Have you ever woken up “on the wrong side of the bed”? If so, then you know firsthand that sleep can affect mood and mental health, but mental health can also affect sleep. Many mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders can also negatively affect sleep. Depression, anxiety, ADHD and autism can lead to troubles with sleep. Restlessness, racing thoughts, an inability to self-regulate, and nightmares are often symptoms associated with mental health disorders that can make sleeping well difficult.
The brain needs sleep to function properly and without it, people can be prone to mood swings, challenging behaviors, increased emotions, and a range of physical health concerns. A lack of proper sleep affects how the human body produces hormones, one of the most important hormones affected is cortisol. Long periods of increased cortisol levels from poor sleep can result in many health issues, including increased blood pressure and worsening insomnia.
These symptoms could be the result of poor sleep:
- Mood swings
- Challenging behaviors
- Poor impulse control
- Emotional instability
- Increased stress levels
- Poor attention span
- Poor memory
As sleep is necessary for maintaining so many vital functions of the body, improving sleep quality can help the brain and body work better.
Tips for better sleep:
- Have a regular bedtime routine, it forms a habit in your body which will lead to your body predicting sleep based on your actions, making it easier to fall asleep.
- If you eat before bed, eat foods high in protein and fat, and low in sugars to prevent changes in blood sugar that could wake you up and interrupt your sleep.
- Avoid using your phone or computer, and fluorescent lighting in the hour before bed, the light waves from these inhibit the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
- Make sure to get enough vitamins in your daily life as they are necessary to produce hormones that regulate your circadian rhythms.
- Participate in regular physical activity, even just a daily walk or yoga, to help reduce cortisol (stress) levels, which inhibit healthy sleep.
- Try to sleep in an environment you feel comfortable in, so that your body can fully relax and get the sleep it needs to keep you healthy
- Work with your care team to learn how your mental health and sleep are connected, discuss how CBT or behavioral interventions can improve your sleep and your mental health.