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Picture this: you wake up at 6 AM after getting to sleep at around 2. You spend the whole night preparing a make-or-break presentation for work before passing out and dreading your alarm in four hours. You groggily walk into the kitchen to make yourself a cup of coffee and begin your morning routine, but you soon realize that you can’t do much without your glasses. That’s when you discover that you have NO idea where they went. You spend a good five minutes searching before you vaguely remember that you had them before grabbing a pint of ice cream that was your dinner at around 1:30. Thinking you couldn’t possibly be that silly, you check the freezer anyway – and lo and behold – there are your glasses.

Does this story sound familiar? Sleep deprivation is all too common among Americans today. Ask almost anyone how much sleep he/she gets and you’re sure to get an answer that’s less than the recommended 7-9 hours. Most people find themselves halfway nodding off at their computers every day, throwing back cup number 3 of coffee before the afternoon is over. While being tired on its own can be miserable, did you know that it can also have negative effects on your mental health?

How Sleep Works

When you sleep, you go through four different stages, leading to increasingly deeper sleep before hitting rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Many individuals have a hard time getting to REM or find themselves waking up throughout the first four stages of sleep. When this happens, it disrupts the body and brain’s ability to get appropriate rest.

Typically, your body works to catch up while you sleep. It takes the time it needs to boost your immune system, enhance your memory, balance your hormones and help you regulate your emotions. Disrupting this pattern can cause a whole host of problems, both physical and mental.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Mental Health

When your body isn’t getting enough sleep or the right kind of sleep, it can cause your mood to quickly go downhill. You aren’t able to deal with stress nearly as well since your hormones haven’t had time to balance. You may also find that you’re also hungrier, have higher levels of anxiety, and are generally crabbier when you aren’t getting enough shut-eye. While a day or two of less than stellar sleep won’t totally set you off kilter, regular sleep deprivation can initiate or aggravate mental health disorders.

One of the most common disorders associated with sleep deprivation is depression. Unfortunately, these two issues tend to feed off of each other. Depression can cause insomnia, which, in turn, can cause depression to get even worse. Anxiety disorders work much the same way. In extreme cases, lack of sleep can be dangerous. It may drive depression levels to suicidal proportions or cause individuals to fall asleep in precarious places, such as behind the wheel of a car. If you find that you’re suffering from lack of sleep, improving your sleep habits is of the utmost importance.

Improving Sleep Quality

The very first thing you should work on is getting enough sleep. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. While business and personal demands can take up a lot of our time in the modern world, it’s important to take care of yourself first. Sleeping a full 7-9 hours each night will help you focus better and improve your ability to function each day. If you’re still having trouble getting quality sleep, try some of the following:

  • Turn all electronics off at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Create a nightly routine that signals to your body that it’s time to sleep
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation
  • Get enough exercise during the day (but avoid exercising an hour prior to sleeping)

If none of these improve your sleep quality, it might be time to talk to a doctor or therapist to address a sleep disorder. Different methods, like cognitive behavioral therapy or a C-PAP machine, may make a world of difference in your life. Contact CBT Solutions of Baltimore today to learn more about sleep hygiene and what you can do to consistently get a good night’s sleep.