I had a personal issue with insomnia recently. After the events, I decided to share it because it seems to be applicable to so many people. I never knew how insomnia can effect your health in so many horrible ways! Thus, I want to address overall habits to improve mental health, while also addressing the very important issue of heart health and sleep hygiene.
First let me start by briefly sharing what happened. Then we’ll discuss my research and the information my doctor shared with me.
I had a traumatic brain injury four years ago. Since that time, I’ve had difficulty sleeping at times. I’ve had headaches every day. And I’ve had memory, executive functioning, processing, and communication issues.
Recently, I had four episodes of insomnia during a four-week time frame where I didn’t sleep for 30-36 hours. When I finally slept, it only lasted for 4-6 hours and I was back up again. I went on with life for the most part but realized along the way that I wasn’t feeling well.
My heart would start racing at random times. I had strange headaches that were different and lasted longer than usual.
My brain fog was worse than usual. My memory was horrible and I was driving myself, and my family, crazy because I couldn’t get my words out!
I was not eating or drinking properly because of nausea and crazy sleep habits. My balance was horrible and I kept bouncing into walls.
I was having trouble making decisions about something as simple as what to watch on television. Basically, I felt like a total mess!
Then I had two more episodes of insomnia and my symptoms got worse. I finally decided to go to the doctor!
I had not associated my mental and physical health with the insomnia!
Lack of Sleep Symptoms
After I told my doctor about my symptoms, she explained that a lack of sleep can cause every single one of these problems. She also said a lack of sleep and heart health are closely associated so we needed to get my sleep habits straightened out, plus people often have headaches from lack of sleep.
My physical and mental health was in jeopardy. I had to work on habits to improve mental health and physical health.
The effects of not sleeping at night are tremendous on your physical, mental, and social health. The sypmtoms include:
- memory issues
- mood changes
- trouble with thinking and concentrating
- trouble with reasoning and problem solving
- weakened immune system
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- weight gain
- poor balance
- digestive problems
- hormone production
- trouble with decision-making and judgement
Look at just how many of these sleep deprivation symptoms are directly connected to mental health! We should all start making sleep hygiene an important part of our habits to improve mental health!
For additional information about Sleep Hygiene, click here for a great article from the Sleep Foundation.
How serious is sleep deprivation?
My doctor explained that all my concerns were side effects of not getting enough sleep. It all came down to sleep deprivation and I had not even given it any thought! I assumed it was all due to a hormone imbalance caused by not having a thyroid anymore and I just needed an adjustment in my thyroid replacement medication.
My doctor explained that sleep deprivation is very serious. She gave me several documents about sleep deprivation and strategies to improve sleep hygiene. We reviewed the documents together and then she recommended two medications to help get me back in a normal sleep pattern. I would use the medications temporarily along with the strategies we discussed for better sleep habits.
Sleep deprivation is very serious. It was important to reestablish good habits to improve mental health and physical health.
Since this article is primarily about sleep hygiene, mental clarity, and heart health, I think you will find this website very helpful in assessing your sleep habits as related to your overall health and wellbeing. Click here. It includes a handy Sleep Hygiene Worksheet that has very helpful tips!
Habits to Improve Mental Health
The Number 1 item on almost all lists of habits to improve mental health is get plenty of sleep! Given my recent experience, I can understand why!
Here’s a list of 50 easy habits to improve mental health:
- Get plenty of restful sleep.
- Make your sleep area comfortable and cozy.
- Create a bedtime routine.
- Exercise regularly.
- Take time to appreciate the little things in life.
- Perform random acts of kindness.
- Do deep breathing exercises.
- Eat breakfast.
- Hang out with pets/animals.
- Be mindful and present. (How often do we read this nowadays?)
- Eat healthy foods.
- Drink plenty of water. (Feed your body, fuel your brain.)
- Don’t skip meals.
- Practice gratitude.
- Limit alcohol.
- Reduce processed foods.
- Socialize and improve your relationships with people.
- Eliminate toxic people and situations from your life.
- Laugh more.
- Go outside more.
- Reduce multitasking.
- Plan an adventurous vacation or activity.
- Practice forgiveness.
- Practice self love and self care.
- Be more generous.
- Use positive affirmations.
- Practice hygge.
- Set goals.
- Learn something new.
- Utilize your five senses.
- Think positive, happy thoughts.
- Take a break when you need it.
- Be open and ask for help when needed.
- Do yoga.
- Listen to music.
- Let go of anger.
- Stop smoking.
- Call a loved one.
- Consult with a mental health professional.
- Join community groups and activities.
- Improve your posture.
- Take social media and technology breaks.
- Don’t believe everything you think.
- Don’t overthink. (It’s not going to change anything!)
- Use a stress ball.
- Set boundaries.
- Write in a journal.
Sleep Habits and Heart Health
Insomnia is directly linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Poor sleep habits can also lead to unhealthy diet choices and less physical activity, which negatively impact heart health. It becomes a vicious circle.
Good sleep habits help your work function properly rather than over-exert itself. A good night’s sleep gives your heart a rest since your blood flow and heart rate goes down during sleep.
When you suffer from sleep deprivation, your heart is in a constant state of elevation and requires more work.
Since your heart is the organ that makes sure all other organs get the oxygen they need to function properly, the importance of keeping your heart healthy cannot be over-estimated. Developing habits to improve mental health will naturally help your physical health.
Check out this article by Sleep Foundation, How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Heart. It has a phenomenal amount of information about sleep deprivation!
It says, “Sleep provides time for the body to restore and recharge, playing a key role in nearly all aspects of physical health. For the cardiovascular system, insufficient or fragmented sleep can contribute to problems with blood pressure and heighten the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and stroke.”
This article very clearly answers the important question, “How does sleep affect your heart?”
I think you’ll see that most all of the habits to improve mental health also apply to good heart health and overall wellness. So let’s seriously consider incorporating these habits into our lives!
One More Thing About Mental Health
I am an advocate for do better, be better, try harder, and work toward progress, not perfection! In any article I write, I provide ideas and information to help us all work toward progress, not perfection. Myself included.
I am also a firm believer in “it’s okay to not be okay” and encourage you to always feel your emotions rather than ignore them. This is part of the process of being OKAY! No one is perfect. So please always give yourself grace and just do the best you can do in whatever aspect of life you are working on!
Final Thoughts: Habits to Improve Mental Health
I hope I’ve given you some valuable information about how sleep deprivation affects your health. It was certainly something I had not considered in the past! That’s why I wanted to share it with you!
We now all know a lack of sleep and headaches are connected; sleep deprivation and heart health are are connected; and even a lack of sleep and mental health are connected. I believe sleep hygiene is far more important than any of us ever realized. Sleep will naturally give our bodies and brains the boost we need to stay healthier!
Sleep will even help us function better when we are not “okay” and help us deal with our emotions much better!
Now that we know how sleep deprivation affects your body and mind, let’s promise to all work on improving our sleep habits! Start making sleep hygiene a part of your habits to improve mental health! Good luck!
Love to ALL! ~Susan
Related Article: How to Bring More Cozy Into Your Life