Occasional sleep deprivation may be unavoidable due to busy lifestyles, but getting enough sleep should still be a priority as it can make a huge difference to our overall mental health.
Why is sleep important for your mental health?
Good sleep depends not only on the number of hours of sleep you get but also on the quality. There are two basic types of sleep, both important for mental and physical health:
- Sleeping with non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) or chicken sleep: improves immune system function.
- Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep: when dreaming, influences on learning and memory consolidation also contribute to emotional health.
Lack of sleep and its consequences on the psychological state
Lack of quality sleep can directly affect our mood and body. For example, it can cause negative psychological effects such as poor concentration and irritability, making us feel sad, angry, or stressed out more than usual.
Long-term sleep problems can also worsen mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety—it was found to outweigh depression 69% of the time and anxiety 27% of the time. Because sleep deprivation increases the chances of individuals experiencing intense negative thoughts or feelings of emotional vulnerability.
Long-term sleep deprivation can also exacerbate ADHD, mania, and psychosis and increase feelings of guilt, aggressive behavior, and engaging in harmful activities—all of which are detrimental to an individual’s mental health.
How much sleep is enough?
The recommended amount of sleep for most adults is 7 to 9 hours per day, while children and teens under 18 need between 10 and 13 hours per day. However, it can sometimes vary depending on genetics and medical conditions. Too much sleep should also be avoided as it can produce a feeling of sleepiness the next day.
Tips for healthy sleep
- Maintain a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Listen to relaxing music or meditate before bed. Apps like Headspace and Smiling Mind provide relaxing music and guided meditation sessions.
- Creates a comfortable environment with ideal conditions for sleeping – a quiet, cool (18-21 degrees Celsius) and dark bedroom.
- Avoid or minimize the use of stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine after 4pm.
- Avoid using electronic devices one hour before bedtime.
- Avoid sleeping during the day.
- Exercise can also increase the likelihood of falling asleep faster at night, if done an hour or more before bedtime.
When to seek professional help regarding sleep patterns?
If you’ve tried all of the tips above and are still having trouble sleeping, you may be having a more serious problem. In such cases, it would be beneficial to consult a medical expert.
Some signs of sleep problems include insomnia, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep that lasts for at least a month, not feeling well rested despite getting a full night’s sleep, and/or impaired ability to perform certain tasks throughout the day.