Sleep and mental health are undoubtedly connected, with a reciprocal relationship — poor sleep tends to worsen mental health ailments, and mental health ailments can cause poor sleep.
Sleep is necessary for optimal mental functioning. Generally, when we think of sleep advice, most of us may admonish ourselves for simply not getting enough of it — seven to eight hours’ worth every night. But, when it comes to mental health, sleep quality may be more important than sleep quantity.
While sleep quantity is important and should not be neglected, a team of New Zealand researchers found that the three “pillars” of good mental health are sleep quality, exercise, and eating a healthy diet of raw fruits and vegetables. While the study focused on young adults, the insights can be reasonably applied to people of all ages.
The study’s researchers developed a survey that 1,111 young adults from New Zealand and America answered online. Individuals were asked to keep track of their sleep quantity and quality, their physical activity, and their diets. They also had to track other activities that can affect health, such as drinking alcohol and smoking, and were asked to disclose any other health conditions, their demographics, BMI, and socioeconomic status — all of which can impact mental health and general wellbeing.
After analyzing the survey results, the researchers found that sleep quality was the most important predictor of mental health and wellbeing. Behind sleep quality was sleep quantity, and behind sleep quantity was physical activity. Out of all the diet factors in the survey, the researchers found that only one had a significant positive impact on mental health: the consumption of raw fruit and vegetables.
From this information, the researchers were able to determine a “hierarchy” of needs in terms of mental health—with sleep quality being at the very top of the pyramid.
What This Means For You
Prioritizing sleep quality doesn’t mean you should ignore sleep quantity. Seven to eight hours of sleep is best for optimal mental and physical health. It’s best to regularly evaluate your sleep hygiene to determine if you are getting the quality and quantity of sleep you need. How many of these sleep tips can you check off your regular routine? If you identify areas of improvement, don’t stress; start with a few simple adjustments and work your way up.
If you are unable to sleep soundly no matter what you do, you may benefit from consulting a doctor, therapist, and/or a sleep physician. There are many sleep disorders that could be preventing you from receiving the rest you need, such as insomnia, nocturia, and sleep apnea, or your poor sleep could be stemming from an exacerbated mental health condition. Regardless of the agitator, getting your sleep health realigned will set you on a path to reclaiming your health.
Sleep Apnea & Mental Health
One common sleep disorder that may be keeping you from getting the rest you deserve is obstructive sleep apnea, which affects about 22 million Americans. Up to 46% of sleep apnea sufferers also experience depression, and up to 54% experience some degree of anxiety. By receiving proper treatment for sleep apnea, sufferers stand to improve not only their sleep but their mental health, too. You can find common symptoms of sleep apnea here.
If you believe that sleep apnea may be taking a toll on your or a loved one’s mental health, don’t wait to get the help you deserve: schedule an appointment at Sleep Better Georgia today.