Research shows us that lack of sleep or improper sleep can lead to a negative impact on physical and mental health as well as mood. The effects of improper rest, whether due to keeping irregular waking hours, a medical condition or disorder such as Sleep Apnea or even just insomnia, can include varied unintentional problems.
Lack of the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep can result in your body producing higher hormone levels of ghrelin which is know as the hunger hormone while simultaneously producing lower levels of the appetite suppressant hormone leptin. So, what happens? You guessed it: more cravings for sweet and starchy foods, eating when not really hungry and, yes, weight gain.
Other side effects can be increased blood pressure, a weakened immune system and being at greater risk for depression, anxiety, irritability and forgetfulness. Research also shows a 33% increase in dementia risk (The Effects of Sleep Deprivation | Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Therapists often ask clients about their sleep habits and any recent changes in sleep patterns. It’s important and relevant to address insomnia or hypersomnia as they can contribute to mental health, leading to a domino effect of issues.
One way to improve your sleep pattern is to assess your evening ritual. Do you go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time daily? Consider making this a healthy habit. Is your sleeping environment conducive to being relaxed? Other ways to improve sleep:
• Avoid consuming caffeine, alcohol or spicy foods late in the day
• Try to get 20 minutes of exercise daily
• Turn off the cell phone/tablet/computer at least one hour before going to bed
• Use relaxing breathing techniques to calm your mind and body
There are many additional techniques you could implement and these are just a few that have a positive impact on improving quality of sleep. Follow up with your therapist or medical doctor if lack of sleep causes severe safety side effects such as falling asleep while driving or hallucinations. This could indicate a serious condition.
Assessing your bedtime rituals and changing some old habits could lead to improved quality of sleep. Improved sleep will have a positive effect on physical and emotional well-being. You may even spend less time dreaming of a refreshing night’s sleep!

Ann Hogan, MSCP, LCPC