The importance of sleep in the quest for happiness and improved mental health

Sleep is a basic human need; it is essential for physical and mental well-being. However, in today’s busy world, many people struggle with poor sleep quality, and this can have significant effects on their mental health.

Feelings of stress or anxiety can result in difficulties falling asleep, disturbed sleep or early waking with an inability to re-settle.

With time, chronic lack of sleep can have significant effects on our mental and emotional health through feelings of fatigue or exhaustion, an inability to concentrate, a lack of patience, irritability, mood swings, lack of motivation and difficulty in coping with the challenges of daily life.


Worry about further inability to sleep can serve to magnify the problem, and after just a few nights of broken sleep overall physical health and immunity may start to be affected.

Not having the energy to meet with friends or participate in hobbies can lead to withdrawal from normal, healthy social interactions and result in feelings of loneliness, isolation and low self-esteem.

Individuals with poor sleep quality are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Likewise, those already dealing with mental health issues often experience worsened symptoms due to inadequate sleep.

Mental health issues may already cause sleep disturbances; there may be underlying anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares or insomnia that already compromise the ability to reach quality sleep.

A troubling aspect of the relationship between poor sleep and mental health is the development of a vicious cycle. Mental health issues can lead to sleep disturbances, and these disturbances can, in turn, worsen mental health symptoms.

Breaking this cycle often requires targeted interventions addressing both sleep and mental health.


Factors that may contribute to poor sleep include:

  • Stress or worry, for example issues related to work, money, family, friends, bereavement
  • Current or past trauma
  • Being a parent or carer
  • Underlying health issues
  • Taking recreational drugs or alcohol, or withdrawal from medications
  • Poor sleep environment, eg an uncomfortable, noisy, bright or draughty sleeping situation


Ideas to improve your sleep quality:

Improving sleep quality involves adopting good sleep hygiene practices and making lifestyle changes that promote better rest. Here are some detailed ideas to help you enhance your sleep quality:


  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Try and go to bed and wake at the the same time, even on weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s internal clock, your circadian rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and wake naturally.


  • Soothing pre-bedtime routines: Try and establish a calming routine prior to bedtime.


Consider dimming the lights around the house after dinner, do something soothing like read a book, listen to gentle music, take a warm bath, listen to gentle music, try yoga or meditation, settle into bed then try and visualise a place that makes you feel relaxed and happy then practice deep breathing and consider your gratitudes.


  • Limit use of screens and electronic devices in the evenings: the blue-light they emit can significantly affect your sleep. Try to avoid screens for 1-2 hours before bed; social media anxiety, stressful emails, worrying tv news or scary movies can all trigger ‘stress’ hormone release and significantly impact your ability to settle. Consider blue-light filters or night-mode settings if necessary.


  • Think about your diet: Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime.


These all can disrupt sleep or make it harder to fall asleep.


  • Get more active in the daytime: Gentle exercise, such as walking, gardening, cycling, swimming, yoga, tai-chi or qi-gong, can be really effective at helping promote good sleep.


  • Get outdoors! Exposure to natural sunlight and fresh air with help reset natural body rhythms and promote better sleep patterns.


Getting out into nature in a local park or green space, connecting to the seasons changing, being physically active, feeling the grass under your bare feet as you sit out in the garden to eat or read, running soil between your fingers as you garden, engaging with pets or visiting a city farm, embracing the breeze and collecting shells or pebbles at the beach; all of these acts of mindfulness help create a quiet calm in your mind, and can help to promote much better sleep.


  • Seek professional help when needed: Remember that improving sleep quality often takes time and consistency. It may be helpful to keep a sleep diary to track your habits and identify patterns that affect your sleep negatively.


If, however, sleep problems persist despite trying these strategies, consult a healthcare provider such as your own GP doctor, or one of our team at Dr Indra Health clinic, for further evaluation and guidance.


You do not need to suffer in silence; there are caring people available who would like to support you to overcome this very difficult problem.  Feel free to get in touch.