Why Do We Need Sleep? (Sleep Foundation)
How to Get on a Sleep Schedule (Sleep.org)
April Morris, LCSW, provides outpatient therapy for adolescents and adults age 16 and over. She uses a multi-faceted trauma-informed therapy approach including a variety of therapy techniques. She enjoys working with clients from all walks of life, and is honored to join them on their mental health journey and help them build skills to adapt to life challenges.
Tim Unsinn: Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and wellbeing, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to Mind Your Mind.
TU: Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is April Morris. April is an outpatient therapist in Fargo and provides therapy for those over 16, primarily adults. April, it's great to have you on Mind Your Mind.
April Morris: Thanks for having me.
TU: Our topic is something that is not overrated very often, and that is sleep. However, before we get to the topic, there's a question I ask all of our guests of Mind Your Mind: Why do you do what you do?
AM: Definitely a hard question to answer. I think there's a lot of reasons why I'm drawn to what I do, but I really like to teach. I like to help people learn new things. And I also like to keep learning, and in this field, you're definitely always learning. And I'm just really humbled to be part of someone's story.
TU: Thanks April. Our topic is sleep and this is one that seems to get not a lot of attention, but is really so important for our bodies, not just our physical, but our mental health. So how does sleep impact mental health?
AM: Well, it is so unbelievably important. It's something that spans across all generations, no matter what age we need it, right? So it's like having gas for your car. You have to have it, or it's not going to work or run. And just like signs that we would take if our gas is running low, we have to take signs of when our bodies, you know, running low on sleep, what sleep deprivation would look like, just like dehydration or anything else. So super important. Impacts [to] our mental health are huge. We can be more moody, sensitive, irritable, impulsive. [It] really can impact our relationships, as well as our functioning. Our concentration's down, our memories changed. The amygdala's actually in charge of our emotional response. And there was a study done that 60% of people were more emotionally reactive if they were sleep-deprived.
AM: Also our prefrontal cortex is essentially our voice of reason to emotions and impulse control. So sleep impacts both of those immensely. The hypothalamus keeps hormone balance. So, for example, if we have too much cortisol in our body, it puts us in a greater state of stress, let's say, and you know what it's like when we have increased stress; that also impacts our mood, mood disorders, sleep disorders in general. During sleep, our memories, emotions, and other information are being processed and stored, so it's very important that we get restful sleep. Ten to 18% of the general population have sleep concerns. Fifty to 80% of those are people with mental health disorders. So it drastically increases for those already struggling with anxiety or depression. Other health consequences, like when we talked about physical consequences, you're at an increased rate for heart disease, diabetes, right? Physical concerns in addition to your mental health.
TU: So you talk about the lack of sleep and you know, I think of people when they're hungry, they're angry, we call that hangry. So if we're sleep deprived and we're angry, it's "slangry." I guess we'll go with "slangry" as a new word. So mental health, now we're talking about sleep hygiene. What exactly is sleep hygiene? Is that something I can get at the store?
AM: Okay, well, you can't get it at a store, but just like hygiene for your teeth, your skin or other body parts, it's just how we care for ourselves. Right? So healthy habits for sleep is what sleep hygiene is. Some things that you can think about that are important to do during the day. Getting enough sunlight, right? Physical activity; trying not to eat too late at night. They say three to four hours is how long it takes for your stomach to empty. And also just avoiding disruptive foods like spicy, greasy foods that might give you heartburn and keep you up all night. Limiting naps, right? Ideally avoiding naps, but limiting them to 20 to 30 minutes is kind of the ideal recommended timeframe and keeping a fixed wake-up time. So no matter what you always want to keep your body on the same wake-time. Of course, avoiding caffeine, nicotine alcohol; that all impacts how we flow through our sleep cycles. So ideally caffeine and nicotine would be avoided at least six hours before bed.
TU: So we often hear about people that have "accountability buddies" for different things. How easy or hard would it be to, you know, have that accountability buddy for sleep to make sure that you're getting enough sleep. Are you like checking in on somebody? How would that work out?
AM: You know, that might work out because, you know, even just checking in and having somebody that knows that you're prioritizing sleep, right? So it's really easy for us to stay out late and do a lot of social things or when you're in school staying up late to study, but it is hard. We need to prioritize sleep because it impacts our functioning greatly. So it actually impacts your school by staying up late. So it's kind of counterproductive, right? So, some of the things that we do is establish our same routine that we do every night. Start about 30 minutes before bedtime, make sure your room is comfortable, cool temperature, a comfortable bedding, blocking out the light if you can. Dim your lights closer to bedtime; they actually say that it hinders our melatonin production, the bright lights. And moving into that, of course, everybody talks about electronics, right?
AM: We should try to limit them an hour before bed; the blue light impacts our melatonin. I know a lot of people say, "Well, I can't sleep without the TV on." Okay, can you use white noise machine? Or at the very least set a timer because you don't want it to impact all of your sleep cycles all night long. So at the very least, if you just can't give it up, a timer would be good. And a lot of people try to just engage in calming activities before bed, right? So there's different apps like the Calm app and Headspace; [they're] super popular. Doing progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, just some calming body activities that you can do about 30 minutes before bed. And don't get overwhelmed if you feel like, "Oh my gosh, I'm not doing any of these things." You can start to implement a couple of things into your routine over time and really develop good sleep hygiene.
TU: I always say the beauty of podcast, [there's] an opportunity to rewind, listen again, rewind, listen again. It's just that easy. April, some great information; thank you. That really helps us out. Now, as we wrap up, our topic was sleeping. As we wrap up, I have one last question for you. What do you do personally, to mind your mind? I know sleep is a big one for you trying to get some of that these days.
AM: Yes. I definitely have small children, so getting enough sleep is challenging. I think a big part of that is just making sure I'm staying active with my family. During the day, they do keep me busy. I enjoy the lakes and I think something else to consider, too, is just asking for help if I'm really tired and just making sure that I'm getting help. And you just got to take care of yourself.
TU: April Morris has been our guest on Mind Your Mind. Our topic was sleep. April is an outpatient therapist in Fargo and provides therapy for those over 16, primarily adults. April, thank you for your time.
TU: Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to mind your mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more, go to dakotafamilyservices.org.
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