Studies show that we spend about 26 years of our life sleeping. There’s a good reason, too. Sleep is an integral part of overall health and well-being. Think about a specific day when you got little to no sleep—you felt slow, vacant, and most likely had a difficult time staying focused. Unhealthy sleeping habits can develop in high school and follow you through to adulthood and it can be difficult to break them.
The relationship between sleep and mental health has always been a complex one. Is difficulty sleeping a symptom of depression or does it contribute to it? What we do know is that chronic sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice. Compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population who experience sleep issues, it’s safe to say that mental health and sleep are inextricably linked.
Below are a few concrete steps you can take to make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep:
- Develop a consistent sleeping pattern: One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to be consistent about going to bed and waking up at the same time. It’s also important to know how many hours of sleep you need to feel well-rested (6 to 8 hours is the average).
- Establish a pre-sleep routine: Start your transition period from wake time to sleep time with relaxing activities that help slow your mind and body about an hour before you go to bed. Take a bath, read, watch peaceful or lighthearted television, or listen to relaxing music.
- Create a supportive sleeping environment: Your sleeping environment can determine your sleep quality and how fast you fall asleep. A quiet, dark, and cool environment can help you to sleep soundly. Using “white noise” can help you fall asleep by blocking out disruptive noises. Sleep masks and heavy curtains are helpful in reducing light, which is an indicator for your brain to wake up.
Throughout your life, sleep plays an important role in your overall wellness. Developing healthy sleeping patterns now can change your quality of life moving forward. But if you have tried these steps but are still having trouble sleeping, or are sleeping too much, you may want to check in on your mental health.
Sleep and Mental Health. (2009, January 1). Retrieved January 8, 2015, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2009/July/Sleep-and-mental-health
Sleep Hygiene. (n.d.). University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved March 20, 2014, from http://umm.edu/programs/sleep/patients/sleep-hygiene
Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep. (n.d.). Healthy Sleep. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips
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