Not Getting Enough Rest? It Could Affect Your Mental Health

When life does nothing but annoy you, and you’re finding it hard to concentrate and control your emotions, you may want to take a look at your sleeping habits. Are you getting enough Zs?

Sleep is an important part of one’s well-being, particularly when it comes to mental health. Getting poor quality sleep affects our ability to perform daily activities and has a negative impact on productivity, says Jude Clapper, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, a wellness advocate with Memorial Counseling Associates.

“Without adequate sleep, we tend to be more irritable and our ability to handle stress is diminished,” Clapper says. “Sleep is necessary to maintain balance in mental and physical functioning. We are more alert and better able to handle stress if we are sleeping well.”

Those particularly vulnerable to negative consequences from poor sleep are those with mental health disorders, because lack of sleep can worsen their symptoms. Conversely, people without mental disorders are more likely to experience mood disorders because of sleep problems.

“The relationship between sleep deprivation and mental health is complex,” Clapper notes. “Mental health problems may cause sleep problems, and sleep problems may cause or contribute to mental health problems.”

Insomnia is a very common symptom associated with mental disorders or an underlying health condition. It also can be caused by lifestyle choices, including the medications you take, lack of exercise, jet lag or even the amount of coffee you drink. The most common signs of sleep deprivation include irritability, difficulty controlling emotions, memory lapses, inability to concentrate, daytime sleepiness, and mood changes such as depression or anxiety.

  • Tips for getting a good night’s rest
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule even on the weekend.
  • Get comfortable. Often this means a room that is cool, dark and quiet.
  • If your bedroom is noisy, buy an inexpensive “white noise” generator that makes soothing sounds to mask disturbing ones. A comfortable mattress and pillow also contribute to better sleep.
  • Create a bedtime ritual. Do the same thing at night such as reading or listening to relaxing music. Allow yourself time to unwind and practice clearing your mind of problems. Try some relaxing breathing exercises or a warm bath.
  • Pay attention to what you eat and drink. Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. If you are hungry, have a light snack about an hour before bed, such as dairy, eggs, turkey, soybeans, peanuts or cashews.
  • If you make frequent trips to the bathroom at night, limit fluids before bed.
  • Avoid stimulants such as nicotine, alcohol and caffeine three to four hours before bed.
  • Include daily physical activity, but not too close to bedtime.
  • Make lifestyle changes that will promote balance in your life, including good nutrition, exercise and relaxation.

If you are having trouble with sleep and suspect it may be tied to, or aggravating, a mental health disorder, contact your primary care physician.

March 5-11 is National Sleep Awareness Week. Capitol Radio Group’s Focus program on Sunday will discuss the importance of sleep to our health. The program will air at 5:30 a.m. on WTAX-AM and WTAX-FM; 6 a.m. on ABE-FM and WYMG; during the 6 a.m. hour on COOL 101.9; and about 7:30 a.m. on WDBR. Guests are Kaye Liles, RRT, manager of Memorial Medical Center/SIU School of Medicine Sleep Disorders Center and Dr. M. Haitham Bakir with the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at SIU School of Medicine and an associate professor of clinical medicine.