As a parent, you are likely inundated with responsibilities and stressors on a daily basis — which can unfortunately push important things like sleep, relaxation, and mental health to the back burner. However, as mental health disorders are increasingly sweeping the nation, and a full one third of Americans experience some version of sleep disturbance, it is no surprise that sleep and mental health are correlated.
Sleep helps determine our physical health because our body repairs itself and takes a break as we unwind and rest at night. The National Association for Mental Illness says sleeps contributes to how successfully we maintain good mental health. When we don’t sleep enough, that can be both a symptom of mental illness and can exacerbate conditions like anxiety or depressive disorders.
Why Sleep is So Important
Simply put, our bodies rely on sleep to repair themselves each night. When we get enough sleep, we lower our risk of getting sick, aging, and are able to give our cells a refresher. Additionally, proper sleep patterns can help you maintain a healthy weight as well as increases body functions, preventing accidents due to fatigue.
It’s no secret that our minds also work more efficiently while we’ve experienced proper rest, as we file scads of information we take in each day. You may think that your body is less active while it’s resting, however that couldn’t be further from the truth — our brains use this time to process ideas and come up with creative solutions. And good sleep helps us prepare for/handle stress, and improve our mood.
Sleep & Mental Health
Mattress Advisor, a leading site on sleep health and products, describes the importance of sleep for your health like this: “Sleep for your brain is like gas for a car. When the tank is full we get where we need to be,” and, “without proper sleep, our minds begin too slow, unable to operate at their full potential.” With that being said, sleep is proven to have high implications on your overall mood, and limiting sleep puts you at risk for feelings of sadness, hopelessness and even depression.
Sleep disorders, like insomnia (trouble sleeping) and hypersomnia (sleeping too much) are one of the biggest indicators of a mental health disorder, as chronic sleep issues will affect between 50-80 percent of psychiatric patients, and 10-18 percent in the general population. Growing research is showing that sleep deficits will also exacerbate symptoms and contribute to the risk for developing anxiety and depressive disorders.
The good news is that treating sleep problems can also alleviate and lessen the severity of symptoms for mental health disorders. Just feeling rested and able to cope with your mental illness is a step in the right direction.
Children, ADHD, & Sleep
Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder — which is the most common mental illness diagnosed among children — can affect a child’s ability to follow proper sleep patterns and behaviors. Because children with ADHD are often treated with stimulants to lessen symptoms, they may develop secondary problems like insomnia.
One thing we do know is that proper sleep patterns can also help alleviate symptoms of ADHD. You can help your child with good sleep habits, like consistent schedules for bedtime, and waking up at the same time each morning. Also creating a routine before bed to relax and unwind (like a bath then 30 minutes of reading time) may help with getting your child to sleep at the same time each night.
Oftentimes, your child’s sleeping habits with directly influence your own — which makes the emphasis of proper sleep for the entire family even more important. If you have a newborn that isn’t sleeping, adequate rest will likely prove elusive, causing an increase in stress levels, and a decrease in the quality of your mood, and ability to cope with daily stressors or emotions.
Make sure that you are making sleep a priority in your life and your family’s, as lack of sleep can have severe impacts on both mental and physical health. If sleep isn’t coming naturally for you or other members of your family, consider seeking help from an expert. Amy Bonsiero, who is a sleep expert and Pediatric Sleep Consultant at Mind Body Family, can evaluate your struggles and needs over the phone and via email to elevate short-term sleep issues, or do in-person sessions for deeper sleep challenges.
Bonsiero will evaluate your child’s sleep patterns, and help you change sleep habits and sleep environments to make sure everyone gets the restorative sleep they need.
Christine Huegel is a Writer and Sleep Expert and Mattress Advisor. Christine is North Carolina native, who after graduating from the University of Illinois, lived in Chicago, New York City, and Seattle, before reclaiming the southeast as her official home. As someone who loves to travel and spends more time on a plane than in a car, she has mastered the art of comfort and sleep from any timezone. When Christine isn't advocating for sleep health, you can find her making home-made candles, at the gym, or exploring different destinations on her bucket list.