The Power Of A Good Night’s Sleep
An average person, sleeping 8 hours a night, spends 25% of their life sleeping. Sleep is a critical part of the human condition on many levels. When we sleep, our brains recharge, supporting mental and physical health, and overall quality of life, how we feel during our waking lives. While this knowledge is well-established, modern society thrives on a 24/7 schedule, where doing signifies success. We are expected to push our schedules to the limit for maximum productivity. As a culture, we are sleep deprived. “I’d be hard pressed to find a person that does not recognize the importance of sleep. Despite this acknowledgement, the vast majority also state that their sleep patterns are less than ideal. They go to bed late, have problems falling asleep, or have impaired sleep” states Christine Menna, associate therapist at Gateway to Solutions.
What is this lack of sleep doing to us? Physiologically, insufficient sleep correlates with heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. It increases the risk of obesity and disrupts hormones, growth (in youth and puberty), fertility, and the immune system. It also compromises our ability to function and carry out everyday tasks.
Sleep is inextricably linked to mental health too. In fact, chronic sleep issues impact 50% to 80% of patients in psychiatric practice, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general population.1 Sleep problems are particularly linked to anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Moreover, lack of sleep may increase the likelihood of developing certain psychiatric disorders.
Given that mental health diagnoses are correlated with sleep in this way, it can sometimes be uncertain which manifests the other. Therapy can help to holistically assess and confront both of these aspects. “It’s crucial to talk to clients about sleep. We assess for sleeping patterns at intake to have a better understanding of a person’s habits, so we can address them at the onset of therapy. We work with clients to collaboratively identify tools to support healthier sleep patterns and quality of sleep” says Christine Menna. In addition to cultivating lifestyle changes, the powerful act of talk therapy itself – working through challenging psychological issues with a trusted clinician – can be a catalyst to improve a person’s ability to have a sound night’s sleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) been proven efficacious in adjusting a person’s routinized thoughts and expectations around sleep. “While it may initially feel confusing to understand how mental health and sleep impact one another, the beauty of therapeutic work is that a change in one inherently causes a change in the other. We work on several levels at once to bring a balance to the entire person” says Menna.
If you find yourself struggling with sleep, here are a few tips: maintain a consistent sleep-wake schedule. Get to bed earlier – the hours of 10pm-2am offer the most regenerative sleep. Exercise regularly. Try mindfulness, meditation or relaxation techniques. Use your bedroom only for sleep. Lessen caffeine consumption, particularly in the afternoon. Turn off all electronic screens at least an hour before bed! The blue light from electronics suppresses the body’s production of sleep-inducing melatonin. Talk to your doctor if lack of sleep is impacting your life. And, if you are concerned that your sleep disruption is a result of psychological factors, consider talking to a therapist to work through these concerns.
- 2019, March 18. Harvard Health Publishing. Sleep and mental health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu