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Why Is Sleep So Important?

The importance of sleep cannot be understated. A healthy sleep schedule not only helps with your physical health but it can lead to substantial improvements in several mental health symptoms as well.

Yet dealing with sleep problems is an exceptionally common experience. These sleep issues are often a result of underlying mental health disorders, poor lifestyle habits, or excessive stress.

Taking steps to restore your sleep quality and quantity can make a dramatic difference in your overall quality of life — and APN London can help show you the way.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep plays an important role in helping repair your body, restore your mind, and keep your overall health in balance. While most people think of sleep as a passive activity, the brain actually enters a unique period of activity during resting hours, which are closely linked to your quality of life.

There are several different stages of sleep, each of which plays an important role in restoring your ability to function at your best.

Stage 1: Light Sleep

Light sleep accounts for approximately 5% of your overall time spent sleeping. During this stage, your body begins to relax, and brain activity starts to slow.

Stage 2: Deeper Sleep

The second stage of sleep accounts for nearly 45% of your time sleeping. Researchers believe that this stage of sleep is vital for memory consolidation, as well as contributing to your brain’s overall neuroplasticity.

Stage 3: Deep Sleep

The third stage of sleep is considered to be the deepest sleep stage, and it can be incredibly difficult to rouse people from sleeping when they are in this state. This stage is primarily associated with tissue repair, building muscle, and strengthening the immune system.

Stage 4: REM Sleep

Rapid eye movement (REM) is a stage of sleep that happens in the later hours of the sleep cycle and is characterised by heightened eye movement and erratic breathing. This stage is most associated with dreaming, emotional regulation, and healthy brain development. It is arguably the most important stage of sleep for mental health.

People will cycle between different stages of sleep throughout the night. Since REM typically happens at the end of the sleep cycle, not getting enough sleep can prevent you from entering this vital sleep stage at all, often leading to difficulties with emotional regulation and other mental health symptoms.

What Is a Normal Amount of Sleep?

For the vast majority of adults, seven to nine hours of sleep per night is recommended. Adults over the age of 64 may need an hour less. If you’re getting less than the recommended amount of sleep per night, you may start to experience many of the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Many people consistently struggle to meet their daily sleep recommendations. People often fall into a cycle of getting less sleep during the week and attempting to catch up during the weekend. But this cycle can lead to a perpetual experience of fatigue, poor emotional regulation, and difficulty concentrating.

How Sleep Impacts Your Health

So what happens if you have regular sleep difficulties? How do sleep and mental health interact, and how does poor sleep affect your physical health?

Sleep for Physical Health

Sleep is essential for helping build muscle, repairing damaged tissue, and maintaining hormonal balance. When you don’t get enough high-quality sleep, you can experience physical health symptoms such as:

  • A weakened immune system
  • Slower muscle or injury recovery time
  • Higher blood sugar
  • Feeling hungrier than usual
  • Daytime fatigue

The effects of sleep deprivation can affect a number of your internal organs as well. Just as your muscles need time to repair and recuperate after exercise, your heart, lungs, and digestive system all need to repair after a difficult day.

Sleep is when this restoration takes place — and chronic sleep deprivation may increase your risk of a number of medical health conditions.

Sleep for Mental Health

Similarly, a lack of high-quality sleep can lead to several uncomfortable mental health symptoms. If you experience regular sleep disruptions, poor quality sleep, or don’t get enough sleep, you can experience symptoms such as:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Poor emotional regulation
  • Worsening of pre-existing mental health symptoms
  • Difficulty learning or remembering important information
  • Increased stress
  • Decreased productivity

But the connection between sleep and mental health runs the other direction, as well. Many of the most common mental health diagnoses include difficulty sleeping as a key criterion of the diagnosis. For example, both depression and anxiety can lead to difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough sleep.

This can often lead to a rapid negative spiral of mental health symptoms. Your mental health diagnosis can negatively impact your sleep, which in turn worsens your mental health symptoms — and this affects your sleep even more.

If you’ve found yourself caught in this cycle of poor sleep and mental health outcomes, it might be time to start seeking out mental health treatment. Finding evidence-based treatment for your underlying mental health disorder can lead to rapid symptom relief and help you restore a healthy sleep cycle that can improve your holistic health along the way.

What Are the Traditional Treatments for Sleep Problems?

Recognising the importance of sleep, many people may turn to traditional options like supplements — such as melatonin — or prescription medications to help alleviate sleep problems.

How Do Traditional Options Work?

The effectiveness of options like melatonin are not always clear. Medications and supplements typically work by alleviating the symptoms of sleep problems instead of the root cause.

This means that while these options may provide short-term relief, they don’t address the underlying cause of poor sleep — and can ultimately lead to tolerance and dependence. If this happens, many people find themselves unable to get any sleep at all without the help of powerful hypnotics or other prescription sleep aids.

