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Why Can’t I Sleep At Night? The Link Between Sleep and Mental Health

Sleep is one of our core, fundamental needs as humans. We need sleep to rest, repair, and recharge our bodies.

When our sleep becomes disrupted, it can be challenging to function in even the most basic ways. Poor sleep can impact everything from our mood and thinking, to our ability to drive safely, to our relationships with other people.

Sleep is also inextricably linked to our mental health. Certain mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, can negatively impact sleep. Similarly, poor sleep can also have an impact on a person’s mental health. This can lead to a vicious cycle of poor sleep and poor mental health.

If you’re struggling to get quality sleep, know that you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll discuss the key links between sleep and mental health. We’ll also share some key steps you can take to get a better, more restful night’s sleep.

How Mental Health Impacts Sleep

Many mental health conditions can impact sleep quality. Depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and others can disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle, leading to insomnia or other sleep disorders. Symptoms of these conditions can also make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, negatively impacting the quality of sleep that one can get.

Sleep and Depression

Depression is a common mental health condition that affects many people worldwide. While depression is commonly thought of as being associated with sadness and lack of energy, one key symptom of depression is disturbances in sleep.

Depression can disrupt the normal sleep cycle, leading to difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early in the morning. Other key symptoms of depression are negative thoughts, anxiety, and worry, which can make it difficult to fall asleep.

In severe cases, depression can lead to insomnia, where a person has difficulty sleeping for several weeks or months. Insomnia can also make a person 10 times more likely to develop depression, making it all the more important to address sleep issues promptly.

Sleep and Anxiety

Anxiety is another common mental health condition that can be associated with poor-quality sleep. The primary symptoms of anxiety include persistent feelings of worry or fear. These symptoms can lead to difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently throughout the night, and having nightmares or night sweats.

PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that stems from experiencing a traumatic life event or series of events. Sleep issues are common in people with PTSD. One of the symptoms of PTSD is nightmares or flashbacks, which can disrupt sleep and lead to insomnia. Additionally, people with PTSD may experience hyperarousal, which can make it difficult to relax and fall asleep.

Sleep and Stress

Outside of specific mental health conditions, general life stress can also have a big impact on sleep. When we’re under high levels of stress, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that is responsible for the body's stress response. Cortisol can disrupt the body's natural sleep cycle, leading to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. People experiencing high levels of stress might also have a hard time falling asleep as they experience excess worry or have a hard time relaxing.

Ways to Improve Sleep and Mental Health

You deserve to get quality, restful sleep. You can leave behind the nights of tossing and turning, asking yourself “Why can’t I sleep?”

If you’re struggling with sleep, here are some things you can do to improve both your sleep and your mental health.

Practice quality sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is a crucial way to improve both your sleep quality and your mental health. Sleep hygiene refers to engaging in habits and practices that support high-quality sleep.

This might include things like:

  • Establishing a regular sleep schedule (i.e., going to bed around the same time each night)

  • Avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime

  • Creating a comfortable sleep environment (e.g., limiting light and sound)

  • Restricting or eliminating caffeine consumption

  • Staying away from bright screens 30-60 minutes before bed

  • Limiting daytime naps

  • Charging your phone in another room besides your bedroom

Manage your stress levels

Lowering and managing stress levels can improve both mental health and sleep quality. Engaging in stress-reducing activities, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or talk therapy can promote relaxation and combat stress. Find tools and practices that work for you to help lower and manage your stress levels.

Engage in exercise and movement

Whether you enjoy going for a run, swimming, doing yoga, or walking around outside, any kind of movement can help you improve both your sleep and mental health. Exercise can increase the body's production of endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals. Regular exercise can also help regulate the body's circadian rhythm, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation, all of which can lead to better sleep quality.

Check on your physical health

Sometimes, there is a biological cause for poor quality sleep. Conditions like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, chronic pain, circadian rhythm disorders, and others can make it hard to get a quality night’s sleep. In your efforts to improve your sleep, it’s important to rule out the impacts of any of these physical conditions in impacting your sleep, so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms.

Work with a therapist

Therapy can also be an effective way to address both sleep and mental health problems. A therapist can help you identify and address the underlying causes of your sleep disturbances and mental health challenges. By working with a therapist, you can develop coping mechanisms and techniques to improve your sleep, stress levels, mental health, and overall well-being.

Finding a Therapist

At Westmoreland Psychotherapy Associates, we offer a range of therapy services to help you improve your sleep and overall mental health. Our experienced therapists can work with you to identify the causes of your sleep issues and develop a treatment plan to help you get back on track.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards better sleep and mental health.


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