Established by the Better Sleep Council (BSC), the campaign aims to spread awareness about the various benefits of sleeping well. More than a third of Americans experience poor sleep, according to the CDC¹. With the side effects of poor sleep manifesting in lots of different ways, everyone can benefit from taking a good look at their potential sleep problems.
So, whether you feel sleep deprived or not, there is no finer time than Better Sleep Month to focus on improving your sleep habits and start building up a routine that lets you achieve restful sleep. After all, a good night’s sleep is an essential part of preparing yourself for the day not only physically, but emotionally too.
In this article, we will explore the important relationship between sleep and mood and how you can take a few easy steps to improve both.
Most of us have experienced the negative effects of not getting enough sleep on our mood. When we are sleep deprived, we tend to be more irritable, anxious, and easily overwhelmed. Research has also shown that a lack of adequate sleep can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. In short, sleep affects mood, and mood affects sleep.
But why does this relationship between sleep and mood exist? Why do our sleep problems affect our moods so heavily?
Our bodies rely on sleep to regulate the neurotransmitters and hormones that affect mood. Oftentimes, sleep deprivation can cause an imbalance in these chemicals, which then leads to mood changes, irritability, and trouble concentrating.
Environmental factors also contribute to changes in mood, and sleep problems can make it harder to cope with outside stressors. You may find that you experience a more negative emotional response to typical stressors when your body is not properly rested.
Coping with stress is already difficult, but that difficulty scales up with the brain fog and irritability that sleep deprivation brings. Not to mention, as our stress increases, it can become harder to sleep as well, creating a continuous cycle of more stress and sleeping problems.
Sleep debt is also important to consider². When you get poor or insufficient sleep over a few days, you cannot make up for it with one night of more sleep. For example, if someone who typically needs 8 hours of sleep only slept 6 hours each night over the course of a week, they would accumulate a sleep debt of 10 hours total. Less sleep over time means higher sleep debt. As your sleep debt increases, you may feel tired, notice lost productivity, and experience lower moods.
The only way to counteract or avoid accumulating sleep debt is to build a strong routine that allows you to get better sleep and sleep enough on a regular basis. In the next sections, we will provide some strategies that should help you counteract your sleep problems and get your sleep debt under control.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene and enhance your mood! Here are some tips to help you build a restful sleep routine while taking better care of your mental and physical well-being.
A lot more goes into getting enough sleep than you might initially think. Many different factors affect your ability to get more sleep, including time, eating habits, room temperature, sleep position, comfort of the mattress, and more.
Let’s briefly break down five easy adjustments to optimize your sleep patterns:
Build a consistent sleep schedule.Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on the weekends, can help regulate your body's internal clock and improve sleep quality. The average adult should also aim to rest seven to eight hours or more each night to avoid sleep loss.
Try not to snack right before bedtime, especially on unhealthy foods. Not only does your body digest less efficiently while you sleep, but acid reflux, heartburn, and other types of gastrointestinal discomfort could disrupt sleep³.
Optimize your sleep environment.Doctors recommend turning the thermostat somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit to fall asleep and stay asleep. Drastic changes in temperature may cause sleep disturbances and interrupt different stages of your sleep cycle⁴.
Find the sleep position that works best for you. Snorers may want to avoid sleeping on their backs, while those with heartburn could find comfort in snoozing on their left sides⁵.
Invest in a mattress and pillow that provide the right support for your body. The average person spends practically one-third of their life asleep, so you might as well be comfortable! A pleasant sleeping environment could also help those who have difficulty falling asleep.
You’ve probably heard of using relaxation methods throughout the day to help improve your mood or reduce it. But, incorporating different techniques at bedtime could have the added benefit of helping you sleep better too!
Consider testing out some of these three healthy sleep techniques for yourself.
Deep breathing. Breathing exercises like the 4-7-8 technique or alternate nostril breathing help you wind down before sleep and could also increase your body’s production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing chemical⁶.
Mindfulness meditation. This method is a great way to forget your daily stress by focusing on your mind and body in the present moment.
Yoga. Release accumulated muscle tension by practicing yoga before bed and allow your body to experience better sleep.
Regular exercise and a balanced diet are not only an essential part of physical health, but also of emotional health. You may notice improvements in anxious feelings, stress, and sleep patterns early on after you start exercising. Over the long term, routine exercise encourages a healthy lifestyle, helps combat weight gain, and decreases the risk of chronic diseases as well⁷.
On top of physical activity, it’s just as important to think about what goes into your body. A poor diet can affect sleep just as much as stress and other factors. It may help to limit your intake of high protein, high fat, and spicy foods, especially close to bedtime, as they can cause a sleep disturbance via prolonged digestion and heartburn.
It’s usually wise to be careful with the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or stimulants as well. Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but it is not useful for staying asleep. In fact, it often wakes you up during the more restful stages of your sleep. And stimulants like caffeine may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep in the first place.
Diet can affect your overall mood as well. Without a balanced diet, you may not be consuming an adequate amount of important vitamins that play a part in the production of mood and sleep-regulating hormones in your brain like serotonin. Try to incorporate whole, unrefined foods containing protein, essential vitamins, healthy fat, and fiber into your diet.
Technology and other forms of stimulus can be a major distraction around bedtime. Despite their convenience, our devices keep us closely connected to our daily stressors. This makes it hard to unwind when bedtime rolls around, often leading to sleep difficulties that could develop into chronic insomnia or stress-induced insomnia.
Research suggests that the blue light emitted from our favorite devices may interfere with our sleep patterns⁸. Exposure to blue light during the day can be helpful, making us feel more awake and alert. However, blue light exposure at night could lead to impaired sleep. This is due to the fact that blue light hinders our body's production of melatonin, a chemical usually produced after sundown that helps us prepare for sleep. Therefore, using your devices late into the evening could put you at an increased risk for sleeping problems.
To reduce the negative impact of stress, technology, and blue light on both your sleep and mood, it's important to practice stimulus control in the following ways.
Turn off electronics(or notifications) at least 30 minutes before bed.This will give your brain enough time to disconnect from outside stressors like your work and social life in order to prepare you for better sleep.
Limit your exposure to blue light.Maybe you need music or background noise to sleep peacefully. Many electronic devices have a built-in blue light filter that you can turn on to reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the screen.
Don't bring your stress to bed. Try to avoid handling stressful situations or spending time frustrated in your bed. This could increase your sleep difficulties and lead to disturbed sleep. Instead, allow your bed to be a safe place where you can relax.
Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being. By making some simple changes to your normal routine during Better Sleep Month, such as establishing a schedule for healthy sleep, practicing relaxation methods, and limiting technology use before bed, you can improve your sleep quality, mood, and overall health.
At BioNeurix, we are committed to helping you achieve your physical and mental health goals through natural solutions. If you struggle with sleep deprivation, inadequate sleep, or low moods, contact us today for more information and stay tuned throughout the rest of Better Sleep Month to find out more useful tips for shaking your sleep problems.