The Mental Health Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep

As a part of my efforts at self directed, deliberate personal transformation, in January this year I began to dive deep. Deep into my subconscious, deep into my real desires, deep into my problems, their roots and potential ways to deal with them.

At some point I applied the idea of The One Thing:

Do the one thing that renders everything else easier, or unnecessary.

For me that one thing turned out to be a good night’s sleep.

I’ve suffered from insomnia my whole adult life, going back to my late teenage years when I would take long walks after midnight to try to tire myself out enough that I could get to sleep. It has dogged me so badly through my life that I find those nights I sleep straight through to be notable.

Deep reflection upon my sleep, and my patterns of depression showed me the two are interlinked in a positive feedback loop of pain. Sleep deprivation makes me depressed. Depression gives me insomnia. Insomnia deprives me of sleep. Loop.

My conclusion? Improving my sleep should help me control my depression, which leads me to a deeper question. Why?

What is it about sleep that will help me better live with my depression? It turns out there are several benefits to a good night’s sleep which directly affect mental health issues.

  • Stress

Depression is compounded by increased stress, and it turns out that good sleep helps to reduce stress. Improve your sleep, reduce your stress, reduce your problems with depression.

  • Exercise

One of the most effective treatments for depression is exercise, so much that it is prescribed, sometimes in place of drugs, for mild clinical depression. Better sleep can improve athletic performance. Better sleep leads to better exercise. Better exercise helps improve mental health.

  • Mental focus

Depression is often linked with ADHD. Better sleep can lead to better focus. The study is for children, but I find better sleep also helps me control my ADHD, and I find controlling my ADHD helps me with my depression.

  • Weight control

Better sleep helps you better control your weight. While weight control has never been a big problem for me, I am extremely body proud, and minor fluctuations in my weight weigh heavily on my self image. Self image and mental health are tightly connected, so better sleep, leading to better weight outcomes, leads to better self image, and therefore one fewer potential trigger for my depression.

Each of these factors affect my mental health, and improving my sleep has led to an improvement in all of them.

I started out talking about focusing on one thing, sleep. I focused on sleep because of its direct link to my depression, but it turns out that it is connected to many other things that are linked to depression. Focusing on that one thing has “made everything else easier, or unnecessary.”