Mental Health Across The Lifespan

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Sleep deprivation was discussed in my video, so I will be focussing on how it affects mental health and how sleep hygiene may improve this.

Deficient sleep lowers mood and reduces the ability to control negative emotions in young people, suggests Baum et al (2013). Morgan (2013) states that the stress hormone cortisol escalates in sleep deprivation, indicating that the less sleep you have the more likely you are to have increased stress. Lack of sleep symptoms may include anxiety, poor judgement, poor memory and depression. She goes on to explain how we should try to follow our own natural circadian rhythms, controlled by our hypothalamus, to improve health.

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Sleep hygiene is the term used to include tips to maintain a regular sleep and wake schedule, a set of behavioural and environmental recommendations. These include keeping the bedroom cool, dark and quiet, exercising during the day, but not immediately before bedtime, avoiding big meals before bed, having a good bedtime routines, avoiding daytime naps and avoiding caffeine as discussed by Vohra (2018). Clifton et al (2018) suggests that the quality of sleep directly affects mental sharpness and emotional balance. They promote good sleep hygiene to improve mental health and repeat the advice by Vohra. Other things to consider would be reducing blue light exposure, the use of aromatherapy, breathing exercises, meditation and mindfulness. Listening to music and having a warm bath may be helpful, Meadows (2014).

Sleep hygiene can be used for all groups of people that have difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep. Irish et al (2015) looked at the role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health and found there is more research required in many aspects. They say that current evidence does not agree that late night exercising has an effect on sleep, suggesting that exercise has different effects due to age gender and fitness levels and actually may enhance sleep. Caffeine close to bedtime does upset sleep, but they question that more research is needed with intermittent caffeine use and caffeine tolerance.

Screen time and internet use should be avoided prior to settling to sleep, as this has a big impact on mental health. Do et al (2012) studied teenager’s time spent on internet use and sleep duration. The results showed that shorter sleep duration was associated with a higher incidence of reporting of depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation and obesity. So it is important to advise the young people we look after about the negative aspects of internet use and screen time prior to settling.

We know that melatonin is produced much later in teenagers so this could be a reason for adolescents having difficulty in getting a good night’s rest. Lamberg (2016) looked at moving school start times, acknowledging the delay in teenagers body clock. She suggests a later school start would give teenagers optimal sleep time and advised that research has shown that attendance improved and self reporting symptoms of depression were reduced, therefore improving the overall mental health of young people

Nice guidelines (2017) recommend that young people with depression should be given advice on sleep hygiene to treat and improve their mental health. The Mental Health Foundation (2011) comply with this, advising that sleeping poorly increases the risk of having poor mental health and points out that resources should be made readily available to give people advice on what they can do to improve sleep. They propose that the importance of sleep for mental and physical health should be highlighted in local and national public health campaigns, including school.

The NHS (2018) indicates how sleep boosts mental health and how sleep deprivation may lead to disorders like depression. The NHS offers tips for getting a good night’s sleep, including making your bedroom sleep friendly and to keep a sleep diary which may be of help to determine triggers and lifestyle habits that contribute to restless nights.

However, Nishinoue et al (2011) studied the effects of sleep hygiene education and whilst it is successful, they found that combining it with a behavioural therapy such as cognitive therapy to be of greater benefit.

Sleep is fundamental to our well being and health. Lederle (2018) describes how getting good sleep is connected to physical health, cognitive performance and emotional wellbeing. She suggests that poor sleep has been reported as a symptom of mental illness, but recent research is now indicating that not getting enough sleep can actually put you at a greater risk of mental illness. Getting a good night’s sleep could be the answer to managing our daytime mental health but we need to follow sleep hygiene advice to give us the best chance of getting quality sleep every night to tackle the potential stresses of the day ahead.


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