When you sleep, your brain files away the stress and information that accumulated over the course of your day. Your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops, and your body has the time it needs to rejuvenate and repair.
While there is still much to learn about how sleep processes affect the body, research suggests that sleep has a direct impact on your physical and psychological health. If you’ve been struggling to get your nightly rest, take a closer look at how sleep affects your brain and mood.
How Does Sleep Affect Your Mental Health?
For many years, people believed that insomnia was a symptom of several mental health disorders. But researchers no longer believe that sleep disorders are merely a symptom of mental illness. Now, sleep deprivation is seen as a contributing factor to the development of mental health issues. Treating potential sleep disorders could go a long way toward improving your mental health.
How Common Are Sleep Disorders?
Sleep disorders affect more than 80 percent of psychiatric patients. That compares to only 10 to 18 percent of the general population with sleep disorders. Mental health conditions that typically involve issues sleeping include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- General anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
If you experience any of these mental health disorders, then your sleep may have more to do with your symptoms than you think. Rather than looking at sleep disorders as a side effect of mental illness, consider poor quality sleep as a contributing factor to mental health issues.
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation?
If you have been living through sleep deprivation, you may not have noticed that a lack of sleep slowly eats away at your happiness. For some, sleep deprivation dulls their enthusiasm and makes it hard to resist impulses. Several common symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Increased physical pain
- Caffeine dependence
- Mood changes or anxiety
- Concentration difficulties
- Impaired judgement
Now that you are aware of the symptoms of sleep deprivation and how sleep deprivation affects your mental health, you should also know that your sleep deprivation does not have to be severe to pose a significant risk to your wellbeing. Getting more sleep will help restore your body and may improve your mental health — even if you only make small adjustments to your sleep habits.
How Can You Improve Your Quality of Sleep?
There are many types of sleep disorders, and they are treatable. The most common sleep disorders include bruxism (tooth grinding), insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. If you suspect an underlying sleep disorder, it is best to address your concerns with your healthcare provider.
Until then, you may benefit from some of the following suggestions for improved sleep:
- Exercise earlier in the day
- Establish a relaxing pre-sleep ritual
- Create an inviting sleep environment
- Go to bed and rise at the same time, even on the weekends to reset your circadian rhythms
- Reduce your consumption of caffeine
- Avoid napping during the day
- Limit your evening use of electronics to reduce blue light exposure
- Evaluate your mattress set for signs of wear
By setting up healthy bedtime habits, you can improve the quality of your sleep over time. A bedtime ritual allows your body to adopt to a consistent sleep schedule and cycle—which promotes deep, restful sleep.
How Does Your Mattress Affect Sleep Quality?
Setting up a bedtime ritual and practicing self care are important ways to improve your mental and physical health. However, your mattress quality has a direct impact on your ability to sleep soundly throughout the night. If your mattress shows signs of wear, such as sagging or drooping edges, then it may be time to replace your mattress.
As you shop for a new mattress, understand that an ultra-plush mattress can put unnecessary strain on the pressure points of your hips and shoulders. Even if you do not wake up in pain, your sleep may be disturbed by a bed that is less supportive than you need—even if you are not aware of the disruptions. Look for a bed that provides comfort and support. For effective support, your mattress should provide total pressure reliefand align your spine. WIthout the right mattress, you may struggle with sleep deprivation even after changing your sleep habits.
Currently, only 59 percent of the population gets the recommended amount of sleep needed to stay physically and mentally fit. Keep in mind that some people actually need more sleep than that. If you are having difficulty getting the rest you need or experience symptoms of sleep deprivation, seek the advice of a qualified professional. Better sleep may just be the key to improving your mood, health, and happiness.
Eileen O'Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy.