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How quality of sleep affects our mental health

If you’ve ever woken up on the “wrong side of the bed”, you know what we’re talking about. Mental health and sleep are closely linked – making that popular phrase much more than a cliché. Both sleep and mental health have the potential to worsen each other, which can create a downhill cycle. Since Veterans are susceptible to mental health conditions, and also physical conditions that impact sleep (such as sleep apnea), getting quality sleep is crucial for a healthy lifestyle.

Here are four different ways that the quality of sleep affects our mental health, plus how we can support you:

Cognitive functioning

Cognitive functioning, our mental ability to process information and acquire knowledge, is highly affected by the quality of our sleep. One study found that people who only got between 4 to 6 hours of sleep per night showed a significant decrease in their cognitive abilities, including memory tests and simple mathematics. If you’re not getting quality zzz’s, it’s going to become a lot harder to go on with your daily to-do list – let alone remember everything on it.

Emotional regulation

Being sleep deprived makes us more emotionally vulnerable to environmental stressors and events. Emotion impacts sleep – and sleep also impacts emotion. Both the quality and amount of snooze time we get alters our ability to regulate our emotions, either making it easier when you’re getting 8+ hours, or much more difficult when you fall below a regular healthy pattern. This can further complicate the symptoms of Veterans’ service-connected conditions, making it harder to recover, especially if their claims haven’t been approved yet.

Ability to respond to stress

When our ability to regulate our emotions is diminished by a lack of sleep, so is our ability to respond to stress. Sleep deprivation is linked to a rise in cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone, which can cause irritability, mood swings, plus depression and anxiety. With our defense system diminished, it becomes harder to maintain mood stability and one’s regular routine.

Risk factor for developing mental illness

In addition to all of the above, it has been proven that prolonged sleep deficiency changes activity in parts of the brain. Existing mental health conditions will be exacerbated, and it puts people at a higher risk of developing them in the first place. The opposite is good news: Getting the right amount of quality sleep per night on a consistent basis can improve your mental health – so be sure to prioritize your rest.

Seeking support for a condition that is impacting your sleep?

If you have a service-connected condition that affects the quality of your sleep, we can help you get the VA disability benefits you need. Whether sleep apnea or one of the many common mental health conditions faced by Veterans, help is only a call away.

Review our services page here to see all of the ways we can assist you. To work one-on-one with one of our experts, sign up for an expert chart review here.

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