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The Connection Between Mental Health and Sleep

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! And sleep has been linked to mental health for decades. However, a good night's rest can improve your mental health. Research from the CDC shows that poor sleep increases your risk of mental distress including anxiety disorders and depression. In fact...

When our sleep is disturbed we are lacking adequate sleep and our mental health suffers , which then leads to a cycle that feels like it will never end. Did you know that according to Sleepopolis, somewhere between 24% and 58% of people with sleep disordered breathing meet the criteria for depression.

The Sleep Foundation provides us with lots of interesting statistics on sleep health but a few that stood out to me in particular. as it relates to women and in particular mothers.

According to Abby Wood from Mattress Nerd, a normal sleep cycle involves 4 stages of deep sleep where our bodies temperature drops, muscles relax and heart rate and breathing slow down. Another important part of sleep is REM (rapid eye movement) which is when we dream. This is our deepest sleep we are getting, which allows our body and brain to relax and restore. During REM our brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and lack of sleep can influence our mood and emotions which correlates with mental health disorders.

Mental health and sleep experts provide these tips you can use to improve your sleep:

  • Relax: Take time before bed by sitting quietly in a relaxing location and focus on your breathing, or wind down with a book. Or use a meditation app like Calm or Mindful Mamas.

  • Get Outside: Natural light helps keep you awake and strengthens the release of natural melatonin in our bodies when it gets dark.

  • Reduce Screen Time: Blue lights from electronics can trigger your brain to be more alert and can make it hard to wind down. This can be watching movies or scrolling on our phone.

  • Regular Schedule/Routine: Just like children, a schedule can help your body know when it’s time for bed. Before bed, set a nightly routine of brushing your teeth, washing your face, showering, etc…

  • Natural Sleep Aids: Lavender and chamomile are natural scents that are associated with better sleep. You can find these in candles, essential oils, and teas.

  • Mattress: Comfort is a necessity when sleeping. A supportive and comfortable mattress and pillow can go a long way.

  • Exercise: Exercise helps reduce stress and anxiety while also improving the quality of sleep. In fact new research from Iowa State University links strength training to improved sleep.

  • Limit Coffee, Alcohol, and other stimulants: If you drink caffeine, try to consume them early in the day.

  • Professional Help: If you are still struggling with a good night's rest, connect with a mental health professional or your doctor. Your doctor can help find the root cause of your lack of sleep.

Break your cycle! Get a new mattress, start set a strict bedtime, go screen free for a night, or get the lavender candle you’ve been eyeing at the store. A good night’s rest is possible.

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