Is It Safe to Take Melatonin and Other Sleep Medications?

To find out whether a medication or supplement is safe for you, it’s best to speak to your primary care physician.

How Do I Fix Sleep Problems?

There are a number of different strategies you can use to help improve your sleep quality. Often, the best way to fix sleep problems is by combining multiple strategies to ensure you get the best results.

At APN London, we use a variety of evidence-based strategies that can help you restore your sleep quality and achieve holistic physical and mental health.

Medication Management

Working with a psychiatrist for medication management services connects you directly with a mental health provider who can prescribe targeted medications to help both your sleep as well as any underlying mental health conditions that may be impacting your sleep.

Medication management is about more than just giving you a prescription to take home with you, though. Your psychiatrist can help you determine which of several medications are best to treat your condition, adjust your dosage as needed, and monitor your progress over time.

Lifestyle Psychiatry

Lifestyle psychiatry is an approach unique to APN London that combines conventional psychiatric services with holistic lifestyle changes. For sleep problems in particular, making lifestyle changes can make a dramatic improvement in your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and feel more rested.

But these changes are often extremely difficult to implement on your own. Lifestyle psychiatry provides you with expert support from mental health professionals who can help you understand how these lifestyle changes can make a meaningful difference.

We work to build and maintain your motivation to change and provide evidence-based treatment options to help you accomplish your goals.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy includes a number of techniques that can help improve your sleep. For example, there are therapeutic methods specifically designed for people dealing with insomnia – called cognitive-behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).

CBT-I helps clients make meaningful changes in their everyday lives that inspire better sleep. It can help you learn the principles of healthy sleep hygiene, provide cognitive strategies to soothe yourself at night, and ultimately change the way you think about sleep and how your behaviour during the day affects your rest.

Treating Other Mental Health Concerns

But direct sleep therapy is only one of the ways that talk therapy can help. If you have an underlying mental health disorder that affects your sleep, such as depression or anxiety, there are a number of different talk therapy options to help you find symptom relief.

Though treating anxiety or depression may be less direct than sleep therapy, it’s often the best method to improve sleep for people with a mental health diagnosis. There are a number of different therapy styles that can help, including:

  • Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy

These therapies are all evidence-based approaches for treating a number of mental health conditions — and can be combined with medication management or lifestyle psychiatry for even greater results.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) is an innovative approach to treating a number of mental health conditions, which can in turn improve your sleep. dTMS takes the findings of neuroscience and puts them into practical application through exciting new technology.

To understand how dTMS works, it’s first important to recognise how different mental health conditions affect the brain. In disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression, certain brain regions are underactive compared to neurotypical controls.

But with dTMS, these brain regions can be directly stimulated. It starts with a personalised brain map, which identifies specific targets for treatment. Then, using a completely non-invasive cap, targeted electrical impulses are sent to these regions. This sparks an increase in activity, creating durable improvements in mental health symptoms.

While most people feel a difference after just a single session, repeated dTMS treatments can further solidify the gains you make in treatment.

Ketamine-Assisted Healing

Ketamine-assisted healing is another innovative approach to treating the underlying mental health conditions that can lead to poor sleep. Ketamine-assisted healing uses the dissociative psychedelic ketamine to enhance the therapeutic process, leading to rapid breakthroughs and improvements that might take months in conventional therapy styles.

While the advent of ketamine in mental health treatment is still young, the results from clinical trials have shown rapid and substantial improvements for a number of mental health conditions. Further, ketamine-assisted healing can even help people who have tried conventional treatment styles before without success.

The improvements from ketamine-assisted healing can typically be felt immediately after just a single session. Repeated sessions can further solidify the improvements in symptoms that you’ve achieved, and the results have proven to be very durable.

Comprehensive and Holistic Treatment at APN London

At APN London, we take pride in delivering a wide range of mental health services for our clients. From conventional therapy to innovative approaches like ketamine-assisted healing and dTMS, we aim to leave no stone unturned in helping you achieve your mental health goals.

We go further to find the root cause of your sleep problems to support your optimal wellness. To get started with our comprehensive mental health treatment programme, reach out to our team today by calling 0203 984 7699 or by filling out our confidential online contact form.

References

  • Costello, Rebecca B et al. “The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature.” Nutrition journal vol. 13 106. 7 Nov. 2014, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-106
  • “How to Fall Asleep Faster and Sleep Better.” Every Mind Matters, NHS, www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/mental-wellbeing-tips/how-to-fall-asleep-faster-and-sleep-better/. Accessed 27 Jan. 2024.
  • “Sleep and Mental Health.” Mental Health UK, 24 Mar. 2022, mentalhealth-uk.org/help-and-information/sleep/.
  • “Sleep Problems.” Every Mind Matters, NHS, www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/mental-health-issues/sleep/. Accessed 27 Jan. 2024.