Have you ever felt “off” only to realize you didn’t get a good night’s sleep the night before (or the night before that)? Maybe you can’t even remember the last time you had a good night’s sleep.

In our Western society, we fill our schedules with activity after activity, balancing work with family and fun, often using caffeine to cope and compromising sleep for the sake of productivity. But how productive are you really when you’re totally exhausted and sleep deprived? 

The importance of sleep for mental health cannot be stressed enough. In fact, scientific research has proven the connection between a healthy sleep routine and stable mental health.

How lack of sleep affects mental (and physical) health 

While the struggle to get a good night’s sleep is common overall, research shows that individuals struggling with mental health disorders are at an even higher risk of sleep problems. 

According to Harvard Health, in the United States, chronic sleep problems affect 50 to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with just 10 to 18% of adults in the general population. This study found that sleep problems are especially common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

Not only does lack of sleep affect mental health directly, it can indirectly impact your mental health by compromising your physical health in a number of ways. 

Increased obesity

Studies have found that due to the way certain hormones work within the body, lack of sleep can significantly increase appetite, thereby increasing the risk of obesity.

Risk of heart attack

Five hours of sleep or less was associated with a 45% increase in heart attack risk. In addition, severe sleep loss actually resulted in a higher blood pressure after just one night.

Mood changes

Sleep deprivation is notorious for changing one’s mood, which can result in depression and anxiety, as well as an increased risk of alcohol use to deal with these emotions.

Increased risk of diabetes

The Sleep Heart Health Study found that adults (middle-aged and older) who reported 5 hours of sleep or less were 2.5 times more likely to have diabetes, compared with those who slept between 7 and 8 hours at night.

Faster aging

Lack of sleep causes the body to release cortisol, a stress hormone which, among other effects, breaks down collagen (the protein that provides elasticity to your skin). 

Sleeping 7-8 hours every night isn’t just for the sake of having more energy to complete your to-do list. It’s about taking care of your physical body so you can prevent negative consequences on your health. 

Why is sleep so important? 

Aside from lowering the risk of many various health conditions, getting a good night’s sleep consistently promises to increase your mental health. 

The benefits of sleeping 7-8 hours every night are numerous, but some key benefits include: 

Increased immunity

Sleeping a sufficient amount provides the cells and proteins in your immune system the crucial recovery time they need to heal, recharge and keep you healthy in the long run.

Fewer cravings

When you don’t get enough sleep, the body doesn’t produce leptin, the hormone that indicates fullness. Instead, what it does produce is ghrelin, an appetite-boosting hormone. When this occurs as a result of a lack of sleep, it can be hard to say no to food cravings. 

Better focus

Even though it’s tempting to stay up late to get more things done, it may be more productive in the long run to just go to bed. With the right amount of sleep, you can increase mental clarity, focus and concentration to be more efficient and less drowsy during the day.

Safety behind the wheel

It has been proven that driving drowsy decreases your reaction time to the equivalent of driving drunk. With so many people on the road, it’s crucial to your safety – and theirs – that you get enough sleep at night.

Emotional stability

Lack of sleep can lead to increased emotions as severe as anxiety and depression. But a good sleep routine can reduce the risk of developing depression and anxiety, give you better control over your emotions and moods. This may even improve your relationships with others as a result. 

Not to mention the fact that with a regulated sleep routine, you will feel better. It’s as plain and simple as that. Try sleeping regularly for an entire week and see if you don’t feel an improvement at work, home and even in your own head. 

How can I prioritize sleep?

In order to actually experience these benefits, consider changing up your sleep habits. Here are some best practices for healthy sleep:

  • Make sure your room is reserved for sleep, not for gaming or working
  • Try to go to bed as close to the same time each night as possible
  • Practice a sleep ritual; for example, drink tea, read a book and shower every night before bed
  • Turn off all electronic devices 30 minutes prior to sleep
  • Use a fan or white noise machine

If you continue to struggle with sleep, or any mental health conditions that have manifested as a result, consider reaching out. At Silvermist Recovery, we know the importance of sleep for mental health and are equipped with the tools needed to help you instill a proper sleep/wake cycle and other healthy habits in your life. 

For more information, reach out to Silvermist Recovery by visiting our website or calling our office at 724-268-4858.