For most people, sleep isn’t thought about as anything more than what you eventually do at the end of a long day. But, it is definitely important to realize that sleep affects your brain in so many ways, and whether you like it or not, not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to your mental health. If so important, then why does over half of the population neglect it and put literally everything else before it? It is well known that people these days lead very busy lives and that when it comes to the end of the day, sleep tends to be pushed aside for things like extra work, television, or time on our phones. However, as much as everyone thinks that their phones help them relax before bed, it is a true fact that quality sleep is suppressed by the blue light your eyes take in when exposed to things like TV and Phones.
But how does this affect my mental health?
Sleep and mental health are very closely connected. Without enough quality sleep during the night, your brain doesn’t operate properly, which can lead to mental health issues. And those with mental health issues are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders, and with these sleep disorders you become more sleep-deprived, and with sleep deprivation comes mental health issues… Do you see what I’m getting at? The cycle just continues and continues.
Your body and your brain work together to keep your beautiful being standing and functioning, so it is important to fuel it with what it needs, sleep. I’m not saying that getting 12 hours of sleep every night is necessary, but getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night can have a huge impact on how you function during the day, your amount of focus, and your mental health.
With that being said, short-term sleep deprivation can leave you feeling irritable and exhausted, but this can become more serious over time. There can be health consequences as well. Lack of sleep is linked to a number of unfavorable health consequences including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. With these conditions comes stress and anxiety as well.
Not only can it have consequences long term, but, sleep deprivation also plays a role in your brain development and brain maintenance.
If you are someone that struggles to sleep through the night, tossing and turning, you are well-acquainted with the disruptive effects of sleep deprivation. When you cannot relax your body and mind, it affects the good quality sleep that your body needs and disrupts your sleep cycle. As a result of this, it is likely that one experiences changes in mood and increased irritability and anger. This makes it even harder to cope with even the minor stresses of daily life.
But how can you fix the way you sleep? It’s not as simple as taking a 3-hour nap when you get home from school or work. This can actually make it worse and disrupt your sleep schedule further.
Here’s what you can do:
Start small- try to stop going on your phone at least 20-30 minutes before bed, practice some light yoga or breathwork, and journal. This eliminates the blue light and also gives your mind a chance to release and relax. Through a busy day of processing information, letting it take in more on your phone is worse. Writing down your thoughts and reflecting on your day can help with this too. With that, start going to bed a little earlier every few days and try getting at least 8 hours.
Even things like avoiding heavy meals and alcohol can suppress the good quality sleep that your body needs because it won’t allow your body to fully relax.
With small steps, finding a better sleep schedule is possible, and can improve your mental health greatly.