A good night's sleep for better mental health

Sleep Awareness Week - Monday 3 July - Sunday 9 July

There is a clear connection between sleep and mental health. Insomnia is common in people with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. However, the Harvard Mental Health Newsletter explains that sleep problems also are a key contributor to mental health disorders.

Sleep is important for building up mental and emotional resilience as it allows our brains to rest and process the information from the day. REM (rapid eye movement) in particular contributes to emotional health so when this sleep is interrupted it impedes the regulation of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, increasing the effects of psychosocial disorders. 

The sleep files - how much are you getting?

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, people aged 18-34 sleep an average of 7 hours and 37 minutes and people aged 55+ averaged 6 hours and 50 minutes. A healthy range for most adults is 7-9 hours.

Some factors that can impede a good night's sleep include caffeine and alcohol consumption, naps and even sleeping medication. These factors are more common in the 55+ age group, contributing to more disturbed sleep. 

Tips for a good night's sleep

  • Ensure you spend the 1-2 hours before bed screen free - blue light from screens on your phone, tablet or laptop suppresses a sleep-inducing hormone melatonin
  • Put your phone on silent or on do not disturb mode
  • Avoid naps 
  • Avoid food, caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes
  • Practice breathing and relaxation methods to clear your mind. Some of these include progressive muscle relaxation - tensing and relaxing muscles one by one, deep breathing and meditation
  • Go to bed and arise at the same time every day and aim to get 7-9 hours each night
  • Take time to wind down before bed each night
  • Make the bedroom a place of rest, not work
  • Limit your fluids 1 hour before bed
  • Exercise regularly
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark

If you have tried these methods and are still suffering from disturbed sleep, speak to your doctor about options for medical or therapeutic intervention.

Sources: 

Sleep Health Foundation, 'Sleep Awareness Week'

Harvard Mental Health Letter, 'Sleep and mental health'