In our society today, it seems that busyness is seen as a badge of honor. One of the things that is sacrificed most often in our run about life is sleep. If we need to do “one more thing” we often add it to the end of the day, or at least extend the end of the day to make that “one more thing” happen. However, the benefit vs. the cost of that “one more thing” may not add up.
It is a common belief that sleep disruption is a major symptom of many mental health concerns such as Depression and Anxiety. However, research has shown that a lack of consistent sleep could actually be a contributor to the development of these issues.
In an article from Harvard Medical School, the authors report that 50-90% of clients in psychiatric care (any type of counseling, both inpatient and outpatient) experience some form of chronic sleep problem. This is compared to only 10 – 18% of the general population. While many clinicians focus on sleep problems as a symptom of mental health disorders, some research shows that in many cases the onset of chronic sleep problems (insomnia, sleep apnea, etc) actually preceded the onset of the mental health concerns. In fact researchers have found that in both adults and children, people experiencing chronic sleep disruption are four times more likely to develop some form of Depression. So the assumption is that treating the sleep issues may help alleviate symptoms of the mental health problem. Getting a regular, sufficient amount of sleep may also help prevent future mental health concerns.
We know that good sleep habits and different stages of the sleep cycle aid in things like energy level, memory function and emotion regulation. All of which play major roles in many other mental health concerns.
Tips For Healthy Sleep:
1. Sleep Hygiene. No need to worry about putting on deodorant before bed. Sleep hygiene is all about routine. Most parents will find that a better structured bedtime routine leads to better sleeping children. It is no different when we grow up. We adults tend to neglect the importance of bedtime routine as we grow up.
Many researchers believe that insomnia is learned. Sleep hygiene includes maintaining a regular sleep-and-wake schedule, using the bedroom only for sleeping (or sex), and keeping the bedroom dark and free of distractions like the computer or television. Cooler room temperature and comfy clothes also help. New research suggests keeping your cell phone out of the bedroom as well.
Much of what we experience as Depression and Anxiety is linked to a feeling of chaos or a sense of being out of control in our life. The area of sleep hygiene (think “routine”) may be one of the simplest starting points in regaining that control.
2.Physical activity. Regular aerobic activity helps people fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night. Regular, not necessarily intense activity. Don’t be afraid to start with a brisk 20 minute walk a few times a week.
3. Avoid CATS. Before all of you feline lovers out there stop reading, I am not talking about your furry lap napping pet. Actually, Caffeine, Alcohol, Tobacco and Sugar are all major contributors to sleep problems and should be avoided as much as possible, particularly near bedtime.
4. Relaxation Techniques. Get your body ready for rest with some deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation which you can read about or learn from your friendly mental health professional.
5. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Because people with insomnia tend to become preoccupied with not falling asleep, cognitive behavioral techniques help them to change negative expectations and try to build more confidence that they can have a good night’s sleep. These techniques can also help to change the “blame game” of attributing every personal problem during the day on lack of sleep.
So, challenge yourself to make sleep a priority. The dishes and tomorrow’s duties can wait. The better you sleep, the more able you will be to complete those tasks and feel energetic and in control to boot.
Call us at (918) 745-0095 if you are struggling with sleep or any other issue. We would be glad to help or get you to someone who can.
written by Chris Giles, M.S.