There’s a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Lack of sleep can affect mental health but mental health problems can also affect how well you sleep – both the quantity and the quality of it – so it’s extremely important to address both issues.
One area in particular that causes disturbed sleep is stress and worry. Our research found that many of us are too anxious to sleep: nearly half of the respondents said that stress or worry keeps them awake at night (45%) rising to 50% of women (compared to 39% of men) and 58% of those in a relationship.
Pressures of illness, uncertainty and the burden of responsibility often lead to stress and worry. Not only that but many of us lead very stressful working lives and with the onslaught of technology, scientists claim that many people are struggling with an information overload caused by the blurring of boundaries between work and home. It seems people don’t understand that they don’t have to be ‘available’ 24 hours a day. This in turn can affect mental health and wellbeing. In fact, sleep problems are a key indicator of declining mental health.
Poor sleep quality also affects mood, so if you spot a change in an employee, a friend or family member’s behaviour and attitude then try talking to them. These changes in mood can be minor or they may be a more serious mental health issue and it’s important to be conscious of this.
Those who don’t sleep well because of health issues often look to medication and drinking alcohol to try and get a better night’s sleep – not the best solutions. Many also turn to more natural, alternative or self-help solutions – from meditation and homeopathy to sleep advice lines and sleep clinics to cognitive behavioural therapy courses. Often people neglect the obvious basics such as a good sleep-orientated environment, a comfortable bed and proper bedtime wind down routines.
It can also help for people to write down what’s worrying them or talk through their issues with someone – unburdening thoughts can lift a huge weight off someone’s shoulders. Advice on ways to relax is also useful – meditation is a great tool for relaxing body and mind.
Exercise (but not too close to bedtime) can also aid better quality sleep and lower body temperature which also induces sleep. It improves heart health and blood pressure; builds and strengthens bone and muscle; helps combat stress; helps improve mood; and it helps you look and feel better.
For more information visit www.sleepcouncil.org.uk