Sleep: The Hidden Syndrome

  • A bad night’s sleep is a common occurrence. However, having bad sleep over a long period of time can impact the way we feel about and do things in our daily lives.
  • People struggle with sleep for many reasons. As we get older, other factors such as medication or how our bodies react to certain things, such as caffeine, can also affect our sleep.
  • Good sleep starts with a good routine and schedule. Giving yourself allocated time to rest your mind and body is so important maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Your quality of sleep can have a tremendous impact on your mental health and general well-being. For as long as I can remember, I have always been told, and not just by my parents, to get a good night’s sleep by going to bed by a certain time and even waking up at a certain time. As I got older and had kids of my own, I came to realise how important this advice is for children, grown-ups and the elderly.

This blog post will shed some light on why sleep is so important to your mental health and how it may be affecting your life in ways you might never have been aware of.

The impacts of bad sleep

Have you ever had one terrible night where you haven’t been able to sleep properly and spent most of the night tossing and turning? The following day that terrible night is likely to fuel feelings of exhaustion at the very least. However, sleeping poorly can lead to many things other than excessive tiredness.

For instance, you may experience:

  1. Increased feelings of anxiety and depression.
  2. Feelings of irritation towards events that you may not have found annoying otherwise.  
  3. A lack of concentration when attempting difficult tasks and an increase in procrastination.
  4. A growing feeling of isolation—if you’re too exhausted to engage with your daily activities, you risk the possibility of feeling lonely.
  5. In very severe cases, a lack of sleep can trigger psychotic episodes, such as experiencing hallucinations.  

Why do people struggle with sleep?

Now that you understand a bit more about the importance of sleep, let’s look at some possible reasons why you or your loved ones might be struggling to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Anxiety: stressors, such as issues with money or health or housing, can lead to an increased feeling of worry. This can lead to a difficulty falling asleep due increased stress.
  • Depression: excessive fatigue is one of the symptoms of depression, which is a mental health disorder that can impact your sleep schedule. (Read our blog on Depression to learn more)
  • Medication: it is important to be aware of the side effects of any medication you are using. Coming off or starting a new medication can impact your sleep schedule.
  • Consuming excessive alcohol and/or caffeine: this might seem like an obvious one, but it also depends on the individual at how their body responds to alcohol or caffeine. For example, if I have a coffee after 6pm, I will be awake way past my normal bedtime!

Healthy habits start with a good routine

It is so important, especially as we get older, to have a regular sleep routine and schedule. Even if you do not always get a consistent amount of sleep, that’s totally fine and is quite normal. But our bodies like rhythms and routines so by at least following your schedule you are always giving yourself that allocated time to rest your mind and body.

Being conscious of your sleep patterns, both at night and during the day, can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and develop good, long term habits. If you experience changes in your sleep schedule or do have a bad night’s sleep, it is good to track these changes and be aware of them. It is also perfectly OK to have a lie in sometimes! But if you feel these irregularities are turning into a consistent pattern, then speak to a healthcare professional such as your doctor or caregiver so that they can help you get back to a regular routine.

Remember that different people need different amounts of sleep, or they struggle with sleep for one or many reasons. Therefore, just make sure you set yourself an achievable routine that will allow you to get the sleep that you need.

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