Why Sleep is So Important to Your Mental Health

Combating Mental Illness

Sleep deprivation has always been considered one of the symptoms of depression. New research has shown that it isn’t just a symptom of depression—it is a cause. Childhood depression, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder all have a high incidence of sleep-related problems. When sleep is treated, there is a corresponding improvement in these conditions. It also has the same therapeutic effect with adults.

Addressing the sleeping elephant in the room is a family affair. Heavy meals, coffee, and alcohol at least two hours before bedtime all disrupt the body’s ability to sleep.  Alcohol, for example, initially can make you feel more relaxed and sleepier, but several hours later, you will find yourself waking up. Eating too closely to bedtime could also cause you to wake up during the night and not get the full amount of rest that your body needs to perform at its best the following day.

Here’s what we know:

  • Sleep disorders are more common among the mentally ill
  • It’s very likely that treatment for sleep disorders will alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders
  • Lack of sleep can worsen mental illness
  • Those with mental health disorders often spend time in lighter, less restorative stages of REM sleep, which is critical to health and healing

Switch Off Electronics

In order to promote healthy sleep in your household, your entire family could benefit from switching off the tv, the PlayStation, iPads, and phones before bed. The backlight on these devices disturbs the body’s production of melatonin and signals to the brain that it’s time to stay awake. Melatonin is a hormone that aids in your ability to fall asleep. Backlight from your electronics lowers your body’s levels of that essential sleep hormone.

Create a Routine

Keeping a set routine for bedtime for both yourself and your children helps to reinforce the body’s rhythm and makes it easier for everyone to fall asleep.  Try lowering the lights a half hour before bedtime and use that half hour to set a relaxing atmosphere. Favorite stories, books, and stuffed animals bring your children’s stress levels down and get them ready for sleep. That thirty-minute transition from the day’s more rapid pace to a slower, more reflective time reduces the cortisol levels that keep us from a good night’s sleep.

Promoting quality sleep is not just important for you and your mental health, but also for your family. If you or your loved ones are struggling with dark moods, try adjusting your sleep schedule and habits first — you may be surprised how much sleep affects your everyday mood! 

Stephanie James is a freelance writer who covers a variety of topics; from sleep health, fitness and overall wellness to lifestyle.  When she’s not writing she’s traveling – and has mastered the art of sleep from not only the sky, but any time zone. If you want more tips and insight on sleep health and wellness, you can read more of her work here