The Holiday Season is one of the busiest times of the year. It is filled with an extra dose of special occasions, family time, cooking, cleaning, and shopping. All of these extra activities combined with the usual long workday and everyday household chores can be exhausting. After a long day, sleeping is essential to function effectively but often gets pushed to the back burner. Even if enough time is set to sleep, falling or staying asleep can be just as difficult. It is important to be aware of your sleeping habits and recognize how they may be affecting your mental health.
It is no secret that lack of sleep typically causes a person to feel irritable, short-tempered and moody the next day. One study done by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania examined the affects of sleep over a weeks span. The researchers found that “subjects who were limited to 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted” (Harvard Medical School, 2008). This shows that even missing a couple of hours of sleep a night over a period of times leaves a major impact on mood and functioning.
There can be many reasons for not getting enough rest over the holiday season, but prolonged periods of sleeplessness or staying asleep can be more serious. According to National Alliance of Mental Illness, over one third of Americans report difficulty sleeping. Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders. Its characteristics include difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the morning. “Short term insomnia is very common and has many causes such as stress, travel, or other life events. It can generally be relieved by simple sleep hygiene interventions such as exercise, a hot bath, warm milk, or changing your bedroom environment” (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2015).
Long term insomnia (more than 3 weeks) should be brought to the attention of a physician and or mental health professional for it can be a secondary condition of mental health condition. “More than one half of insomnia cases are related to depression, anxiety, or other psychological stress” (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2015). Just as psychological stress is related to insomnia, insomnia is also a contributor to psychological stress. The National Sleep foundation recommends that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night for a person to function at their best (National Sleep Foundation, 2015).
The National Alliance on Mental Illness Recommend the following treatments for insomnia:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Epstein, L (2008). Sleep and Mood. Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/mood
National Alliance on Mental Illness (2015). Sleep Disorders: The Connection Between Sleep and Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Sleep-Disorders .
National Sleep Foundation (2015). National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times