We spend a third of our lives asleep, and there is a reason for that. Sleep plays an important role in both our physical and mental wellbeing.

Good quality sleep allows time for our body to repair and recover from the day, strengthens our immune system, and lets our brain process memories. Getting enough sleep helps us concentrate and stay alert during the day, and perform well in our studies and at work.

Good quality sleep puts us in a better position to manage our emotions and mood, cope better with stress, and reduces irritability. Achieving enough sleep also decreases our risk of developing mental health problems in the future.

Sleep and mental health

Sleep problems are significantly more common among people with mental health issues than the general population. Poor sleep is linked with the onset of mental health difficulties as well as the worsening of current symptoms. Additionally, symptoms of mental illness such as feelings of anxiety and depression make it harder for people to fall and remain asleep.

Some medications prescribed for mental health issues may also result in sleep disturbance – meaning a person may not sleep enough, may sleep too much, or have poor quality sleep.

Poor sleep has been linked to symptoms of depression such as feeling down, hopeless, irritable, and even to having thoughts of suicide. Poor sleep also impacts our ability to think clearly, remember things, and learn new information.

Did you know?

So, how much sleep should we be getting? The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults aim for 7–9 hours of sleep each night. However, studies show that one in three Australians are not reaching this goal.

The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to improve your sleep. “Sleep hygiene” is a term that describes a variety of practices and habits that promote good quality sleep. For people experiencing complex mental health issues, having good sleep hygiene is important for staying well.

Sleep hygiene

Which of these sleep hygiene tips could you benefit from incorporating into your routine? Which are you already doing?

If you are concerned about your sleep difficulties or would like further advice, speak with your GP, psychologist, or other health professional. 

Sleep well!