Getting enough sleep is a fundamental part of good health. It is just as important as eating a balanced and nutritious diet and exercise. It can be difficult to get enough sleep with the increasing demands of life for our time and energy. Although sleep needs vary from person to person, it is recommended that adults obtain between 7 to 8 hours a night to function optimally. Getting a good night’s rest has many benefits such as improved immune function, weight regulation, athletic achievement, heart health, and increased mood and memory. Furthermore, research has found that sleep assists in learning and processing of information. More people would be more productive and effective if they got more sleep.
The ability to function when awake depends on whether you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep and the types of sleep. The two types of sleep are rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM. In any given night, non-REM and REM sleep happens in 3-5 cycles a night. Deep sleep occurs in non-REM sleep whereas dreaming typically occurs in REM sleep. The ability to function optimally is dependent on obtaining enough of each type of sleep and getting enough hours. The body runs on a circadian rhythm or “internal body clock” that regulates sleep and awake cycles. Not having enough sleep, poor quality or sleeping at the wrong times will result in feeling tired and fatigued throughout the day.
Impacts of sleep deficiency and deprivation
Increasingly, people are struggling with getting enough sleep. This can be from sleep deficiency or disruptive sleep. Individuals who receive an inadequate amount of sleep are more likely to have a greater risk of many health complications. Sleep deficits from partial sleep deprivation can accumulate over time. Often people who suffer from repeatedly inadequate or disruptive sleep (i.e. sleep apnea, pain or stress, jet lag, or shiftwork) are unaware of the negative toll that sleep deficits can have on memory, mood, cognitive speed and accuracy. On a biological level, sleep is key to helping us maintain and restore our brain’s and our body’s resources.
People who suffer from sleep deprivation become emotionally sensitive to low levels of stress. In fact, a lack of sleep can take a toll on psychological well-being by impacting the emotional interpretation of events and increase stress levels. Moreover, people tend to remember and select negative memories after inadequate sleep. Sleep loss affects the ability to regulate emotions that can have implications for social interactions. When we’re tired and exhausted it is difficult to control our behaviours and emotional outbursts to minor stressors. Studies show that there is a strong relationship between depression and anxiety and poor sleep quality and sleep disorders.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder that affects approximately one third of all adults. Insomnia refers to chronic problems in getting inadequate sleep. Young people experience difficulty falling asleep whereas middle-aged and elderly people have trouble staying asleep and waking up early. Insomnia is associated with daytime fatigue, impaired functioning, and elevated risk for accidents, reduced productivity, absenteeism at work, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, hypertension, and other mental health problems.
There are many causes of insomnia. Excessive anxiety and tension can keep people awake and unable to sleep. However, insomnia is a frequent side-effect of emotional problems such as depression, or significant stress. Some people may be genetically more likely to have increased levels of stress than the average person.
How can Counselling Help?
Chronic sleep problems are common and can have adverse consequences to physical and mental health. Often times, a lack of sleep can be caused by underlying mental health conditions including many disorders, including anxiety and depression. There is a strong interplay between sleep and mental health. Normalizing and stabilizing the amount and quality of sleep can help alleviate and help relieve symptoms of distress.
A counsellor can help you discover the strategies that work to get a good night’s rest. Many techniques and strategies that are used for various mental health difficulties can additionally be used to improve the quality and duration of sleep. Helping clients get enough sleep is integral to positive mental and physical wellbeing which can lead to significantly improved overall health and wellness.
Worley S. L. (2018). The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep: The Detrimental Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health and Public Safety Drive an Explosion of Sleep Research. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 43(12), 758–763.
Weiten, W. (1992). Psychology: Themes and variations (2nd ed.). Brooks/Cole
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