Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

June 16, 2012

Mental Wellness: More than beauty rest

My grandma had a sleep mask. You know the kind that blocks out light? Hers was pink. I always thought it looked stupid. Then my wife gave me one last December, except mine is brown and black. When I got it, I thought, "Am I ever going to use this except on an airplane?"

Every morning when the light smacks me in the face at five something, I now put it on and have a glorious last hour of sleep. I love it.

We all know how important sleep is for kids. If they don't get their naps they are cranky and everyone in earshot knows. We underestimate the importance of solid sleep for adults. Here are some things you should know:

Sleep is tied to mental wellness

Did you know that poor quality sleep is tied to anxiety, depression, attention, mood swings, panic attacks and self esteem? If you are fighting with your kids, spouse, or friends, feeling frustrated, or just anxious, maybe it isn't medications that you need. Maybe you need more sleep.

Sleep is tied to memory

During the day our brains store most information in a short-term part of our brain. At night, the brain sorts through what is important and what is not. Everything from the color of your boss's shirt to that marketing report gets sorted to keep or delete. If not given enough time to sort, the brain hits the delete button. Things you understood yesterday will be harder to recall.

Sleep can improve with a few simple changes

Going to bed and waking up at similar times can improve your body's ability to get deeper and better quality sleep. As well, increasing exercise, time outside, and eating more fruits and vegetables will help. Eliminating caffeine in the evening and drinking more water can help unclog the sleep center of your brain.

Sometimes we make our lives more complicated than they need to be. What if all you need is a little more sleep? It could be the key to improving the relationships in your life, even if all it takes is a pink sleep mask.

Joseph R. Sanok is a licensed counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling. He helps angry kids, frustrated parents, distant couples "¦ and just about everyone else. Check out his "Happiness Resources" at www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/resources/happiness/.

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