A series of studies recently discussed in the Wall Street Journal point out the relationship between sleep problems and a host physical and mental problems that can occur from too little and /or poor sleep including depression, anxiety, aggressive behavior, learning and memory problems and obesity. While the research focused on children and adolescents, in my private practice of cognitive therapy,I have found similar effects in my own patients.
While problems with sleep can be both a cause and effect on anxiety, depression and related problems, often times, poor sleep habits is a key contributor.
Creating healthy routines around sleep can reduce the risk of sleep difficulties and its related negative consequences.
Going to bed and awakening the same time each day may take some planning and discipline but it is well worth the effort. A calming down ritual prior to bedtime is helpful such as reading or taking a bath. Sleeping in a dark room is naturally associated with sleep.
For those who tend to “worry” or “overthink” at bedtime, slow, deep breathing and visualizing quiet, peaceful and calming images relax the body and mind.
Finally, we need to accept the fact that our body and mind needs sleep to function at its best and that it is in our best interest to avoid the tendency to cut back on our sleep to fit more and more into a busier and busier day and lifestyle. These sleep hygiene strategies are part of the cognitive therapy approach to sleep problems.
Address comments and questions to Dr.Robert Heller at www.cognitivetherapy.cc.