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Building A Sleep Routine To Defeat Depression & Anxiety

Sleep & Mood Disturbance: Building A Sleep Routine To Defeat Depression & Anxiety

If you suffer from a mood disturbance and have poor sleep habits, there’s a strong chance the two are linked.

Unsurprisingly, having inadequate, quality sleep has been associated with disorders like anxiety and depression, which suggests that focusing on improving sleep habits could be the right move (1).

Fortunately, some factors of sleep quality are in your control.

In this article, we’ll briefly touch on the association between sleep and mood disorders and then cover some steps you can take to optimize your sleep routine for your best chance of maintaining a positive mindset.

The Purpose Of Sleep & Influence On Mood

Surprisingly, the exact purpose of sleep is mostly unknown. Still, research indicates that different stages of sleep provide the body and brain with different effects.

For example, slow-wave or deep sleep, results in a deep relaxation of the body, muscles, and brain. Additionally, it’s thought that REM or dream sleep is associated with emotional processing and memory consolidation (2, 3).

Together, these different stages work in unison to provide the body and mind with rest and recovery for optimal function during our waking hours (4).

With regards to mood, though, one thing is clear: when sleep is erratic, and of low quality, there’s a significant association with mood disorders like depression and anxiety (5, 6, 7).

Of course, your ability to sleep well is not always in your control, especially if your mood causes your sleep disturbance. But with the right plan and a sense of commitment, you might be able to improve your sleep hygiene, and perhaps, your mood as well.

Slow-wave or deep sleep, results in a deep relaxation of the body, muscles, and brain. Additionally, it’s thought that REM or dream sleep is associated with emotional processing and memory consolidation.

Building A Healthy Sleep Routine

If you have anxiety or depression and believe that your sleep habits are to blame, it’s time to evaluate your sleep habits to see what can be changed.

It’s time to evaluate your sleep habits to see what can be changed.

Determine Which Aspects Of Your Sleep Are Not Optimal

When first developing a sleep routine, you need determine which aspects of your sleep habits are not optimal.

For instance:

  • Duration of sleep
  • Quality (waking often)
  • Difficulty with sleep onset
  • Difficulty waking refreshed
  • A combination of any of the above

Once you determine which factors of sleep you’re most struggling with, you can then begin to go even deeper by asking yourself: what are the possible causes of these issues?

  • Staying up too late
  • Inconsistent sleep/wake time
  • You’re hungry or agitated when you go to bed
  • Your sleep environment bothers you (light, sound, temperature, etc.)

Once you answer these questions, go one step further by asking what the reasons for these behaviors are?

  • Do you lose time scrolling through social media?
  • Do your curtains let in too much light?
  • Are you enthralled in your latest Netflix binge?
  • Else?

By breaking down the various factors influencing your sleep, it becomes a bit easier to make decisions and changes that can positively benefit your sleep schedule. Then, it’s up to you to decide if making these changes is worth it.

By breaking down the various factors influencing your sleep, it becomes a bit easier to make decisions and changes that can positively benefit your sleep schedule.

Implement Change At Your Rate

Just as with changing your diet and exercise routine, you should make the changes that resonate with you and that you’re most likely to follow.

If you find that jumping in headfirst and radically changing your sleep habits is the push you need to change, then go for it. If you think you’ll be better off making one change at a time, then stick to that.

Remember these changes are for your benefit and should match your preferences.

Determine A Consistent Sleep/Wake Cycle

A significant factor influencing sleep quality is our circadian rhythm or our habits of sleeping and waking.

Unsurprisingly, studies indicate that when our sleep/wake cycle is inconsistent, sleep quality and our ability to function fully during the day can be limited (8).

Believe it or not, many hormones, including cortisol in the morning and melatonin at night, rely on our typical sleep habits. When you sleep and wake at similar times each day, our bodies optimize how these hormones are secreted and utilized (9, 10, 11).

When you go to bed and wake erratically, your body has trouble regulating these hormones, which undoubtedly impacts our sleep and, ultimately, how we feel while we’re awake (12).

If you sleep and wake at different times each day, try to commit to a specific schedule of sleeping and waking instead. Chances are after a week of consistency, you’ll not only sleep better, but you’ll feel more refreshed upon arousal.

Try to commit to a specific schedule of sleeping and waking.

