and neuroscience are still in infancy, researchers are discovering some very real connections between sleep and mental stability, or lack thereof.
“There are some studies in both children and adults are suggesting that a lack of proper sleep may raise risk for, an even directly contribute to some psychiatric disorders And that treating the sleep disorder may actually help alleviate symptoms of the mental health problems caused by that sleep disturbance.” (Harvard Health 2009)
Depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar, Schizophrenia, PTSD, and psychosis, just to name a few of the disorders studied in relation to sleep. Up to 80% of the people who have these disorders also have sleep problems and while it’s been long thought there was some kind of correlation, now scientists are starting to see an actual causal relationship. That means lack of sleep is actually contributing to the disorder itself. (Scott 2017)
Just one statistic reports, people with insomnia are twice as likely to develop depression as those who sleep normally. (Khawja MD 2017) This is it to say sleep alone will cure all these diseases, but the more we can make a positive choice, the more we get a handle on each aspect of health, the more we can improve both our physical and mental health.
So what constitutes a good nights sleep? Is there a set number of hours you should sleep? What time is best? How do you get a good quality of sleep? The answers to all these questions are important so let’s dive into each one.
A good night’s sleep is one where you fall asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed, don’t wake more than a couple times during the night, more than 20 minutes awake during those periods of time, you spend 85% or more of time asleep while in bed, you don’t need an alarm to wake you up, and you feel rested in the morning.
Most sleep experts agree seven to eight hours is the optimal amount of time for a good night’s sleep. It is true some people seem fine, even appear to thrive on, under seven hours on the pillow. Yes, there are a few exceptions, which some people reporting six hours on average working for them, however this is the exception and not the rule.”
I’ve know a gentleman who slept less than four hours per night most of his life and he had so much energy he thought it was okay. Turns out he was bi-polar and sadly he ended up dying of suicide in his 60s.
Let this be a warning, you can’t judge your sleep only by how much or little energy you have. This can be a dangerous road. People think they are the exception to the rule until poor health sets in and it’s too late. Too much sleep can be indicative of a health issue was well. Generally nine hours on a regular basis is cause for concern. Talk to your doctor if either of these apply to you.
I know some of you night owls will disagree with this next one, but studies confirm it’s best to get to bed between 8 p.m. and midnight depending on time of the year, where you live, and other factors. Most people have a spike in melatonin around 9 p.m., which is the hormone to help you sleep deep and to repair your body.
So how do you get the best quality of sleep? Develop a healthy bedtime route. Routines help our bodies maintain a systematic circadian rhythm enabling good sleep cycles. Go to bed at the same time each night, get up the same time each morning, limit caffeine throughout the day, don’t eat a large meal at least four hours before bed, have a relaxing routine one hour before bedtime, limit screen time one to two hours before bed (blue light affects sleep), keep the room dark as possible, leave electronics out of the bedroom, and don’t do anything but sleep in bed (well, there is one other thing you can do but no reading in bed, texting, etc.). The mind and body are habitual. If you only sleep in bed it becomes a trigger to sleep just by laying there.
If you’d like to know how you are sleeping visit: www.higherpath.ca/sleep for a free assessment, hand out on sleep, and sources for the facts in this article. Lastly, there are lots of reasons for insomnia and disruptions to sleep that can be affecting your health. When in doubt talk to your doctor about how you are sleeping, your health and state of mind depend on it.
– Angela Poch CLC, CN is a wife, mother, author, life coach, and counsellor. Angela works with individuals in the Kootenays and beyond, who desire to deal with negative emotions, poor relationships, bad habits, health and wellness, and/or personal growth. Learn more at http://www.AngelaPoch.com
“Understanding Sleep.” Mental Health Canada, www.mentalhealthcanada.com/article_detail.asp?lang=e&id=28.
Allen, Lauren. “How Sleep Affects Mental Health | Effects of Poor Sleep on Anxiety, Depression, & ADHD.” Neurocore, Neurocore, 12 July 2018, www.neurocorecenters.com/blog/how-sleep-affects-mental-health.
Breus, Michael. “Sleep and Mental Health Disorders.” Psych Central, Psych Central.com, 8 Oct. 2018, psychcentral.com/lib/sleep-and-mental-health-disorders/.
Scott, Alexandar J, et al. “Does Improving Sleep Lead to Better Mental Health? A Protocol for a Meta-Analytic Review of Randomised Controlled Trials.” NCBI, 18 Sept. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5623526/.
Harvard Health Publishing. “Sleep and Mental Health.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, July 2009, www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health.
Updated: June 19, 2018
Curtin, Cathryn. SHFAustralia. “Sleep and Mental Health.” The Sleep Health Foundation, www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/news/sleep-blog/sleep-and-mental-health.html.
“Find Out Your Best Hours for Sleep Based on Your Biology and Your Life.” Sleep.Org, Sleep.Org, www.sleep.org/articles/best-hours-sleep/.
Khawaja, Imran, S, M.D. “Sleep Disorders and Mental Illness Go Hand in Hand.” UTSouthwestern Medical Center, utswmed.org/medblog/sleep-disorders-mental-illness/.
“Sleep Disorders, Depression, Schizophrenia — How They’re Related.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/psychiatric-disorders.
“Sleep Matters: The Impact Of Sleep On Health And Wellbeing.” Mental Health Foundation, 17 Jan. 2016, www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/sleep-report.
Lead image from Centre for Sleep and Human Performance