Nurturing Sleep and Mental Health

Nurturing Sleep and Mental Health

Mental health is a broad term that encompasses a large array of factors concerning the well-being of one’s psychological state. The state of our mental health determines our everyday function and our capacity to learn and work, handle stress and contribute to our society and others (Tahir, M. S. et al., 2022). It is often difficult to handle both the responsibilities required from family, school, and work, along with the self-care required to take care of one’s mental well-being, and often, it is the latter that is neglected. There are many factors in mental health that can affect productivity, mood, stress, and anxiety. Sleep has been shown to be one of the contributing factors to psychological health and can greatly impact how well one functions on a day-to-day basis. The quality and amount of sleep one gets often varies and depends on whether one has a present psychological disorder such as insomnia, or it can vary due to work, school, and socioeconomic status. Sleep is a large part of mental health and there are multiple studies that show its importance in maintaining one’s well-being. 

The amount and quality of sleep in undergraduate students often vary due to workload and social life, often affecting their mental health. A study was done with 71 undergraduate students to examine whether sleep duration and frequency of disruptions during sleep were predictive of mental health outcomes, along with whether sleep quality was associated with self-report mental health in undergraduate students who claim they have healthy sleeping patterns (Milojevich, H. M., & Lukowski, A. F., 2016). It was found that poorer sleep quality is correlated to increased externalized problems such as aggression and rule-breaking issues, as well as increased internal problems like anxiety. Not only were there internal and external repercussions reported, but there were also clinically relevant problems such as anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity, and depression. This demonstrates that although these students reported they have healthy sleep patterns, poor quality of sleep is indicative of reduced mental well-being.  

Additionally, work hours can have a causal relationship with reduced sleep duration and quality, thus minimizing an individual’s psychological health. Although there has been work done worldwide to create a 48-hour per week maximum limit, it is reported that about 22% of workers worldwide are still working more than 48 hours per week (P. Afonso, et al., 2017). This can be due to an individual’s economic status and responsibility to support one’s family, which can lead to a decline in physical health, as well as mental health. Overworking often leads to sleep disturbances which can impact the quality of life, and job performance, and can also lead to an increase in healthcare and in absenteeism. In a study examining two groups Long Working Hours Group (LWHG) and Normal Working Hours Group (NWHG), a relationship between weekly working hours and sleep quality was found. It was recorded that in the LWHG workers reported higher sleep disturbances, and depression and anxiety symptoms than those in the NWHG (P. Afonso, et al., 2017). Although work and having a source of income is essential to maintain livelihood and independence, it is not worth the toll it can take on mental and physical health.  

The balance of the responsibilities of life and sleep is crucial to maintaining a healthy body and psyche. If the mind is not working optimally then that will reflect on the body as well and vice versa. Schools and workplaces need to emphasize the importance of sleep quality and duration since they can affect the output of scores and productivity. Everyone struggles with mental health and thus, having a good sleeping routine is one of the key ways to help improve quality of life.  

References

Milojevich, H. M., & Lukowski, A. F. (2016). Sleep and mental health in undergraduate students with generally healthy sleep habits. PLOS ONE, 11(6), e0156372. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0156372  

P. Afonso, M. Fonseca, J. F. Pires, Impact of working hours on sleep and mental health, Occupational Medicine, Volume 67, Issue 5, July 2017, Pages 377–382, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqx054 

Tahir, M. S., Ur Rehman, M. E., Fazal, F., Murtaza, H., Noor, A., Kamran, A., Tanveer, U., & Mustafa, H. (2022). Curbing and preventing psychiatric disorders through healthier eating and sleeping habits. Annals of Medicine and Surgery, 82, 104614. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amsu.2022.104614

Illustration by: kbeis Strategies to Aid Sleeping Habits – (health.harvard.edu)  

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