“Sleep is an investment in the energy you need to be effective tomorrow.” – Tom Roth
When addressing mental health concerns such as Depression or Anxiety, an area often overlooked is our sleep habits. Mental Health disorders and sleep are a bidirectional relationship. Meaning, depression and anxiety can contribute to sleep problems and sleep problems contribute to depression and anxiety. So, where do we start?
First, take on the mindset of a detective. Be curious! What would happen if you changed one or two small things in your sleep hygiene habits? When we approach habit change from a curious mind, rather than “I have to”, we tend to stick with our changes more consistently.
Now that you have your detective hat on, examine your bedtime routine. Are you on a screen until “lights out” or even falling asleep to the TV? Is the temperature in your bedroom too hot? Do you take in caffeine late in the day? Small things make a big impact.
But why make changes? The benefits of healthy sleep affect us physically and mentally. When our sleep schedules are interrupted, it can be as it someone set up a concrete barrier across the major highways of our brains. We often experience diminished problem solving skills, increased reactivity, and irritability. We tend to lose some control of our emotions. In other words, “Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds” (JoJo Jensen).
Physically, lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain, cardiovascular disease and stroke (CDC 2016). This is partially due to the cortisol hormone released in our bodies when we have not gotten healthy sleep. Cortisol is our stress hormone and contributes to weight gain and anxiety.
To improve you sleep patterns:
Be consistent. Going to bed and waking at the same time trains our bodies to rest when we tell it to rest. Avoid large meal, alcohol, and caffeine before bed. Caffeine has a shelf life in our bodies of 12 hours. Many people believe they can have caffeine well into the day with no effect. This might be a great area to do your own research on how caffeine is effecting your sleep. Get some exercise every day. Make it a habit to include a walk in your day. Getting outside for fresh air and exercise helps us sleep better at night.
So, be curious about how your routine effects you and what changes you can make to get healthy sleep to improve mental and physical health.
Naomi received her bachelors in Social Work from Bethel University and her Masters of Social Work from The University of St. Thomas/St. Catherine’s University. Naomi as worked with populations across the lifespan, from elementary schools to skilled nursing facilities. Currently she enjoys working with individuals ages 13 and older.