Sleep and your mental health

Let’s talk about sleep: To put it simply, you need it. It’s so important for your mental health.

For starters, disrupted sleep is connected with suicide. A team of researchers recently investigated that link and came up with three “pathways” from sleep problems to suicidal thoughts:

  1. There are fewer mental health resources available at night, so suicidal thoughts that arise are more difficult to contain.
  2. Life gets harder when you’re tired. You’re more depressed, you’re less active, you think more negatively, and it’s harder to focus.
  3. Sleep can be an alternative to suicide — an easy escape from distressing thoughts. If you’re using it as an escape during the day, then what’s left at night?

Other studies have connected sleep and depression, too:

  • New mothers with post-partum depression have more sleep problems than their non-depressed counterparts. The worse their sleep, the worse their depression.
  • Too little or too much sleep appears to activate genes associated with depression.
  • People running on less sleep have an impaired ability to regulate their emotions — certain circuits in their brains aren’t working as well.
  • Teens who go to bed later are more likely to suffer from depression.

If you’re depressed, let’s talk about sleep. Addressing that can be part of the solution.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.

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