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Sleep: The Foundation of Health & Wellbeing

Updated: Jan 2

An average person spends 26 years of their life sleeping, which comes to about one-third of a lifetime. Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

If our bodies are designed to get so much sleep, it must be a pretty big deal. As it turns out, sleep is the cornerstone of our health and wellbeing.

When we sleep, our body and mind are able to rest and recover from the day's activities. This is important for maintaining our physical health, as it allows our muscles and organs to repair and regenerate. It also helps to support a healthy immune system, which is important for fighting off infections and illnesses.

But the benefits of sleep go beyond physical health. Sleep is also essential for our mental and cognitive functioning. During sleep, our brain is able to process and consolidate information, which is important for learning and memory. Lack of sleep can impair our ability to think, concentrate, and make decisions. It can also contribute to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

That’s not all. Sleep also plays an essential role in regulating our mood and emotions. We've all experienced the grumpiness and irritability that comes with being sleep-deprived. On the other hand, a good night's sleep can leave us feeling refreshed and energised, ready to tackle the day ahead.

While getting good sleep is important and desirable, there are a host of factors that can disrupt your sleep, one of the most prominent being mental health problems.

What is the connection between mental health and sleep?

Mental health and sleep have a bidirectional relationship. Research shows that people living with a mental health condition are more likely to experience poor sleep quality. On the other hand, not getting good sleep regularly may exacerbate your mental health symptoms.

Let’s take a look at some of the mental health conditions that may be impacting your sleep:

Depression: A large majority of people experiencing depression also suffer from insomnia. Depression can also cause hypersomnia, which is excessive sleepiness.

Anxiety disorders: Generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are some types of anxiety disorders which can cause sleep problems. The constant worry and fear caused by these disorders can make falling asleep difficult and ultimately lead to insomnia. People suffering from PTSD may experience nightmares as a result of past traumas.

Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is characterised by manic and depressive episodes. During manic periods, an individual might not feel the need to sleep, leading to tiredness, but experience hypersomnia during depressive periods.

ADHD: Difficulty falling asleep, delayed bedtime, frequent awakenings, and daytime sleepiness are often experienced by those suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

How to improve your sleep and get a good night's rest?

The connection between sleep and mental health is complex and multifaceted. Mental health problems can affect our sleep, and poor sleep can contribute to the worsening of mental health conditions. This is why it’s so important to prioritise sleep. Here are some tips that can help you get a good night’s sleep:

1. Stick to a schedule

Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Do this even on weekends to ensure restful sleep every night. Over time, your body will learn to expect sleep at a set time every night.

2. Cut back on sleep-interfering chemicals

Avoid coffee, alcohol, and smoking close to bedtime as they act as stimulants and impair sleep quality. While alcohol may initially help you fall asleep, your body undergoes rebound arousal during the second half of your sleep, making you toss and turn.

3. Create a sleep-inducing environment

A cool, dark, and quiet bedroom sets the stage for a good night’s sleep. Create a peaceful space by removing distractions such as computers and TVs, and make sure that you’re sleeping on a comfortable mattress.

If you’re facing difficulty sleeping despite your best efforts to create a sleep-conducive environment and establish healthy sleep habits, it may be beneficial to see a therapist for further evaluation and treatment.

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