We all know that a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep are critically important for both our physical and psychological health.
However the importance of sleep is often underestimated, and especially how valuable it can be for those troubled by physical or mental health issues.
The benefits of a good night’s sleep include:
- Improvement in mood, and lowering of anxiety levels;
- Reduction in physical and psychological stress levels; and
- Better consolidation in the brain, of new memories, behaviours and knowledge.
On the other hand, poor sleep and sleep deprivation can result in problems such as:
- Heightened anxiety and stress levels;
- Increased irritability and aggressive behavior;
- Depressed mood;
- Excessive appetite;
- Excessive sex drive;
- Fatigue and tiredness.
Sleep deprivation can also exacerbate the symptoms of a number of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety disorders.
What is a Good Night’s Sleep?
At times it is difficult to have a good night’s sleep, each and every night. However research studies show that it is important for people to have at least one good night’s sleep every four days.
Healthy sleep is often characterized by:
- 7-8 hours of daily sleep;
- Sleeping at night and waking up in the morning;
- Falling asleep within 15-20 minutes of lying down on the bed;
- Feeling refreshed when waking up;
- Feeling alert and able to maintain energy throughout the waking hours;
- Sleeping without disturbance, or out of the ordinary behavior (eg snoring, pauses in breathing, teeth grinding).
Common Sleeping Problems
The two most common sleeping problems are:
- difficulties in falling asleep; and
- difficulties in staying asleep.
People can experience one of them or both.
There are a number of different types of sleeping disorders, such as:
- Insomnia—chronic difficulty in falling asleep and/or maintaining sleep when no other cause is found for these symptoms;
- Bruxism—involuntarily grinding or clenching of the teeth while sleeping;
- Nocturia—a frequent need to get up and urinate at night;
- Sleepwalking or somnambulism—engaging in activities normally associated with wakefulness (such as eating or dressing), which may include walking, without conscious knowledge.
What Causes Sleep Problems?
Causes of sleep problems can be both physiological and psychological. Quite often, sleep problems can be caused by anxiety and stress. People who suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues often have sleep problems, which only serve to exacerbate the symptoms, and the sleep deprivation makes it harder for their mental health to improve.
When people have anxiety and/or mood issues, they often have problems falling asleep and/or staying asleep due to:
- Not being able to stop thinking about worries and negative thoughts (preoccupation);
- Not being able to relax, as body and mind stay alert.
When sleep problems are caused by psychological stress and anxiety, it can be useful to seek support from a mental health professional. Without treatment, sleep deprivation can worsen both physical and psychological health. An experienced mental health professional, such as a psychologist, can suggest different strategies to both alleviate mental health difficulties if required, and improve the quality of sleep.
Author: Yu Takizawa, B Sc (Hons), M Couns, M App Psych.
Yu Takizawa is a Brisbane psychologist, fluent in both English and Japanese. He is particularly interested in offering counselling and psychotherapy services to people who are facing cultural challenges, or problems with anxiety.
Yu Takizawa is not currently taking bookings, however to make an appointment with a qualified clinician go to Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
NB Yu Takizawa is currently on extended leave.