Special to Palmetto Counseling’s Blog | June 29, 2018 4:18 PM EDT
This issue features an article by Alicia Sanchez

Sleep, or lack thereof, affects most of your biological processes from your ability to think to your digestive system. To protect your mental health from the pressures of everyday life, it’s important to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep. Without adequate rest, you put yourself at risk of impaired reasoning skills as well as an increased risk for mental health disorders.

Sleep Deprivation and Mental Health

Sleep is a necessary biological function your body requires to survive. Healthy adults who’ve never struggled with mental health disorders may find themselves succumbing to depression or anxiety when dealing with chronic sleep deprivation because it changes the way the brain works.

Sleep problems often magnify any mental health disorders. Forty-five to ninety percent of those who have depression and fifty percent of those with anxiety have some form of insomnia or other sleep disorder. While some people may consider getting seven hours of sleep optional, when you look at the heavy toll sleep deprivation takes on the body, getting that full seven hours moves to the top of your priority list.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Chronic sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on the body. The immune system suffers, hormones get imbalanced, and short-term memory loss can occur. It also seriously affects your mental capabilities. Even those without mental disorders find functioning on little sleep to be a challenge.

Sleep deprivation changes the brain’s ability to send and receive signals. Individual neurons, the cells that send the signals, slow down. Controlling moods and behaviors become more difficult and aggression levels rise. Reasoning and decision-making skills also start to deteriorate.

While you sleep, your body goes through different stages during which the body heals and restores itself. It’s during this process that the body establishes health circadian rhythms which help you keep a regular sleep schedule.

Address Mental Health Issues with Better Sleep

Developing good sleep hygiene can help stabilize moods, prevent you from feeling tired during the day, and keep your body running at peak efficiency.

Create the Right Conditions

Start by checking your mattress. If you wake up with a sore back, neck, or shoulder, you may need to look into getting a more supportive mattress. Testing out options at mattress stores to see what works better for you. Also, keep your bedroom temperature between 60-68 degrees. Reduce light and noise as much as possible.

Be Consistent

Your circadian rhythms help determine when you fall asleep at night and wake in the morning. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps your body establish and keep those rhythms. If at all possible, keep the same sleep schedule on weekends as well.

Eat for Your Health

When and what you eat impacts the quality of your sleep. Heavy meals eaten too close to bedtime can potentially keep you awake from discomfort. At the same time, hunger pains may be strong enough to keep you up at night. An early, light dinner creates the best chances for restful sleep. If hunger pains give you trouble, a light, healthy snack just before bed can tie you over until morning.

Reduce Screen Time

In today’s world, you’re almost always within arms reach of a screen. Televisions, laptops, iPads, e-readers, and smartphones give off light that’s bright enough to confuse your brain. To prevent screen time from altering your circadian rhythms, turn off all screens at least one hour before bedtime. That gives your brain enough time to start the shutdown process.

About the author

Alicia Sanchez is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com with a specialty in health and wellness. A Nashville native, Alicia finds the sound of summer storms so soothing that she still sleeps with recorded rain on her white noise machine.

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