Looking after ourselves has never felt more important, and sleep has a vital role to play in this
With the coronavirus still disrupting daily life for all of us, it’s understandable that we’re all feeling a little more stressed than usual. The uncertainty of the current situation has led to increased levels of anxiety on a nationwide scale, and this can have an adverse effect on your mental health.
So looking after your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing has perhaps never been more important, and sleep has a vital role to play in all three. We’re going to take a closer look at the importance of mental health, and how sleep can help to support a healthy mind.
The increasing importance of mental health
Looking after yourself on a mental and emotional level has always been important, but it’s only in recent years that people have come to recognise just how important it is to your health overall. The rise of the self-care movement over the past decade or so has encouraged all of us to examine our mental wellbeing more closely and take the time to do things that support it.
This can only be described as a good thing, as the scale and consequences of poor mental health have also become clear. Stress and anxiety are among the most common mental health concerns in the UK, and a 2018 study by the Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of UK adults feel so stressed that they cannot cope at some point over the course of a year.
Poor mental health that goes unsupported and untreated can have very severe consequences, leading to aggression, violence, self-harm or even suicide. Seeking out support for your mental health is so important. If you’re worried about your mental health, speak to a health professional about taking steps to get you back on track.
How does sleep impact our mental health
There are many steps we can take ourselves to improve our mental health, and getting a good night’s sleep is one of them.
Sleep is as important to your health as eating a balanced diet and maintaining a regular exercise routine. It allows both your body and brain to recover and perform essential repair work, helping you face the day and process information.
Because of this, sleep deprivation can leave you feeling irritable, exhausted and overwhelmed in the short term. This makes it harder to concentrate and remember things. But in the long term, effects can be even more severe. Lack of sleep can leave you less able to cope with stress, increasing symptoms of common mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
One analysis of 21 different studies found that those who suffer from insomnia – i.e. chronic sleep deprivation – are twice as likely to develop depression as those who do not have trouble sleeping.
There’s even research to suggest that a lack of sleep can increase symptoms of mania or hypomania, exacerbating symptoms of severe mental health concerns like bipolar disorder. One study found that changes to the sleep cycle preceded the onset of a manic episode in up to 65% of bipolar sufferers.
Poor sleep and poor mental health can create a vicious cycle. Insomnia, sleeplessness and chronic fatigue are symptoms of many common mental health concerns, and suffering from these symptoms can cause the condition itself to worsen, therefore causing further damage to your sleep health and so on.
Making positive changes to your sleep habits can help to promote a better night’s sleep, improving your health overall. Sticking to a regular sleep routine, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, keeping your bedroom cool and dark, and reading or meditating before bed rather than scrolling through social media can all help you sleep better and feel better.