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Sleep and Mental Health

 

Getting consistent and high-quality sleep is an integral part of your physical and mental wellbeing. Numerous studies have illustrated that sleep problems can negatively affect your mental health.

 

Around 10-18% of adults within the United States struggle with chronic sleep problems. In fact, lack of sleep or low-quality sleep can be common among individuals struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), and anxiety. Clinical research suggests that sleep can be both a cause and a consequence of mental health issues.

 

Why Sleep is Important

 

Brain activity rapidly increases and decreases during different stages of sleep. In non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), the brain’s activity slows but has quick bursts of energy. In rapid eye movement sleep (REM), brain activity increases and is associated with dreaming. Adequate sleep allows the brain to cycle between these two stages of sleep, allowing the brain to process emotional information collected throughout the day.

 

 

 

Sleep and Mental Health

 

Sleep is a necessary component for both the physical upkeep of the body and the maintenance of cognitive skills, attention, learning, memory, and emotional regulation. In fact, lack of consistent and quality sleep can lead to mental health issues.

 

Depression

 

Almost three-quarters of people struggling with depression show symptoms of sleep problems, including insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, or hypersomnia. While experts once thought that sleep problems were a symptom of depression, recent evidence suggests that insufficient sleep has the potential of inducing and exacerbating symptoms of depression.

 

However, it’s important to note that depression often has a bidirectional relationship with sleep problems. In other words, poor sleep can worsen depression, and depression can worsen sleep problems. Despite this, the consensus from experts is that focusing on sleep quality can positively affect depression symptoms.

 

Anxiety Disorders

 

Anxiety disorders typically create distressing fear or worry that affect a person’s everyday functioning. Different types of anxiety include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These disorders have a strong associat

 

ion with sleep difficulties. One of the main reasons these disorders lead to sleep difficulties is that worry and fear contribute to hyperarousal. This hyperarousal leads to racing thoughts and can result in insomnia and added difficulty in falling asleep.

 

Stress

 

When an individual doesn’t get enough sleep, adrenal glands produce an increased amount of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that plays a prominent role in keeping us alert. When there is too much cortisol in the body, it goes into a state of stress, making the body unable to relax, leading to potentially more significant struggles with insomnia.

 

What to do When you Can’t Sleep

 

Keep a Sleep Diary

 

Keeping a sleep diary can help you better understand your habits that may contribute to any sleep problems you may be facing.

 

What to Include in your Sleep Diary:

  • Bedtimes (morning and evening)
  • Total sleep hours
  • Perceived quality of sleep
  • The time that you woke up in the middle of the night and what you did while you were awake
  • Types of food and drinks you consumed before bed
  • Feelings and moods before bed
  • And drugs or medications taken, including the dose and time taken.

 

After keeping this record for a couple of weeks, you may start to notice patterns within your nighttime or morning routine that may be contributing to a lesser quality of sleep. Having this data can help you make changes in your nighttime or morning routines that may help increase your sleep quality.

 

Develop a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

 

Developing a relaxing bedtime routine can teach your body that it is time to start winding down and preparing for sleep. Aim for a bedtime routine to begin about 30 minutes before your actual sleep time.

 

While every bedtime routine will vary, creating a comforting environment allows your body and mind to relax. It may be helpful to disconnect from electronics that are typically close to your eyes, like laptops and smartphones. The blue light emitted from these electronics may make it difficult for you to fall asleep.

 

Dimming the lights, playing white noise or relaxing music at a low volume, or practicing mindfulness activities such as meditation before bed may also help prepare your mind and body for sleep.

 

Diet and Exercise

 

Research has found that the food you eat and your activity level may affect your quality of sleep. Spicy foods and bigger meals leading up to bedtime may negatively affect your quality of sleep and your ability to fall and stay asleep. While it is ok to eat before bed, try to avoid spicy and heavier foods. Also, avoiding caffeine and alcohol leading up to bedtime may help you fall asleep faster and have a higher sleep quality throughout the night.

Beginner’s Guide to Couples Counseling

Couples counseling is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on helping couples-both married and unmarried- to work through challenges, strengthen their relationships, and develop healthier ways of communicating and work through relationship stress.

When to Go to Couples Therapy

 There isn’t a right or wrong time to start couples counseling. Couples counseling can be a great resource for couples in many different circumstances. From helping couples navigate through a specific event, conflict in the relationship, to strengthen certain aspects like communication, a counselor can help provide support and encouragement throughout the process.

Ideally, couples should start counseling before a crisis or talks of a breakup occur. This helps strengthen the relationship for when rough patches happen. However, coming into counseling no matter what is happening in your relationship is always better than not seeking help. The point is that you and your partner are making the conscious decision to work together and strengthen your relationship regardless of where you currently are in your relationship.

How to Find a Couples Counselor

Finding a couples counselor can be a bit more challenging than finding an individual counselor. It’s important to find a counselor that works for both you and your partner. Talking to your partner about what both of you want out of therapy, what you hope to gain, and how you want therapy to go is the first important step to finding a therapist that is a good fit for both of you.

It’s also important to keep an open mind when starting couples counseling. While you might have a vision in your mind as to what you want therapy to look like, you never really know what will click until you are in your first session together.

How to Prepare for your first session

Being open and talking about starting couples counseling with your partner is a great first step in preparing for your first session. Sitting with your partner in front of a new therapist can cause some feelings of anxiety and nervousness to arise. Know that these feelings are normal and don’t put too much pressure on you or your partner if there is some hesitancy during the initial session. Sometimes it takes time to get comfortable with the therapeutic process.

It’s also a good idea to clear your schedule for the first appointment. While it isn’t always possible, heading off to work directly after the first session isn’t recommended. Instead, try to schedule an appointment on a day off or later in the evening so you can have time to emotionally process, rest, and recharge after your session.

What to Do if One Partner isn’t As Committed to Counseling as the Other

It can be a difficult situation to navigate if one partner isn’t as sold on the idea of couple counseling as the other partner is. While it may be tempting to try and persuade your partner, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation about what your partner is feeling.

There can be many reasons as to why a partner doesn’t want to go to couples therapy. For instance, if your partner feels like they are being forced into therapy, it’s unlikely that they will gain much from the experience. Because of this, it is important to make your partner feel heard and understood.

That being said, if your partner is against therapy, it’s recommended to hold off on booking your first appointment and focus on discussing why you want to go to therapy. Sometimes, the fear of going to therapy, especially if it is their first time, can cause a knee jerk ‘no’ response from your partner. Communicating how important it is for you can help give them a different perspective and more information for them to consider.

What Results Should You Expect?

There is no definite answer to how successful couples therapy can be for a specific couple. Because there are so many factors associated with each couple, guaranteeing success is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do.

While some evidence indicates that couples counseling does have long-term benefits for the couple, it ultimately boils down to the commitment and work that each individual within the couple puts into their relationship.

That being said, couples counseling can give you and your partner the tools necessary to build a strong foundation with healthy communication techniques that can lead to a long, stable, and fulfilling relationship.

 

If you’re interested in couples or marriage counseling, call Progressive Psychological Healthcare at 847-979-0268 for more information.

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