Physical Health and Mental Health
By: Staci Lee Schnell, M.S.,C.S., LMFT
January 17, 2017
Physical Health and Mental Health
Part 3: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
There is a strong relationship between Physical Health and Mental Health. Both play a significant role in our lives. It has been found that staying physically fit actually helps our mental health as well. When our physical health is poor it puts a great strain on our mental health.
Caring for our body and mind may mean we’ll not only live longer, but also better. Eating healthfully, exercising regularly and getting a good night’s sleep are all important elements in a mentally and physically healthy life. Lifestyle interventions with a combination of psychotherapy and medications are all important in one’s treatment plan.
The Importance of Getting a Good Night’s Sleep to Benefit Mental Health
Research strongly suggests that sleep, which accounts for about a third of our lives, is crucial for learning and forming long-term memories. Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain processes complex stimuli. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information, helping you to make decisions, be attentive, and problem-solve while awake.
Sleep has a significant effect on the hippocampus; an area of the brain involved in memory creation and consolidation. Sleep therefore plays a very important role in learning. It allows us to develop and process information for better recall and to be more creative.
There is a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Sleep is essential to the maintenance of one’s mental health. Insufficient sleep has been associated with increased stress, and emotional reactivity and disturbance. Adequate sleep leads to improved mood and well-being as well. Studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience.
Patients who experience continued insomnia are less likely to respond to medication and psychotherapy treatment than those without sleep problems. Those whose moods do improve with antidepressant therapy and psychotherapy are also more at risk for relapse without proper sleep.
Studies suggest that insomnia and other sleep problems worsen before a manic episode or a bipolar depressive episode. Lack of sleep can trigger mania. Sleep problems also adversely affect mood and contribute to relapse.
Insomnia can worsen the symptoms of anxiety disorders and prevent the recovery process. Sleep disruptions in PTSD, for example, may contribute to a retention of negative emotional memories and prevent patients from benefiting from some therapies.
Typical problems include difficulty falling asleep, shorter sleep duration, and restlessness. The symptoms of ADHD and sleeping difficulties overlap so much that it may be difficult to tell them apart.
Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness. The most important sleep hygiene measure is to maintain a regular wake and sleep pattern seven days a week. It is also important to spend an appropriate amount of time in bed. Most adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best.
Good Sleep Hygiene Practices:
- Avoid Napping during the day
- Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol before bed
- Exercise (Vigorous in the morning or daytime, Yoga is great for nighttime)
- Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime
- Adequate exposure to natural light
- Bedtime routines
- Turn off electronics 45 minutes before bedtime
- Cool and pleasant room (Set AC colder at night, invest in a good mattress and sheets)
Excessive sleepiness can hurt one’s work performance, wreak havoc on relationships, effect decision-making and learning, and lead to mood issues. Treating sleep problems can help in the therapeutic treatments of mental health conditions.
A Therapist specifically trained in Anxiety, Depression, and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is essential in the treatment of these Mental Health Disorders. You can search for a specialist in Anxiety and/or Depression on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website. To find a specialist in ADHD, please visit CHADD.org.