By Jane Watson
Everyone knows it’s important to get a good night’s sleep, but what role does sleep play in individual mental health? The results are striking: more than one-half of insomnia cases are connected with depression, anxiety or psychological stress.
For Zimbabwe, insomnia and other sleep-related disorders are crippling the nation’s overall health, and mental illness is at the forefront of this conversation. In conjunction with growing conversations about mental health, it’s vital that Zimbabweans take the extra effort needed to get enough rest.
The psychology of sleep
Originally, insomnia and other sleep disorders were viewed as symptoms of psychological disorders. But the two are more closely related: studies suggest that sleep problems directly contribute to psychiatric disorders. By extension, treating a sleep disorder may also help alleviate symptoms of a mental health problem, if the two exist simultaneously.
Treating a sleep disorder is also a good option for mental health patients looking to avoid psychiatric medication, as the sounder sleep has real implications for their psychological symptoms.
Safe remedies for better sleep
Fortunately, countless medicinal and non-medicinal sleeping aids are designed to combat fatigue and promote a good night’s rest. Conventional sleep medicines, while effective, come with varied side effects, which is why most doctors advise against using sleeping pills on an everyday basis.
Many people who struggle to fall asleep use spiritual meditative practices to foster their emotional wellbeing. Strategies such as mindfulness meditation reduce insomnia symptoms and promote a good night’s sleep. Meditation is also linked to a host of other positive health benefits, including reduced brain fog, more clarity, and better focus, all of which can contribute to combating mental health disorders.
Keeping a sleep calendar
Another good habit to follow in order to promote healthy rest is to keep a sleep calendar documenting your sleep, including duration of sleep, any dreams you remember, and how you felt before going to bed and waking up. You can show this sleep diary to your physician to give him/her a better sense of the problems preventing you from getting enough rest.
Journaling is also an effective strategy for coping with mental illness, making it a viable option for patients suffering from both insomnia and psychological symptoms.
Moving forward, a higher recognition of the link between mental health and sleep will help Zimbabwe contribute to the growing conversation about psychological well being. Getting enough downtime is vital to the nation’s overall health and understanding of mental illness.