Anyone who’s had a bad night’s sleep can attest to how much it can affect your day. Poor sleep affects everything from focus to mood to weight gain, and prolonged bad sleep could have significant effects on your health and mental well-being.
It should be no surprise, then, that poor sleep can contribute to long-term mental health issues like anxiety and depression. If you are experiencing these mental health conditions you may want to take a look at your sleeping patterns. A few changes could make a world of difference to your waking life.
The effects of poor sleep
Short-term effects of lack of sleep include low mood, irritability and a reduced cognitive function — difficulty focusing, forgetfulness and so on. These are the symptoms we’re most aware of, the ones you might have felt after a big night out or if the neighbors’ music kept you up all night.
If your poor sleep is prolonged for many days or weeks, these short-term effects will be intensified and joined by other more serious mental conditions. You might start exhibiting erratic behavior, anxiety and depression, or even psychotic episodes, along with weight gain and poor cardiovascular health.
Why am I not sleeping?
It’s a question that almost everyone one of us has asked at some point in our lives: why can’t I get to sleep?
“Poor sleep can be ascribed to any number of issues,” says Flint Nodule, health writer at 1Day2write and Australia2write. “Trying to figure out what is causing your poor sleep is the first step in eliminating the problem.”
The most common cause of poor sleep is going to bed with an overly-stimulated mind, and this is most often the result of stress. This is a broad category that includes a wide range of experiences, some which might only affect you for a day or two at a time. However, there are some more prolonged conditions that might be affecting your sleep.
Anxiety & depression
Poor mental health can be both a symptom and cause of poor sleep, resulting in a cycle that can be hard to break. If you are aware you have a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression, it could be the reason why your sleep is disrupted.
“Sleep is an essential part of our day where we restart and refresh,” says Milady Jibelli, a lifestyle writer at Britstudent and Nextcoursework. “Conditions like anxiety can make you feel like you can’t switch off, preventing you from hitting that all-important refresh button.”
If you’re regularly sleeping between 7 and 9 hours every night — what doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle — and you’re still feeling exhausted during the day, this might be a sign of other conditions.
It might be that the sleep you are getting is disrupted for one reason or another. This could be due to breathing conditions like sleep apnea, in which your windpipe is temporarily blocked, causing stress and preventing you from getting into deep sleep. Finding it difficult to stay awake throughout the day could also be a sign of narcolepsy, caused by an imbalance of hypocretin in the brain.
What can I do?
If you believe you have a sleep disorder or mental health condition you may want to seek medical advice, but there are some things you can do right now to get your mind and body ready for sleep at night.
Prepare your bedroom for sleep — make sure it’s quiet, dark and free of any intrusive sights and smells that might distract you from sleep at night.
Try to keep regular sleeping and waking times — yes, even on weekends. This will condition your body to be ready to sleep at night.
Only go to bed when you’re tired — it might sound obvious, but if you’re lying awake in bed for long periods of time it might just be because you’re going to bed too early.
Exercise daily — make sure you burn off energy throughout the day, but not right before you sleep or you could stimulate your brain too much.
Keep away from screens — the light from our phones and computers tricks our brains into thinking its daytime. Make your bed a phone-free zone to ensure optimum relaxation.
He assists companies in developing their marketing strategy concepts and contributes to numerous sites and publications on everything from project management and U.S. political news. He is also a writer at Origin Writings.