Sleep and your mental health: Overview

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Sleep is a very important part of your mental and physical health. Find out how a good night's sleep impacts your daily routine.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep is a very important part of your mental and physical health. When you consistently get a good night’s sleep, you can think more clearly, have more energy, are more patient and are better able to get along with others. According to the National Sleep Foundation in the US, teens should get eight to 10 hours sleep a night.

What are the signs and symptoms of lack of sleep?

Over time, not getting enough quality sleep each night can lead to a range of symptoms.

Physical symptoms

You might find it difficult to wake up in the morning or need someone to wake you repeatedly. During the day, you might feel drowsy, want to nap or even fall asleep at school or at home when doing homework. You might also want to consume stimulants, such as caffeine or sugary food and drinks, regularly.

Cognitive (mental) symptoms

Ongoing lack of sleep can make you lose interest and motivation for everyday tasks. It can also make you forgetful and make it harder for you learn and remember new information and to problem-solve.

Emotional symptoms

When you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll likely be moody and irritable during the day. You might also feel impulsive or more stressed, as your mind isn’t rested enough to cope with the demands of everyday life.

When you do not get enough sleep each night, you owe your mind and body a “sleep debt”. A large sleep debt (not getting enough sleep for many nights in a row) can make you feel mentally exhausted. It can also worsen the symptoms of any anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder and any chronic (long-term) pain. You cannot repay a sleep debt by simply sleeping in late one day a week.

Thinking differently about sleep

Your circadian rhythm (your “body clock”) is a 24-hour cycle that tells your body when to sleep. During your teen years, it is normal for your body clock to make you fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the day.

Because of this, you might be in the habit of going to bed late, especially if you spend time with friends then (in person or online). Choosing sleep over social time might make you feel like you’re missing out, but your brain and body will thank you for it.

If you hear your friends talking about their "all nighters", remember how good you feel after you get enough sleep. Staying up late to study will usually leave you too tired to concentrate the next day. Sleep allows your brain to process and reinforce what you have learned, something that is especially important after studying for a test.

Remember too that you can’t repay a sleep debt with anything other than sleep. If you’re sleep-deprived, the best thing you can do is get some good quality sleep as soon as you can. Don’t resort to supplements or energy drinks to get you through energy dips. No pills, vitamins or drinks can replace good sleep!

Guided meditations

The following guided meditations will help you relax. Try listening to them before you go to sleep.

Equal breathingaudio

How to use: This audio meditation helps you balance your in-breath and your out-breath. Use this meditation when you’d like to refocus or bring yourself back to the present moment. Follow along with the meditation to match your in-breath to your out-breath and slowly increase the length of each. If you feel out of breath or dizzy during this meditation, pause and breathe comfortably until you feel better.

Progressive muscle relaxation with tensionaudio

How to use: Stress and pain can cause tension in different parts of your body. This audio meditation will guide you through tensing and relaxing different parts of your body. You can listen to this meditation before going to sleep to help your muscles relax.

Relaxation with imageryaudio

How to use: This audio meditation can help you if you are experiencing muscle soreness, tension or stress. Use this when you need to relax or find a moment of calm throughout your day. You can practice relaxation with imagery throughout your day.

Last updated: January 4th 2019