The Link Between Sleep and Mental Health
Extensive medical research shows that poor sleep quality can severely impact your mood and overall emotional wellbeing.
When you sleep at night, your brain cycles through two categories of sleep every 90 minutes.
In your ‘quiet’ sleep, you progress through stages of increasingly deep sleep. In this phase, your body temperature will decrease, your heart rate will slow down and your muscles relax. This kind of quiet, deep sleep is known to boost your immune system.
You’ll also then cycle through your ‘REM’ (rapid eye movement) phase, associated with dreaming, in which your sleep will be lighter and those physiological changes that occurred in your stages of deep sleep will return back to similar levels measured to when you are awake. Your REM phase has been found to enhance your learning, memory and emotional health.
As discussed by Harvard Medical School, when your sleep is disrupted or you’re sleep-deprived, your cognitive functions (including your ability to emotionally self-regulate) can be severely impacted. Without enough sleep, you may find yourself feeling irritable, moody, sensitive or lacking mental clarity, which can possibly eventuate into mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
On the other hand, if you get enough good-quality sleep every night, you may find that you have improved emotional stability and boosted energy levels, which can help with feeling motivated and positive.
Though sleep won’t necessarily fix all of your problems and make your stress disappear, it is vitally important in laying the foundation for your physical and mental health. With consistently better sleep, you may have more energy and mental clarity to tackle your stress head-on and cope better with stressful events.
Tips for Improving Your Sleep Hygiene
- Make sure you don’t overheat yourself with too many blankets or layers of clothing when you sleep. You should be cool but comfortable
- Avoid looking at screens (such as your phone or TV) before you sleep. The lights can stimulate your brain and make it harder to wind down when it’s time to rest. You could set up a docking station in a separate room where your devices can charge overnight
- Alternatively, you can install blue light minimisers on your devices so that the screens are a yellow-based light at night time instead. Your smartphone should have night-time settings, and for your computer, try an app called ‘Flux’.
- Try to avoid napping in the day – this will help to make it easier to feel sleepy at night time
- Get plenty of sunlight during the day to boost your Vitamin D levels, regulate your body clock and your normal sleep hormones such as melatonin
- Find some relaxing activities that you can enjoy to help you unwind before you sleep, such as reading a book, working on a jigsaw puzzle, colouring/drawing or meditating.
- Limit the amount of coffee you have during the day, particularly after 2pm!
- Enjoy a cup of herbal tea to relax the body and the mind (make it sure it is not caffeinated!)
- Try to get into a routine of going to bed at the same time every night. Eventually, you’ll find that you naturally start to feel tired around your set bed time.
- No matter what time you fall asleep, ALWAYS get up at about the same time everyday – even if you’ve had only 4 hours of sleep, you’ll then certainly feel sleepy the following evening and be motivated to go to bed earlier.
For more tips on getting a good sleep at night, read Beyond Blue’s post on sleeping well here.