What You May Not Know About Sleep

Sleep: It’s the one thing no one seems to get enough of. Did you know that almost half of surveyed Americans report not getting enough sleep? And even worse, most don’t actively try to get more on any given night. But why? It’s easy to get caught up in work, school, and life in general, but it is also very important to remember that your sleep habits can affect your mental health. Below are some things you might not know about sleep and mental health, and some steps you can take to make sure you’re getting a more restful sleep. 

  • Sleep ‘repairs’ the brain.

Our brains do many amazing things, and certainly sleep is no exception. We actually sleep in several stages, each allowing the brain to perform different functions. Even though we aren’t aware of it, sleep helps our brains process memories and clean up neural connections of toxins. Think of it as a spring cleaning for your mind that happens every night. 

  • There are over 80 classifications of sleep disorders.

Most people can recognize the big ones-- insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea-- but there are many lesser known disorders, too. Take a look at the National Sleep Foundation’s list of disorders HERE. If you or someone you know is experiencing a significant disturbance in sleep routine or pattern, talk to a doctor! They’ll be able to determine if any of these disorders fit. 

  • Sleep and mental health is a chicken-or-egg scenario. 

Trouble sleeping can be both a symptom and a contributor to mental health issues. Scientists still aren’t quite sure how much sleep influences mental health (and vice versa), but there is a clear link between the two.  Psychiatric patients exhibited a much higher prevalence rate of sleep problems when compared with the general population. For now, doctors focus on treating both the psychiatric and sleep disorders together for maximum effectiveness. 

  •  How many hours of sleep you need isn’t one size fits all. 

We’ve all heard the ‘6-8 hours of sleep a night’ rule, but as it turns out, that isn’t always the case. The National Sleep Foundation has a handy chart for all number of ideal sleeping hours based on age. For example, it’s recommended that teenagers get a whopping 8-10 hours of sleep each night, while those in the young adult range can get away with the more standard 7-9 hours a night. Of course, every person is different, so if you notice you function better when getting sleep outside of these recommended hours, always listen to your body! 

  •    Getting a restful night’s sleep doesn’t have to be difficult!

There are a lot of steps you can take to make sure you’re refreshed and ready to go. Limiting caffeine and other stimulants in the hours before bedtime are a safe bet. Developing a relaxing ritual before bed (yes, that means no phones!), can get your mind calmed, as can sticking to a consistent sleep schedule as often as possible. 

And, as the National Sleep Foundation suggests, make sleep a priority! It may be tempting to pull that all-nighter or push off sleep for just a few hours, but the cons can greatly outweigh the pros. Let’s start treating sleep like the important function that it is-- your brain will thank you for it! 

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