Sleep: Why we can’t live without it!!

sleep is important and so is developing a personalized sleep routine


How do we think about sleep?

Most of us may conceptualize our days as beginning when we wake up, oppose to viewing the beginning of our day when we go to bed. Planning for a good night of sleep may be the best way to “start” your day. According to the 2018 Sleep In America Poll produced by the National Sleep Foundation, “A majority of American adults (65%) think sleep contributes to next day effectiveness. Great sleepers realize the benefit, yet only 10% of people prioritize it over other aspects of daily living.” Why is this disparity present? How would you assess your sleep patterns and what barriers may prevent you from being a good sleeper?

How does sleep affect mental health?

Several studies and research indicate high associations between good sleep and mental health. According to the Sleep Health Journal adolescents who experienced high sleep quality had more secure attachments to their parents and reported lower levels of anxiety symptoms. On the contrary, insomnia can contribute future mental illness - and preventing insomnia may be a necessary preventative mental health initiative.

Research upon research touts the importance of sleep. I would encourage you to explore and find further research AND consider that the most convincing information to motivate good sleep habits in your life may be sourced in personal reflection on your experience with sleep. How does sleep affect your mental health, personal relationships and daily productivity?

What factors contribute to good sleep hygiene?

Sleep Education, a resource provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, offers a list of helpful sleep tips. These tips include:

  • Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.

  • Keep a consistent schedule, even on days off and on vacation.

  • If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.

  • Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing.

What factors do you experience as most difficult to follow and what seems to be the most helpful in your sleeping patterns?

How can I effectively think about and create a personalized sleep routine?

The National Sleep Foundation recently created a chart determining recommended sleep ranges, depending on one’s age (While these ranges provide a helpful framework, NSF advocates that each individual listen to their body and overall health in order to determine how much sleep one uniquely needs). NSF suggests determining your personalized need for sleep by asking these questions:

  • Are you productive, healthy and happy with 7 hours or do you find that 9 hours significantly increases your ability to function well?

  • How is your health? Could health issues be attributed to a lack of sleep, such being overweight or being at risk for diseases?

  • Can you survive the day without caffeine or energy drinks?

  • Do you sleep soundly through the night and do you wake up feeling rested?

  • Notice your alertness in daily activities - for example - are you sleepy when you drive?

Learning how to be a good sleeper that fits within your needs and how your body functions has a profound impact on mental health and overall functioning. Try sleeping sleeping at different hours and mindfully notice (and record) your responses to the questions above. NSF provides a Sleep Diary as a helpful resource to track sleeping patterns, mood and overall patterns for at least one week.

Many of us already have several aspects of a healthy sleep routine and there is always room for adjustments and growth. I’d like to leave you with this question: How are you already a good sleeper and what changes do you need to make to create healthy, life long patterns?


Thank you for reading,

Victoria Barrett, M.A., LMHC