man waking up well rested

The Importance of Sleep

Written By: The Meadows Web Team

By Anna McKenzie

We know that we need sleep, but we often experience obstacles to getting the appropriate amount of rest. We may deprioritize sleep in favor of work or commitments; we may have periods where sleep is hard to come by, such as when we’re sick or in the thick of parenting. But other times, mental distress is the culprit for our restlessness. 

When we lose sleep due to anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, we can actually exacerbate our symptoms. Since mental health issues play a role in perpetuating addiction, it’s critical to discover ways to reduce or eliminate our symptoms. Sleep has a restorative effect on our minds and bodies — just as much as nutrition, exercise, and positive coping skills. So in what ways can we embrace the importance of sleep in order to improve our mental health, fostering a more fulfilling, sustainable life in recovery?

What Is Sleep Health?

Sleep health is critical for both your physical and mental health. Your mind and body need time to rest, reset, digest, heal, and process information from the day. Sleep offers this opportunity, which means that missing out on sufficient rest, especially on a consistent basis, can hamper your ability to function. 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) says that healthy adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night to stay healthy. AASM also states that more than a third of Americans are not getting the appropriate amount of sleep on a regular basis.

More than a third of Americans are not getting the appropriate amount of sleep on a regular basis.

The Sleep Foundation also says that stressful events cause a decrease in slow-wave sleep and an increase in wakefulness. A higher amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your bloodstream will disrupt the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. When your cortisol and melatonin levels are not rising and falling properly, you may feel both “tired and wired,” unable to function properly during the day and unable to sleep adequately at night.

Replacing Unhealthy Coping Habits

older man sleeping

For men with sexual addiction or intimacy disorders, sexual activity may be used as a coping habit to quell mental distress and deal with other life issues. Sexual activity induces endorphins and oxytocin, which have a positive, sleep-inducing effect on the brain. The side effect of this is that sexual activity may turn into a routine battle against insomnia caused by mental distress.

However, any overdependence on inducing feel-good chemicals in the brain, whether through sexual activity, drugs, alcohol, gambling, or other behaviors, can start to backfire — requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect. Meanwhile, the pursuit of these activities can increasingly place you or others in harm’s way. A loss of control is the final symptom of a habit that isn’t healthy.

If you’re in recovery from a sexual addiction or intimacy disorder, you may have regularly used sexual activity as a sleep aid, whether you intended to or not. But there are different and better ways to consistently fall asleep and experience quality rest.

Improving Sleep to Improve Mental Health

Sleep and mental health are interconnected, so it’s important to give them both proper attention. Sleep problems can cause mental health problems; mental health problems can cause sleep problems. Sleep Medicine Reviews says that “people with insomnia are 10 and 17 times more likely than those without insomnia to experience clinically significant levels of depression and anxiety, respectively.”

Poor sleep quality has a critical impact on coping skills and emotional regulation. AIMS Neuroscience reports that without the right amount of quality sleep, we become increasingly reactive when things don’t go our way. On the other hand, “Healthy sleep repairs adaptive processing.”

That means that giving adequate rest to your body enables you to respond to the world better, especially if you’re overstimulated, dealing with difficulties, or handling relapse triggers. Your recovery gets a major boost when you’re able to get at least seven hours of quality sleep.

Giving adequate rest to your body enables you to respond to the world better, especially if you’re overstimulated, dealing with difficulties, or handling relapse triggers.

But sleep may not come easy, especially if you’re under stress, experiencing mental health symptoms, or changing your routine. Instead of viewing it as “pass or fail,” your journey to better sleep should be viewed like exercise, where you have to train your body to start seeing progress.

Healthy Sleep Habits

To train your body and mind to get better sleep, you’ll want to practice some healthy sleep habits, such as the following:

  • Turn off your screens. Put away or power off TVs, phones, and computers at least an hour before going to bed. Reducing stimulation and blue light exposure tells your brain it’s time to start winding down, says Harvard Health Publishing.
  • Be consistent. Having a regular bedtime and wake-up time helps your brain regulate your levels of cortisol and melatonin accordingly. 
  • Eat balanced meals. Nutrition plays a vital role in your sleep and wakefulness. Meals high in sugar or saturated fat, refined carbs, and low fiber in your diet can disrupt your blood sugar levels. Eating whole grains, protein, fruits, and vegetables will help you sleep better at night.
  • Have a calming routine. Meditating, taking a bath, drinking herbal tea, reading a book, and journaling can have a peace-inducing effect on your mind and body. Journaling especially can help you get anxious thoughts out of your mind before the lights go out.
  • Exercise regularly. Nervous energy plays a role in keeping your mind awake. Exercising, recreational activities, and even creative endeavors can help channel that energy during the day, so it doesn’t interrupt your sleep cycle at night.

Mental Health Treatment at Gentle Path

At Gentle Path at The Meadows, we can help men recover from sexual addiction, trauma, and mental health issues. We understand the importance of sleep to your recovery, which is why our Brain Center uses scientific techniques to reduce your restlessness and give you a sense of calm. If you’re ready to experience a restful, fulfilling life in recovery, contact us today to learn more about our program.

March 7th, 2024

Categories: anxiety mental health

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