If you’re looking to make a fresh start with new goals for the new year, don’t forget about sleep. While getting enough sleep did not make the top 9 list for American’s mental health-related New Year’s resolutions in a recent APA poll, it may be one of the best things you can do for your mental health and your overall health.
Sleep problems and depression are closely interconnected and have a bidirectional relationship. In The American Journal of Psychiatry, authors David T. Plante, M.D., Ph.D., with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, suggests that there is important “opportunity to prevent depressive episodes using evidence-based treatments for insomnia.” Plante highlights several factors contributing to the potential for broad public health impact.
Athletes are particularly adept at combining mind and body to maximize performance in sport. However, the same does not always apply to performance in sleep. Most researchers and doctors recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night at a minimum, and less than that is considered insufficient sleep. While the overall rate of insufficient sleep in the general population is high, athletes are even more likely to suffer from lack of shut eye. Whether it’s due to traveling, practice schedules, or balancing training with school or work, athletes lag behind the average person when it comes to sleep.
Light, both natural and artificial, can affect our health and mental health in several different ways. Depending on the time of day, light exposure can promote or disrupt sleep. A persistently disrupted sleep cycle can contribute to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, obesity and mental health disorders. Research is also beginning to clarify non-circadian effects of light – light can have a direct impact on the sleep and mood centers in the brain.
Social jet lag refers to the mismatch between a person’s internal clock and their daily schedules. For most people that means the difference in sleep schedules between weekdays (school or workdays) and weekends (non-workdays).