Another heavily underrepresented area of mental health is the value of sleep. When we don't get enough sleep, it not only affects our mood but it also affects our ability to concentrate, regulate our emotions, and the body's ability to rebalance itself.
In today's video I talk about why sleep problems are such a problem as it pertains to mental health, how it affects mental health by discussing the biological effects sleep problems can have on anxiety and depression, the dangers of sleep problems, and I offer some practical things that you can start practicing right away to begin improving your sleep and, in turn, your overall mood and health.
Why are sleep issues such a problem as it pertains to mental health?
1) It's prevalent - we can all relate to the problems of not getting enough sleep The most common mental illnesses in the US are anxiety and depressive disorders, affecting roughly 40 million American adults, of which 50-90% also have a sleep disorder.
2) Sleep disorders and mental health disorders are reciprocally related and have a causal relationship - sleep disorders cause symptoms of mental illness and symptoms of mental illness cause sleep disorders
How sleep problems affect mental health:
1) Emotional, memory, and information integration - sleep issues create disruption in the brain's ability to file away all of our experiences from the day. This can lead to problems carrying over into the next day then the following. Over time, this can lead to mental illness.
2) Emotional stability - the amygdala and prefrontal cortex are two parts of the brain that are responsible for emotional regulation and processing - The amygdala goes into overdrive when you don't get enough sleep = emotional reactions intensify - Only negative emotions intensify, positive ones don't when sleep deprived - Prefrontal cortex - "voice of reason" or puts on brakes for amygdala, helps control our impulses When these two things are out of balance, you are more susceptible to mood swings, erratic, behavior, inc emotional reactivity
3) Hormone disruption - we have over 50 hormones that influence appetite, weight, mood, immunity, growth, healing, and much more. Not getting proper sleep results in hormones not being able to deliver correct information and messages to the rest of the body. The hyphothalamus is responsible for maintaining overall balance and is disrupted when there are high amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone. This also disrupts our fight or flight response leading to anxiety. If we are in a constant state of stress, cortisol levels stay high, and inhibit sleep. This results in impaired thinking, weight gain, and the inability to control emotions and also can create a negative feedback loop that can result in anxiety and depression Lack of sleep can be dangerous too - a study found that there is a strong correlation between insomnia and suicide.
Things to improve sleep:
1) Lifestyle changes - limit or eliminate consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
2) Physical activity - aerobic exercise can help you fall asleep and get more restful sleep
3) Sleep hygiene - no screen time 2 hours before bed, make your room totally dark, only use bedroom for sleep and sex, sleep with it cold, and try to wake up and go to bed at the same time everyday
4) Relaxation techniques - meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation
5) Cognitive Behaivoral Therapy (CBT) - change negative expectations, build confidence, and blame yourself less
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Blue Sage Counseling and Wellness, and the information provided by Ashley Francis, is solely intended for informational and entertainment purposes and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment regarding medical or mental health conditions. Although Ashley Francis is a licensed marriage and family therapist, the views expressed on this site or any related content should not be taken for medical or psychiatric advice. Always consult your physician before making any decisions related to your physical or mental health.