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Sleep and Your Mental Health

Ever wake up from a restless night and just feel…off? You wouldn’t be alone; sleep, or lack thereof, can seriously impact us physically, and especially mentally. Whether it’s disrupting our hormone balances or exhausting us mentally, poor sleep can worsen, and even cause, several mental health issues.

Sleep problems are especially common in those with mental health issues like depression, anxiety and ADHD, but can be avoided. Here are the different ways a lack of sleep can affect your mental health, and some suggestions to ensure it doesn’t.

1. Worsened fatigue

Sleep is mentally restorative, so inadequate amounts of it can affect mood and energy levels. This fatigue can affect your interest in socializing, exercising, and other activities that are often a part of depression management and treatment. In fact, sleep problems have been found to worsen the symptoms of depression and even increase the risk of developing it.

2. Lack of focus

Along with fatigue comes a lessened ability to concentrate on tasks, an issue that especially affects those with ADHD. A sleep-deprived mind is less able to focus, avoid distractions and multitask, all of which can aggravate symptoms of ADHD or cause additional anxiety.

3. Increased stress levels

During healthy sleep, the body regulates its hormone levels, including those of the stress hormone cortisol. Therefore, inadequate rest can cause higher levels of stress– raising heart rate, causing negative thinking, and worsening the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder.

4. Lowered impulse control

A lack of sleep can wear down your nerves and cause emotional exhaustion, increasing the likelihood of impulsive reactions and anger. It can manifest itself in a short-temper with loved ones and increased self-criticism. These reactions can negatively affect your support system and overall outlook on life, impacting nearly everyone suffering from mental illness, especially those with depression and anxiety.

Getting better sleep

Melatonin, the hormone that regulates your feelings of being awake or sleepy, is naturally occurring in the body, but can also be reinforced by diet or supplements. Try to eat some melatonin-heavy snacks like tree nuts or fruit at night in order to feel tired before bed.

A cool, dark room and comfortable bed are always key to a good night’s sleep, but there are also other things to consider if you have trouble falling asleep. If you live in a noisy area, use noise-cancelling headphones to cut out distractions. Or, if you like to read in bed, consider an automatic light dimmer to avoid interrupting your circadian rhythms.

Stick to a consistent bedtime and wakeup routine to ensure you’re getting the recommended eight hours of sleep a night. Be strict and hold yourself accountable for getting into bed at the same time every night, even weekends, and not letting yourself sleep in. Even if you miss an hour of sleep one night, it’s important to stay on track with your routine and wake up normally so you’ll feel sleepy the following night. Creating this sleep routine will help your circadian rhythms stay on track and maintain healthy sleep patterns.

What else do you do to get better sleep? Tweet us @cmhahalton with your favorite healthy sleep strategies!

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