Teens and young adults face a variety of mental health concerns, and research indicates that getting more sleep (and better sleep) earlier on may buffer against a number of these problems. As reported online by the Wall Street Journal, kids who sleep poorly during their childhood and early adolescence are more likely to struggle with the following laundry list in their teens and twenties: depression, anxiety, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, learning problems, memory problems, obesity, and aggressive behavior. This insight comes from varying studies, some larger and more thorough than others, but the general connection between sleep problems and mental health problems is clear.
So if not getting enough sleep is psychologically unhealthy, what does good sleep do? Therapists and psychologists believe that it’s not that staying up too late harms you; it’s that resting your mind comes with protective benefits. Just as your body heals, repairs and grows when you sleep, your mind does the same. This can provide a protective buffer against depression and the many other struggles named above. Sleep doesn’t mean immunity to mental health concerns; after all, life is never perfect and we all experience ups and downs. Plenty of people who slept well during childhood still benefit from counseling and therapy as adults. But taking care of our kids by encouraging adequate rest may soften the blow and help them fare a little bit better as young adults.
This sleep study is a good opportunity to discuss the importance of self-care. It’s true that psychotherapists specialize in the psychological, mental and emotional elements of a person’s life. But these elements are intrinsically linked to physical and social factors. It’s common knowledge that therapists talk with clients about the latter: relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and romantic partners. But the physical factors also play a role in mental health. Adequate and consistent sleep, exercise, and healthy food go a long way to achieve balance, resilience and strength for weathering what life throws your way.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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