Believe it or not, sleep is strongly linked to both mental and emotional health. Indeed, sleep has been related to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions.
However, it’s not only that sleep affects mental health, but vice versa too. In other words, the connection is bidirectional. So, mental health disorders may negatively affect sleep while poor sleep can contribute to initiating or worsening mental health conditions. To learn more about the link between mental health and sleep, continue reading below.
The Link Between Sleep and Mental Health
During sleep, Brain activity fluctuates and changes during different sleep stages. In non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, the activity of the brain decreases with some quick bursts of energy. On the other hand, in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, brain activity increases rapidly, and thus this stage is related to more intense dreaming.
In addition, each sleep stage is of great importance for brain health as it allows brain activity to increase or reduce thus enabling better cognitive skills. For example, during sleep, the brain evaluates and remembers thoughts and memories.
Similarly, getting enough sleep, especially REM sleep, enables the brain to process emotional information. A lack of sleep harms the consolidation of positive emotional content which then affects mood and emotional reactivity.
With this in mind, the orthodox view that sleep issues are a symptom of mental health conditions is being called into question more and more. New research proves that the relationship is multifaceted and that sleeping problems can be either a cause or a symptom of mental health disorders.
Ways to Improve Sleep and Mental Health
Simply put, poor sleep can harm mental health, and mental health disorders can harm sleep. This bidirectional relationship demonstrates complex connections between psychiatric disorders and sleep, though it also shows that both issues can share treatments. Here are some treatment options to improve sleep and mental health:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is actually a type of counseling also referred to as talk therapy. It aims to examine patterns of thinking and works to change negative thoughts. And when it comes to mental health disorders, there have been different types of CBT developed for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Likewise, poor sleep can also be managed with CBT for insomnia.
But that’s not all! Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia has proven to be beneficial for many mental health conditions as it could significantly reduce symptoms and improve emotional well-being. And, ongoing research focuses on how different types of CBT can be used to address both mental health conditions and sleep.
Good Sleep Hygiene
In general, poor sleep hygiene contributes to sleeping issues. Therefore, applying good sleep habits can go a long way in improving sleep. Here’s what you should do to improve your sleep habits:
- Follow a strict sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, even at weekends.
- Apply a relaxing bedtime routine that helps you wind down like meditation, breathing exercises, reading, etc.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine consumption in the evening.
- Limit screen time for at least a couple of hours before bedtime.
- Ensure your bedroom is conducive to sleep by making it dark, quiet, and comfortable.
- Get regular physical exercise during the daytime.
The bottom line, every individual is different so you’d have to take some trial and error to find what best works for you. Plus, if you have trouble sleeping or have mental health issues, ensure you consult your healthcare provider about possible treatments.