Sleep is an essential component of our physical and mental health that allows our bodies to rest and recharge. A healthy sleep schedule can be challenging while juggling the responsibilities and pressures that accumulate throughout the day. Nonetheless, it is critical to prioritize how and when you sleep in order to improve the quality and productivity of the day.
Poor sleep can be both a consequence and cause of poor mental health. Moreover, maintaining unhealthy sleep schedules can often lead to the development of mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression. Conversely, an individual already struggling with a mental health disorder can develop sleep disorder, exacerbating the preexisting disorder.
While ongoing research continues to understand the effect of sleep on our mental health, evidence indicates that mental health disorders can have negative consequences on sleep health. It is estimated that 90% of youth who struggle with depression experience sleep problems. It is important to prioritize your sleep and maintain healthy sleep habits, particularly when coping with physical or mental health challenges.
Sleep cycles are divided into four stages. The first three stages are known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and the final stage is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During the first and fastest stage of NREM sleep, the body transitions from being awake to being asleep as muscles relax, breathing slows and heart rate decreases. The second stage of NREM sleep is the longest–muscles become even more relaxed, body temperature decreases and eye movement stops. The third stage of NREM sleep is when the body reaches its most relaxed state, comprising the most important stage of feeling refreshed the next day. The final stage of sleep is known as REM sleep where blood rate, heart rate and breathing will begin to increase. Dreaming typically occurs during this stage.
The four stages of sleep, lasting for approximately 90-120 minutes, cycle throughout the night. Sleep cycles and their duration can vary from person to person and there are many studies that dive deeper into the specifics of each cycle.
The amount of sleep each person needs can vary based on multiple factors. A primary indicator of how much sleep a person needs is their age. Younger individuals tend to require more sleep than sleep adults.
According to the CDC, the below table outlines the appropriate amount of sleep needed for each age group.
Why is sleep so important?
1. Improve your concentration and productivity
2. Poor sleep is associated with depression, and can exacerbate the severity of mental health disorders including suicidal ideation
3. Sleep affects your emotions and ability to socialize
4. Sufficient sleep can influence the body’s ability to process emotional information, decreasing mood swings or stress
5. Lack of sleep can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain, altering essential hormone production
6. Sleep supports the growth and development of the body, particularly in adolescents
How to Improve the quality of your sleep
- Avoid caffeine or stimulants in the hours leading up to sleep
- Avoid heavy or large meals in the hours leading up to sleep
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday
- Only get in bed when it is time to sleep, allowing the bed to be a stimulus for sleep
- Avoid screen exposure in the hours leading up to sleep
- Turn off notifications on your devices to avoid distractions
- Cooler temperatures and dark or dim lighting promote quality sleep
- Ensure your sleep space is quiet and calm
- Exercise during the day
- Take a warm bath or other relaxing activities before bed
- Naps can be a good way to reenergize throughout the day, however if you are struggling to sleep at night, try removing naps out of your daily routine
The relationship among sleep and mental health disorders can vary in severity and complexity. It’s important to talk with a mental health professional if you are struggling with a sleep disorder that is affecting your physical or mental wellbeing. CharlieHealth’s team of expert clinicians is here to support teens and young adults in finding a personalized treatment program, all from the comfort of home.