Common Misconceptions about Mental Health
01/26/2016
Creating A Peaceful Morning
02/26/2016

The Importance of Balanced Sleep

If someone asks an individual if they have had problems with their sleep we generally assume that they are having trouble falling asleep, however, two problems exist when we discuss sleep patterns:

  1. Not Sleeping Enough
  2. Sleeping Too Much

Both of these occurrences have negative side effects but the good news is both problems have solutions.

Symptoms of too little sleep: 

  • Poor concentration/memory/judgment/decision making
    • Lack of sleep decreases our alertness, which makes it more difficult to concentrate or make a memory. Research has been conducted studying sleep habits in mice that found that sleep clears our brains of toxic molecules. Getting an adequate amount of sleep helps clear our nervous system (National Institutes of Health, 2013).
  • Motor skills not functioning properly
    • It is more difficult to process actions while we are tired, making things such as movement more difficult.
  • Hunger has increased/weight gain
    • Your brain is not getting the energy it needs from getting sleep, so it will seek it out elsewhere. Running low on sleep can increase the production of ghrelin (hunger hormone) in your gut. Too much of this chemical makes your body crave fatty and surgery foods which can lead to over eating and eventually weight gain (R.S., 2016).
  • More emotional/irritable/impulsive
    • Lack of sleep tends to make us more sensitive to emotional stimuli.
  • Weaker immune system
    • Our T-cells decrease with lack of sleep and inflammatory cytokines increase which could lead to a risk of developing a cold (D.M., 2010).
  • Decreased sex drive
    • Depleted energy can lower one’s libido.
  • Increased depression and/or anxiety
  • Increased risk for diabetes

 

Symptoms of over sleeping:

  • Symptoms of anxiety
    • The need for sleep can trigger symptoms of anxiety.
  • Memory problems
    • Quality of sleep is important for memory, and unfortunately those who sleep too much may not be getting good, quality sleep (H.L., 2014).
  • Depression
    • A symptom of depression is sleeping too much, and unfortunately too much sleep can actually worsen a person’s depression. Regular sleep habits are important for recovering from depression.
  • Increased risk for diabetes
  • Headaches
  • Sleep Apnea

So how do we help these problems?

Routine is important for establishing a good sleep pattern, so start planning your sleep accordingly and try to stick to the same routine every day. An example of a routine could include:

  1. Change into pajamas
  2. Brush teeth
  3. Wash face
  4. Go to bathroom
  5. Get into bed
  6. Read book
  7. At certain time every night, turn lights off

Once a routine is developed based on your lifestyle your brain will start associating that routine with sleep. The amount of time this takes varies based on the individual, but if you stick to it you’ll notice that you become drowsy once step 1 begins, and before you know it you are ready for some shut-eye by step 7.

Try to stay away from technology before bed as the light from the screens can be too stimulating. Also, if you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes or so get out of bed and try to do an activity that can use up any remaining energy. Go into another dimly lit room and read a magazine, eat a small snack, drink something warm (decaffeinated).

With that being said, try to decrease your caffeine intake throughout the day. Researchers have varying opinions in regards to a time of day to stop drinking caffeine. Some research states to stop drinking caffeine at 2pm while others say 4pm. Use your judgment and choose when to stop based on the time you want to go to bed. Rule of thumb: stop drinking caffeine at least 8 hours before bedtime.

If you have to nap during the day try to limit your naps to 20-30 minutes. Sleeping longer than that can trigger your brain into thinking you are going to bed for the night, which can lead to you oversleeping and even more drowsiness when you wake up.

Make sure you set an alarm so you do not get any unnecessary hours of sleep. Put your alarm clock across the room or in another room entirely so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. Make your morning routine positive so waking up does not seem so daunting. Play your favorite music, eat a breakfast you enjoy, generally do things that will encourage you to get out of bed.

If you are having difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much and it seems like it is difficult to fix on your own make sure you contact a health professional. There are many specialists that work specifically with sleep patterns that can offer services for the help that you may need.

 

 

References

H. L., MD. (2014, May 02). Too little sleep, and too much, affect memory. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/little-sleep-much-affect-memory-201405027136

D. M. (2010, January 19). Web MD. Can Better Sleep Mean Catching Fewer Colds? Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/immune-system-lack-of-sleep

National Institutes of Health: Brain May Flush Out Toxins During Sleep. (2013, October 27). Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/brain-may-flush-out-toxins-during-sleep

M. R. (2016, January 08). Web MD. Physical Side Effects of Oversleeping. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/physical-side-effects-oversleeping?page=3

R. S. (n.d.). 11 Signs You’re Sleep Deprived. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20906153,00.html