How Sleep Is Essential To Proper Mental Health

When our bodies are deprived of sleep, it can lead to many health problems. Sleep can affect your mood, whether in a positive or a negative way. Look at how sleep affects our mental health.

By Dr. Samir Parikh  • 7 min read

How Sleep Is Essential To Proper Mental Health

It is a known fact that sleep makes us feel better. Often, we find ourselves craving for a holiday or a break from work just to catch up on our sleep. We should never forget the critical role of sleep in our lives. Sleeping serves a protective as well as an adaptive function, as it helps us preserve our physical as well as mental energy, while at the same time repairing and restoring our bodies’ resources that have been depleted after the day’s toiling.

We all have our own body clock, which operates on a 24-hour cycle, biologically attuned to make us feel sleepy when it’s dark and awaken us in the daylight.

Thus, sleep is essential to proper mental health. But, how much are the two important to each other? Cannot one have a sound mental health even if he suffers from sleep problems? Take a look.

Are sleep disorders a symptom of a psychiatric disorder?

Sleeping patterns are a marker of an individual’s physical as well as mental health. Sleep disorders, which are not restricted to insomnia, do come within the purview of mental disorders. Therefore, there is clearly a bi-directional relationship between one’s sleep cycle as well as mental health and well-being.

Coping with sleep problems

The following are some tips for sleep hygiene which are designed to enhance good sleeping and there is evidence that suggests that these strategies can provide long-term solutions to sleep difficulties.

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine or alcohol: We should not consume any caffeine (present in coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, etc.) or nicotine (cigarettes) for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed. Many of these substances act as stimulants and interfere with the ability to fall asleep. These might lead to further sleep problems.
  • No TV/Mobile: All mobile phones and television sets should be switched off two hours prior to sleeping, as looking at the screens of these electronic gadgets actually stimulates our brain cells, thereby increasing our alertness. Instead, reading a paperback book or listening to relaxing music might help. Ensure a technology-free time just before we sleep.
  • Physical exercise: Regular physical exercise done daily helps not only in relieving our stress and improving our overall health but also helps us get a restful sleep at night.
  • Regularity: It is important to remember that it is not just the number of hours of sleep, but also the ‘time’ at which we sleep that makes a difference to the amount of adequate sleep we get.

Does your child have trouble falling asleep? Is his sleep always disturbed? Read the below article to find out how you can help him overcome these common sleep-related problems.

Mental health issues and problems due to inadequate sleep:

One of the ways to realize the importance of an adequate sleep is to consider the consequences of the time when we don’t get enough sleep:

  1. Impact on Physical Health:
    Besides leading to much higher levels of stress, sleep deprivation can also lead to other health problems like headaches, hypertension, high blood pressure and diabetes. Studies have also reported that people working at flexible shifts, with irregular sleep cycles, are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and coronary heart diseases. Another result of sleep deprivation is obesity. When one does not get enough sleep, the body is unable to function properly or at its best. Also, sleep-deprived people resort to eating food at odd hours that leads to weight gain.

  2. Fatigue:
    A lack of sleep majorly leads to fatigue, as we become physically as well as mentally weary.

  3. Mood:
    When we haven’t slept enough, we are prone to have much more irritability, with lower levels of tolerance towards trivial triggers experienced in our lives.

  4. Impaired Cognition:
    People who haven’t had an adequate sleep tend to have a lack of alertness, difficulty in concentration, slower reaction times, as well as forgetfulness.

  5. Occupational hazards:
    We are unable to perform optimally when we are lacking an adequate sleep, as our motivation levels drop, we find it difficult to make decisions and our overall performance is impaired.

The author is MBBS, DPM, MD(psy), Consultant Psychiatrist, Director-Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences.

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