We’re often told that we need to get a good night’s sleep in order to be healthy. But did you know that, as well as impacting our physical health, poor sleep can also have a negative effect on our mental health, too?
“We spend about a third of our lives asleep,” says Tobin James, the Managing Director at Tempur, the pioneers in sleep technology. “Good quality sleep is essential to maintaining good mental and physical health. It’s as important to our bodies as eating, drinking and breathing and can affect our performance, concentration, energy levels, relationships, moods and interpretation of the world.”
HELLO! decided to take a closer link at just how much sleep is the ‘right’ amount, how falling short of this can impact our mental wellbeing, and what we can do to combat it...
1. We all need different amounts of sleep
We’ve all heard the line about everyone needing eight hours of shut eye a night for optimum health, but the truth is that the amount we really need varies from person to person. On average, it’s anywhere between five and 11 hours a night.
2. We build up ‘sleep debt’
When we sleep less than we need, we build up a ‘sleep debt’ that is regulated by a mechanism in the body called the sleep homeostat. In a healthy situation this debt is paid off night-by-night. However, we can also build up and gradually repay sleep debts over a period of weeks or even months.
3. People really are either 'larks' or 'owls'...
Each person’s sleep rhythm – known as the circadian timer – is set slightly differently. Some people function best in the mornings (larks), others in the evenings (owls). Many of us are somewhere in between. However, experiencing an extreme preference for either pattern is known as circadian rhythm disorder and is linked to mental health problems.
4. The right environment can promote good sleep
Our bed and bedroom can either help or hinder sleep. The main factors are noise, light, temperature and ventilation. Most of us prefer to sleep in a quiet environment, as anyone who has lived next to noisy neighbours can confirm. Earplugs can be useful for blocking out external noise.
Too much light can affect melatonin levels and stop us sleeping. Room temperature is important, although the ideal will vary from person to person. Ventilation can be improved by opening the window, although this can also alter the temperature and make the room noisier.
It is important to feel comfortable in your bed, which includes selecting the right mattresses and pillows. You may need to experiment with all these factors until you find the ideal balance. Without doubt, finding the perfect mattress is the most influential factor in determining whether you are comfortably supported at night and a great night's sleep is essential for your health and wellbeing. According to Tempur, a company which is ranked number 1 in consumer satisfaction in the UK, investing in a quality mattress means "you are investing in your quality of life."
Whether you’re after a firm mattress (Tempur Contour), a soft mattress (Tempur Cloud) or you just want the freedom of movement (Tempur Sensation), there’s a Tempur mattress for everyone
5. A long period of stress or worry can seriously affect our ability to sleep
In a sample of roughly 20,000 young adults lack of sleep was linked to mental distress, and a history of insomnia has been shown to increase the risk of developing depression. Unsurprisingly, anxiety and depression are also common causes of chronic insomnia. People who suffer from depression may experience sleep disturbances which disrupt the process of falling and staying asleep. Depression may also cause the sleeper to wake throughout the night or too early in the morning.
6. Bad sleep stops us feeling happy
Poor sleep can make us less receptive to positive emotions, which in turn can make us feel miserable during the day. Over time this may increase the likelihood of us developing depression.
7. Naps can make things worse
It may be tempting to catch up on sleep by taking short naps during the day. But although this may repay a small amount of sleep debt it can also disrupt our sleep patterns even more. It also results in 'shallow' sleep and not the deep sleep we need to fully recuperate.
8. Insomnia may harm our relationships...
A survey by the Mental Health Foundation showed that insomnia had a negative effect on people’s mood, energy, concentration, personal relationships, ability to stay awake during the day, and ability to carry out daily tasks.
Over four times as many people with insomnia reported relationship difficulties than those with good sleeping patterns. This of course has a negative impact on our personal happiness, affects our mood and, over time, makes us more susceptible to depression.
9. ... And also give us low moods
In the same survey, more than 80% of those with insomnia said they regularly experienced low mood. This is more than three times the figure for good sleepers. Sustained low mood can lead to depression.
10. It also impacts our energy levels
Nearly 95% of those with insomnia reported low energy levels – more than twice the percentage for good sleepers. This has a range of mental and physical health implications, such as on our ability to take regular exercise – an effective way of reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
11. Insomnia can develop into a negative cycle
Overall, insomnia has the potential to create a vicious cycle of bad health: our ability to exercise decreases, negatively impacting our mental wellbeing, and in turn making our insomnia worse.
12. Our diets can impact on sleep
Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and refined sugars are all known to negatively impair sleep quality. A good starting point for better sleep is to cut down on all of these.
13. Exercise helps us sleep better
As explained earlier, this is easier said than done when a bad night’s sleep has left you feeling low in energy. Try a light exercise such as swimming or jogging and try to do it earlier in the day, as exercise causes a temporary adrenaline spike which can stop us sleeping.
Throughout the month of May, to raise awareness for Mental Health Awareness week 14 May - 20 May, Tempur will donate £10 for every mattress sold online or through a Tempur owned store to the Mental Health Foundation.
A Tempur Sleep Guide, developed in association with the Mental Health Foundation, and including tips such as the above, will be available for customers at all Tempur stores throughout May.
“We’re delighted to be working with Tempur to highlight the importance of good sleep in preventing mental health problems” says Chris O’Sullivan, sleep expert at the Mental Health Foundation. “Improving the quality of our sleep is one of the easiest ways to improve our mental health; when we sleep well, we are able to meet challenge head on, focus on work, and have the time and energy to devote to our relationships and our interests.
“Problems with our sleep can be one of the first signs of stress. Poor sleep increases our risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and sleep problems can make it harder to recover when we are unwell.
“Modern lives place our sleep hygiene at risk - Netflix has even listed sleep as its greatest competitor - so we all need to take action to ensure that good sleep is the first thing we plan in our day, rather than the thing we squeeze in when everything else is done.
“Through this partnership, we’re delighted to be able to reach customers in store. The financial support Tempur is offering through donations from mattress sales and the sale of our green ribbons will help us reach more people to offer evidence based tools for improving their mental health.”