Have you ever known what it’s like to start a full day on empty? You know that you needed that sleep, but you either voluntarily or involuntarily got little to none. So, here you are packing up your things for a long day ahead and you find yourself feeling empty inside. Your brain feels foggy, you’re cranky and can’t focus. That cup – or pot – of coffee is the only thing you’ve got going for you in order to make it through the day.

In this scenario, you represent one-third of American adults who are not getting the sleep they need on a regular basis, which the CDC estimates to be 7 hours a night.

Why is sleep so important to our mental health?

        With good sleep, you can think more clearly, stay focused and make informed decisions, which plays a large part of your daily successes in schooling, family responsibilities or at work. Well- rested, your productivity and problem-solving skills are greatly increased, which in turn makes for greater ease in avoiding relapse.

However, sleep deprivation has quite the adverse effect: cue “brain fog”. This term finds its origin in describing the disconnect between neurons (cells of the brain) and their inability to communicate properly with one another, usually resulting in temporary mental lapses and slowed response times . Having a consistent sleep routine is one way to ensure that your brain is functioning on all levels properly.

Life is stressful, so let’s get less sleep?

        The first aspect of the above sentiment is true: life is stressful.  However, the answer to a hectic day should be anything but reducing Z’s. After a restless night, you may find yourself more likely to be irritable and more emotionally reactive to situations. However, sleep is in itself a powerful and restorative stress reducer.  A good night’s sleep can assist with your cognitive skills and alertness. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, sleep tends to be one of the first things to go when we feel under pressure.

Lack of sleep will reduce your mental clarity, which, when combined with traffic jams, a demanding workload, or any attempt to remain in control of a chaotic life, will likely lead to stress. This becomes a vicious cycle when that stress then becomes the cause of the next restless night, further preventing you from the experiencing the restorative effects of sleep. Cycles such as this delay someone from entering the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of the sleep cycle. REM is the sleep stage responsible for restoring mental function, and how the brain processes emotions and memories.  Conversely, too much time in REM sleep can also cause daytime fatigue, which can further disrupt normal sleep cycles and mood.

Sleep is Important for Mental Health and Recovery

        Good sleep also helps prevent depression and anxiety. While these, in addition to one’s current stressors, make it difficult to fall asleep, quality sleep is what helps to decrease the amount of anxiety you experience by allowing you the mental clarity to see and work through the root cause of the anxiety.

For those in recovery, sleep is vital, as it leads to less impulsive behaviors, and reduces one’s risk for relapse. While the experience of disturbed sleep is common for those in early recovery, failing to establish a sleep routine lends way to destructive habits like reaching for caffeine, nicotine, or sugary or processed foods just to make it through the day, furthering the cycle of and not addressing its root cause.

Your Future Self Will Thank You

Our bodies work best when they are on a set schedule, waking up and falling asleep at the same time every day. Try to relax your mind before getting into bed by avoiding blue light (phones, TVs, etc.) for at least an hour before crawling into bed, as this is known to disrupt the circadian rhythm. Listen to calming music, read a book, count backward from 500, or write in a journal. But once you are lying down, try to turn your mind off so you can receive the restorative sleep you so desperately need.

When you prioritize getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each night, your body and mind will thank you, your friends and family will thank you, and quite possibly so will your boss, your bank account, and those who share your commute. Good sleep is a vital aspect of everyday life. It influences your health, feelings, and ability to effectively work your recovery.

We at Riviera Recovery know the importance of sleep and value it’s healing powers, especially for those in recovery. Learn a little bit more about our mission, and what is important to us, or contact us with any specific questions you may have.

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