Sleep and Physical and Mental Health

Sleep plays a critical role in the physical and mental health of a person. Sleep helps the brain work properly by helping you make new pathways that will assist in attaining and retaining information. Studies have shown that receiving a good night’s sleep helps you improve learning, paying attention, and making decisions. When you are not receiving adequate sleep, you are more prone to making impulsive decisions, feeling sad or depressed, or might be lacking motivation. There also have been studies linking sleep deprivation to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behaviors. Your body also goes through physical changes by healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deprivation can increase your risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Sleep deprivation can also increase your likelihood of becoming obese as one study with teenagers demonstrated that with one hour of lost sleep, the odds of becoming obese increased, and it was demonstrated to be similar in other age groups as well. 

Sleep Disorders

It is estimated that there are 70 types of sleep disorders. Some sleep disorders are more common and known than others including restless leg syndrome (irresistible urge to move legs at night), insomnia (difficulty falling and staying asleep), and sleep apnea (breathing repeatedly stops and starts). There is a connection between sleep disturbances and psychiatric problems with more research dedicated to understanding the biological roots.

For example:

Anxiety: One research found that sleep problems affected more than 50% of adult patients who were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and is common with panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In one study with young adults, it was noted that young patients with anxiety disorder took longer to fall asleep and sleep less in comparison to a control group of young adults. 

Depression: Multiple studies have found that at least 60% of adult patients diagnosed with depression disorders suffer from sleep disturbances and 90% of children with depression disorders suffer from sleep disturbances. It has also been shown that sleep disturbances influence the outcome of treatment in that adult patients experiencing insomnia are less likely to respond to treatment than those without sleep disturbances. It has also been noted that adults experiencing sleep disturbances are at higher risk of committing suicide in comparison to depressed adults who do not experience sleep disturbances. 

Healthy Sleeping Strategies

There are some fundamental sleeping strategies that can be helpful in improving sleep.

One of the most recommended sleeping strategies is to have consistent physical activity. Physical activity has been found to help establish the sleep-wake cycle, release feel-good chemicals that decrease stress and anxiety.

Another strategy is creating a sleeping schedule that includes going to bed and waking up at the same time every day as well as creating an environment that is noise and distraction-free.

A third strategy is to do a relaxing activity such as taking a hot shower, deep breathing techniques, or guided meditation. These tips are not exhaustive but are helpful in improving sleep. 

If you feel like your sleep is affecting your mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Behavioral Health Alliance team to schedule a counseling session.

— Hodan Jama, MA