In our bustling modern world – where time seems to be at a premium – the significance of a good night’s sleep can often take a backseat to our pursuit of productivity and success. However, the impact of sleep on mental health is profound.

At Plus by APN, our goal is to make mental wellness a reality for our patients using a holistic approach. Therefore, it’s important to explore the significance of good sleep, its connection to mental health, how sleep disruptions can lead to conditions like anxiety and depression, and what to do when someone is experiencing sleep issues. By taking control of our relationship to sleep, we can better support our mental state and overall well-being.

Why is Sleep So Important?

Sleep is a fundamental biological process that plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health. Vital for proper functioning of both the body and mind, sleep serves various purposes, including:

  • Physical restoration
  • Memory function
  • Emotional regulation

Therefore, a lack of sufficient sleep can lead to a host of problems that are essential to understand to improve the quality of one’s holistic health. Like a battery that needs charging, you require sleep to properly operate.

What is a “Normal” Amount of Sleep?

The ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, but general guidelines suggest that adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Still, it’s important to note that individual sleep needs may differ, with some people functioning better with slightly less or more sleep than others.

Nonetheless, as we’ve previously pointed out, consistently too much or too little sleep can lead to a range of issues. While it’s okay to have nights here and there where our sleep patterns differ, it’s important to remain vigilant if it starts happening regularly.

Frequently Disrupted Sleep and Its Impact

Frequent disruptions in sleep, whether due to insomnia, sleep apnea, life circumstances like having a newborn, or other sleep disorders, can have a profound impact on mental health. Sleep disruptions interfere with the normal sleep cycles, preventing the brain and body from undergoing the necessary processes for rejuvenation and restoration. Over time, this can contribute to a variety of mental health symptoms, including increased anxiety and heightened stress levels.

How Does Sleep Impact Mental Health?

The relationship between sleep and mental health is considered bidirectional. This means that mental health conditions can contribute to sleep disturbances, and conversely, poor sleep can exacerbate mental health issues. Feeding off one another, your sleep and mental health are in a constantly intertwined correspondence, each requiring your attention for the other to thrive.

When we consistently fail to get adequate sleep, the brain’s ability to regulate emotions and cope with stress is compromised. This can lead to an increased vulnerability to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Sleep’s Impact on Physical Health

Beyond its influence on mental health, sleep plays a critical role in maintaining physical health. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of various health problems, including cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and weakened immune function. Inadequate sleep can also affect metabolism, contributing to weight gain and other metabolic disorders.

Is it Safe to Take Melatonin and Other Sleep Medications?

Many individuals struggling with sleep turn to over-the-counter supplements like melatonin or prescription sleep medications. While these can be effective for short-term relief, it’s essential to approach them with caution. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, and its supplementation may be helpful for some people, but it is recommended to be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Prescription sleep medications, such as benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare provider. These medications may provide temporary relief, but they do not address the underlying causes of sleep issues and can therefore lead to dependence if used for an extended period.

It’s crucial to consult with a primary care physician before using any sleep aids or supplements. Additionally, individuals should consider exploring evidence-based approaches to sleep improvement before relying on medications.

How to Establish Healthy Sleeping Habits

Addressing sleep problems requires a holistic approach that considers various factors contributing to a person’s sleep disturbances. Some evidence-based strategies to improve sleep include:

Establishing a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (even on weekends) can greatly help regulate your body’s internal clock.

Creating a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Engaging in calming activities before bedtime, such as reading, gentle stretching, or practicing relaxation techniques, signals your body that it’s time to wind down.

Optimizing Your Sleep Environment

Ensuring your bedroom is conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, quiet, and cool can help you fall asleep faster and sleep longer. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows, as the average person spends about one-third of their life in bed.

Limiting Exposure to Screens

The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Aim to reduce screen time at least an hour before bed.

Watching Your Diet

Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. These substances can disrupt sleep patterns.

Traditional Treatment Options for Sleep

Traditional treatment options for sleep problems include both behavioral and pharmacological interventions. Behavioral therapies are often considered the first line of treatment due to their focus on addressing the root causes of sleep issues, and include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

CBT-I is a structured program that helps individuals identify and change thoughts and behaviors that contribute to sleep problems. It has been shown to be effective in improving sleep quality without the risks associated with medication.

Sleep Hygiene Education

Educating individuals about healthy sleep habits and lifestyle choices is a crucial component of improving sleep. This may involve addressing issues such as irregular sleep schedules, excessive caffeine intake, and lack of physical activity.

Relaxation Techniques

Practices such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness meditation can help calm the mind and promote relaxation before bedtime.

In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe medications to help manage sleep disorders. However, these are typically considered a last resort due to the potential for side effects and dependence.

Success Rates and Considerations

Behavioral interventions, particularly CBT-I, have shown promising results in the treatment of sleep disorders. CBT-I focuses on long-term solutions and aims to improve sleep by addressing the thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes that contribute to insomnia. Success rates vary, but many individuals experience significant improvements in sleep quality without the risks associated with medications.

On the other hand, prescription sleep medications, whether benzodiazepines or non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, provide short-term relief, though are not typically successful long term. Additionally, they come with the risk of dependence, tolerance, and side effects. Moreover, these medications do not address the underlying causes of sleep issues and should be used cautiously and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Sleep Matters

Sleep is a fundamental pillar of health, with far-reaching implications for both mental and physical well-being. Consistent, high-quality sleep is essential for emotional regulation, cognitive function, and overall resilience against mental health disorders. Recognizing the importance of sleep and addressing sleep problems through evidence-based approaches can significantly contribute to improved mental health.

While sleep medications may offer temporary relief, they should be used judiciously and under the guidance of healthcare professionals, as they do not address the root causes of sleep issues. By prioritizing healthy sleep habits, creating a conducive sleep environment, and seeking professional guidance when needed, you can pave the way for a restful night’s sleep and enhance your overall mental well-being.

Plus by APN Comprehensive Care

Here at Plus by APN, we go a bit further to support optimal mental wellness through comprehensive care. By working with one of our licensed therapists, you can delve into the unique issues that may be causing your sleepless nights with a tailored plan of intervention including lifestyle habits, traditional and alternative approaches.

We offer a variety of evidence-based alternative therapies, such as Deep TMS, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, ketamine treatment, neurofeedback, and stellate ganglion block to help improve your mental state. By improving your mental health, you can improve your sleep health, as well.

To learn more about Plus by APN’s services, call 424.644.6486 or fill out the online contact form today.


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