Sleep plays a significant role in our functioning as humans. We need sleep. Without sleep, we will not be able to function. Sleep helps our body to recharge, reset and heal. Not only the quality, but the quantity of sleep is important and affects your mental health. Have you ever struggled to fall asleep, no matter how tired you feel? Or perhaps your mind struggles to shut down and you spend hours thinking about the past or worrying about the future while time ticks away in the early morning hours? It can be extremely frustrating. Not getting enough sleep impacts how your brain functions, how your body functions and is strongly related to your mood.

Research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found that even partial sleep deprivation significantly affects your mood. Results indicated that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood. Mood disturbances are often viewed as the hallmark symptoms of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Dr. Lawrence Epstein, Medical Director of Sleep Health Centers and an instructor at Harvard Medical School reports that there exists an important relationship between psychiatric and psychological problems and sleep. When we are tired or sleep-deprived, we tend to feel more agitated, irritable, short-tempered, vulnerable to stress and a negative mood state.

If you struggle with poor sleep or poor sleep affects your mood state, Hey Happy wants to encourage you to explore and implement positive lifestyle and sleep habits to facilitate change within your sleep. We share some ideas with you below:

  • Create structure and routine by establishing a realistic bedtime and stick to it every night, even on the weekends if possible.
  • Consistency is key so try to maintain comfortable temperature settings and low light levels in your bedroom.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable sleep environment.
  • Consider a “screen ban” on televisions, computers and tablets, cell phones, and other electronic devices in your bedroom and avoid screen time an hour before you want to go to bed.
  • Abstain from caffeine, alcohol, and large meals in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • Exercise during the day to get rid of extra energy. Exercise can help you wind down in the evening and prepare for sleep.

written by Derika de Villiers, Clinical psychologist