Lack of sleep is directly related to your mood and mental health

Lack of sleep is directly related to your mood and mental health

In 1942 the average adult slept 7.9 hours a night. Now adults average 6.5 hours sleep a night. I do not know at what point in the last 8 decades we decided as a society that ‘powering through’ on as little sleep as possible was either heroic or promotion worthy. 

Too often I’ve participated in or overheard conversations where both parties proudly stated how little sleep they are able to survive on – as thought they were training for an Olympic event. Far too many of us take additional stimulants, such as energy drinks and coffee, to keep ourselves going throughout the day, then needing a depressant such as alcohol to help us get to sleep. A perpetual cycle that we often feel is demanded of us by our 24/7 online culture. 

Both sleep depravity and what we consume as a result are putting unnecessary strain on our body and our mind. It is no wonder we are straining under the threat of a mental health epidemic. Sleep expert Matthew Walker* has stated that a lack of sleep is directly linked to depression, anxiety, suicidality & Alzheimer’s disease. We all need to get more sleep. The sleep foundation recommends the following number of hours a night sleep

  • Teenagers (14-17 years) need 8-10 hours 
  • Adults (18-64 years) need 7-9 hours 

There is the truth that some of us are early birds and others night larks. We should respect this in both ourselves and others. Try not to force yourself into a routine that doesn’t suit your natural circadian rhythm. Most importantly, let’s stop compromising on the number of hours we do get each and every night and let’s stop promoting lack of sleep as a heroic accomplishment. 

Matthew makes a few suggestions on how to get a good night sleep

  1. Keep a constant sleep schedule. Try going to bed each night and wake up each morning at the same time
  2. Keep your bedroom dark. For the last hour before bedtime stay away from screens and dim down the lights in your house by at least half. Doing so will help release melatonin into your system.
  3. A cool bedroom (18.5C) helps your body to get to sleep. Your body needs to be 1C lower in early sleep than during waking hours.
  4. Don’t lie in bed awake. You need to train your brain that being in bed = sleep (rather than being in bed = lying awake). If you can’t sleep, go to another room, read a book and only go back to bed when you are sleepy again. Also, avoid afternoon naps, these reduce your melatonin levels, so make it harder to get to sleep later.
  5. Avoid caffeine after midday and alcohol on a ‘school night’ – as it fragments your sleep and blocks your dream sleep. 

* Matthew Walker is Professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of Berkley California and the sleep scientist at Google, has studied sleep and its impact on the body and the mind.

If you want to read or watch more about the importance of sleep, click on the below links:

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