Sleep and mood: Linked for life

February 7, 2020

When little ones are tired, they become cranky, frustrated, and fussy—much to their parents’ dismay. But the temperaments of babies and toddlers aren’t the only ones affected by a lack of sleep. Teens and adults of all ages often experience mood issues and other difficulties when they don’t get enough shut-eye.

If you’re not getting the recommended seven to nine hours each night, you could be feeling irritable, stressed, sad, or tired, and you may be struggling to focus or motivate.

“It’s important to understand that sleep and mental well-being are linked,” says Aron Wolf, MD, Teladoc’s behavioral health medical director, who offers hope to the “sleep challenged” for establishing healthy habits around solid slumber.

Learn why bad sleep can set you up for failure—and how implementing Teladoc’s tips will support you for success.

The cost of sleep loss

“Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s because 50 million to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep-related problem, and 25% of us report insufficient sleep or rest at least half the days in a month.1

So what does this mean for our feelings and functioning? Lack of quality sleep impacts the ability to regulate our emotions. Chronic insomnia—lasting a month or more—may increase your risk of developing a mood disorder. In fact, people with insomnia are five times more likely to develop depression, and 20 times more likely to develop a panic disorder.2

“It becomes a cycle: lack of sleep can cause you to experience anxiety, and the more stressed and aroused you are, the harder it is to fall and stay asleep,” Dr. Wolf explains.

A recent study also showed that if we sleep poorly overnight, we’re twice as likely to commit errors—challenging our ability to focus and follow complex procedures.3 Sleep is likewise vital for forming and retrieving memories, learning new information, and paying attention to tasks.4

If you’re not getting enough rest, your decision-making at work and home could be suffering. Insomnia can also affect bodily health, having an impact on the brain, heart, and immune system.3

Simple solutions for better sleep

If you’ve been struggling with sleep and mental well-being, there are different strategies and treatments to try for improved rest. Whether or not you think you could have a mood disorder, you can reach out to one of our therapists today for a sleep review: We’ll discuss life stressors and how certain strategies and changes may help bust your bedtime blues.

For example, we may coach you on some fundamentals for healthy sleep habits including focuses on:

  • Diet and lifestyle: Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can have a negative effect on quality of sleep, and so can some medications and sugary foods. Eating too much before bedtime can also cause sleep troubles.
  • Altering bad behaviors: Irregular sleep patterns make quality rest more difficult. “It’s important to go to bed and wake up around the same time each night and morning,” Dr. Wolf says. He also recommends keeping the bedroom a stress-free zone, which includes saying “no” to work, sending emails, or scrolling through your phone, which can ramp you up at bedtime.
  • Getting enough exercise: Regular exercise—about 30 minutes a day—helps people fall asleep more easily and improves quality of the sleep, leading to fewer wakings and more refreshed mornings. After getting into a workout routine, adults with insomnia fell asleep more quickly, slept slightly longer, and had better sleep quality than before they started.5
  • Relaxation and meditation: For many of us, sleep problems are tied to stress: We are busy, worried, and amped up from the daily grind or a specific situation. A racing brain creates arousal in the body, making quality sleep feel out of reach. “Meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation are all productive ways to calm the body and mind for a restful night’s sleep,” Dr. Wolf suggests. Other strategies like yoga, guided imagery, or mindfully listening to soothing music can also evoke the relaxation response.

If you’re not sure where to begin improving your rest, Teladoc can offer strategies and support. Our therapists can also help guide you to make other life changes to improve the quality of your sleep. Always secure and confidential, our providers are available seven days a week by phone or video at times that are convenient for you. Remember: Mood, sleep, and general health are intricately linked. Reach out to us today by app or online so we can help you meet all your goals on this wellness journey.

References

1https://www.sleephealth.org/sleep-health/the-state-of-sleephealth-in-america/
2http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/mood
3https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327108.php#1
4https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health
5https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-does-exercise-help-those-chronic-insomnia

This portion of the Teladoc website occasionally offers health, fitness, and nutritional information and is provided for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Teladoc cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.

If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining medical or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your healthcare professional, or 911, immediately.