Sleep Week: 2024
Sleep Week: 2024

Thanks to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), we celebrate Sleep Awareness Week from March 10-16. The NSF has been reporting on sleep and its ties to our health for over thirty years, and Sleep Awareness Week reports the findings of its annual Sleep in America poll that gathers data on Americans’ sleep health. The Covid-19 pandemic served to exacerbate existing mental health issues, but individuals’ sleep quality and duration has proved to be another tremendous influence on their mental health. While some of these findings can be worrisome, there are ways to help mitigate these issues and move forward in a more healthy and productive way.

Sleep in America Findings

While in hindsight the correlation between sleep duration and quality and one’s mental health may seem obvious, those who regularly find themselves getting poor sleep may be entirely unaware of its negative impacts on their mental health. For instance, “adults who slept less than 7 hours per night on weekdays were three times as likely to experience moderate to severe depressive symptoms as individuals who slept the recommended 7 to 9 hours per night,” according to the poll findings. Additionally, nearly 19% of adults who regularly get less than 7 hours of sleep a night meet the criteria for a depression diagnosis while only 7% of adults meet this criteria that sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night. 

Sleep satisfaction also plays a role in depressive symptoms in adults. 65% of adults dissatisfied with their sleep report greater levels of depressive symptoms with 31% reporting severe symptoms. Additionally, 25% met criteria for a depression diagnosis compared to only 5% who were satisfied with their sleep. While these findings may seem grim, there are ways to help improve your sleep duration and satisfaction as a means of mitigating the negative effects of sleep deprivation. 

Improving Your Sleep

A complete overhaul of your sleep schedule can seem like a daunting task, especially if you're only getting around 5-6 hours of sleep a night. A rapid change in habits and schedule can be impractical, so it’s important to make incremental changes that can make positive and sustainable changes in your sleep habits. 

Winding down at night can be instrumental in readying yourself for bed. Even if you’re not ready to fall asleep in an instant, the ritual of winding yourself down each night can help train yourself to adjust to a new and healthier sleep schedule. Dimming your lights at a certain hour, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, and exposing yourself to natural light earlier in the day can help regulate your circadian rhythm and adjust your sleep schedule in a less dramatic way. Another key way to improve your sleep is to de-stress and relax prior to bedtime. 

Taking some time to decompress can do wonders not only for your ability to fall asleep, but your ability to stay asleep and improve your overall sleep quality. Practices such as some gentle yoga poses, taking a warm bath or shower before bed, and reading a book can all help you wind down at the end of a stressful day or week and allow yourself the opportunity to get some better sleep. These tips are not exhaustive, but there are other resources such as How to Catch Up on Sleep and Natural, Free Remedies to Sleep Better Tonight

Key Takeaways

The quality of your sleep and your mental health are heavily intertwined, and when one declines there are high chances that the other will follow suit. Taking care to be mindful of how much you sleep can be the difference between greater overall health and a decline in health, both physical and mental. While it may not be an easy or immediate fix when it comes to remedying poor sleeping habits, making incremental changes to your routine and schedule are essential to bettering your health. Struggling with symptoms of depression can be overwhelming, and improving your sleep can be one of the first steps to help ease these symptoms. However, if you find yourself in need of professional help, there are resources available such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

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