Optimize Your Environment

While restful sleep can sometimes feel out of your control, adjusting your environment to fit your comfort levels is an easy step to take.

While restful sleep can sometimes feel out of your control, adjusting your environment to fit your comfort levels is an easy step to take.

These adjustments include manipulating the light level, temperature, and sound of your room until you find the combination that fits best and provides you with the highest level of sleep quality.

Personally, in my room, I use blackout curtains to make my room as dark as possible. I also keep the temperature cool around 70 degrees and always listen to the sound of rain on a low volume.

I find that this creates an environment that’s comfortable and helps me sleep well through the night.

Make Technology Less Impactful

Despite being wonderful additions to our lives, the tech we enjoy isn’t always helpful for restful sleep.

Unfortunately, social media is often anxiety-provoking. Additionally, the light emissions from our devices limit melatonin production. Both scenarios make restful sleep a challenge (13, 14).

Of course, the best practice for drifting off to sleep would be to avoid tech in the hours before bed altogether. However, if that’s not practical for you, try to adjust your use to minimize their impact.

If you find that social media provokes anxiety and makes sleep difficult, try limiting your exposure or opting for different content to read on your phone or tablet.

Additionally, if possible, use night mode settings on your devices to reduce the screen’s impact on your melatonin levels.

Final Thoughts

While poor sleep habits can be associated with depression and anxiety, many of the factors related to sleep are in your control.

However, before adjusting your sleep routine, you first need to assess which factors might be the cause of your poor sleep habits.

Doing so will help you develop a strategy for sleep that works best for you.

By Sam Biesack

References

  1. Gregory, A. M., Buysse, D. J., Willis, T. A., Rijsdijk, F. V., Maughan, B., Rowe, R., … & Eley, T. C. (2011). Associations between sleep quality and anxiety and depression symptoms in a sample of young adult twins and siblings. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 71(4), 250-255.
  2. Frank, M. G. (2006). The mystery of sleep function: current perspectives and future directions. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 17(4), 375-392.
  3. Siegel, J. M. (2001). The REM sleep-memory consolidation hypothesis. Science, 294(5544), 1058-1063.
  4. Basics, B. (2016). Understanding sleep. Dostopno na: https://www. ninds. nih. gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep [12.4. 2018].
  5. van den Berg, J. F., Luijendijk, H. J., Tulen, J. H., Hofman, A., Neven, A. K., & Henninģ, T. (2009). Sleep in depression and anxiety disorders: a population-based study of elderly persons. The Journal of clinical psychiatry.
  6. Benca, R. M., Okawa, M., Uchiyama, M., Ozaki, S., Nakajima, T., Shibui, K., & Obermeyer, W. H. (1997). Sleep and mood disorders. Sleep medicine reviews, 1(1), 45-56.
  7. Alvaro, P. K., Roberts, R. M., & Harris, J. K. (2013). A systematic review assessing bidirectionality between sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression. Sleep, 36(7), 1059-1068.
  8. Myers, B. L., & Badia, P. (1995). Changes in circadian rhythms and sleep quality with aging: mechanisms and interventions. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 19(4), 553-571.
  9. Fries, E., Dettenborn, L., & Kirschbaum, C. (2009). The cortisol awakening response (CAR): facts and future directions. International journal of Psychophysiology, 72(1), 67-73.
  10. Randler, C., & Schaal, S. (2010). Morningness–eveningness, habitual sleep-wake variables and cortisol level. Biological psychology, 85(1), 14-18.
  11. Cajochen, C., Kräuchi, K., & Wirz‐Justice, A. (2003). Role of melatonin in the regulation of human circadian rhythms and sleep. Journal of neuroendocrinology, 15(4), 432-437.
  12. A Quera Salva, M., Hartley, S., Barbot, F., C Alvarez, J., Lofaso, F., & Guilleminault, C. (2011). Circadian rhythms, melatonin and depression. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 17(15), 1459-1470.
  13. Vannucci, A., Flannery, K. M., & Ohannessian, C. M. (2017). Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults. Journal of affective disorders, 207, 163-166.
  14. West, K. E., Jablonski, M. R., Warfield, B., Cecil, K. S., James, M., Ayers, M. A., … & Hanifin, J. P. (2010). Blue light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs) elicits a dose-dependent suppression of melatonin in humans. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

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