Sleep deprived in the UK

As many as 16 million UK adults are suffering from sleepless nights as almost a third (31%) say they have insomnia according to a recent Aviva sleep report.

Poor sleep can lead to poor mental health

It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep helps us recharge from the rigours of the day. Long term sleep deprivation can have serious mental health consequences including anxiety and depression. People can often feel desperate when they need sleep and can’t

How mental health problems affect sleep

According to the charity Mind, there are several ways a mental health problem can affect your sleep

Anxiety can cause thoughts to race through your mind, making it difficult to sleep.

Depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can lead to oversleeping – either sleeping late in the morning or sleeping a lot during the day. If you experience difficult or troubling thoughts as part of depression, this can also cause insomnia

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause nightmares and night terrors, disturbing your sleep. This can mean you feel anxious about falling asleep, which could lead to insomnia.

Paranoia and psychosis may make it difficult for you to sleep. You may hear voices or see things that you find frightening, or experience disturbing thoughts, which make it hard to fall asleep.

Mania often causes feelings of energy and elation, so you might not feel tired or want to sleep. Racing thoughts caused by mania can make it hard to fall asleep and may cause insomnia.

Psychiatric medication can cause side effects including insomnia, disturbed sleep or oversleeping. You may also experience sleep problems after you stop taking psychiatric drugs

Sweet dreams are made of these

Whether you are living with mental ill health or not, the following combination of lifestyle changes, psychotherapy and behavioural strategies can help you have a better night’s sleep.

Lifestyle changes – cutting down on stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and nicotine

Physical activity – Regular aerobic activity helps people fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night.

Sleep hygiene – Good “sleep hygiene” is the term often used to include tips like maintaining a regular sleep-and-wake schedule, using the bedroom only for sleeping or sex, and keeping the bedroom dark and free of distractions like the computer or television.

Relaxation techniques. Meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation (alternately tensing and releasing muscles) can counter anxiety and racing thoughts.

Cognitive behavioral therapy. Because people with insomnia tend to become preoccupied with not falling asleep, cognitive behavioural techniques help them to change negative expectations and try to build more confidence that they can have a good night’s sleep

And with St Patrick’s day approaching I will sign off with an Irish proverb

‘A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.’

Good day everyone. And good mental health.