Adults aren’t getting enough sleep and it’s taking a toll on their mental health, according to a new Calm sleep survey. A staggering 90% of adults in the US and UK say they feel unrested, with three out of four people struggling to fall asleep and/or stay asleep.
Stress, anxiety, and racing thoughts are the most common factors keeping people up at night, the Calm survey shows, but it goes both ways: Nearly 80% of adults say their sleep quality directly affects their mental health, and research supports this idea.
Poor sleep and lack of sleep negatively affect mental health
Sleep disruption is shown to have several adverse short-term effects on mental health, including emotional distress, mood disorders, and cognitive and performance impairments. In fact, a systematic review study revealed that sleep disturbance is a stronger predictor of depression and anxiety than vice versa.
By contrast, getting seven-to-nine hours of quality sleep each night improves mood, helps us think more clearly, and reduces stress and anxiousness, among other mental and physical health benefits.
The problem is that only 31% of adults say they’re getting more than seven hours of quality sleep consistently, and that could get worse as Daylight Saving Time comes to an end. Nearly two-thirds of adults say they have difficulty adjusting to changing the clock for Daylight Saving.
The good news is that more than 70% of adults are open to trying new things to improve their sleep. In fact, more than 70% of four million+ Calm subscribers across all generations turn to the Calm app for help to fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
Dr. Walker’s “Easy Tips for Better Sleep” series is rooted in science
In response to the growing sleep and mental health crisis, and in advance of Daylight Saving Time ending, Calm has introduced Easy Tips for Better Sleep, a new five-part series on Calm by Dr. Matthew Walker, bestselling author of Why We Sleep and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Walker has dedicated his life’s work to examining how sleep works and how it affects every aspect of our physical and mental well-being. His goal is to help as many people as possible receive the health and wellness benefits of sleep, which include an improved ability to learn and regulate hormones, and a reduced risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. He also wants to help listeners feel less stressed about sleep.
In “Easy Tips for Better Sleep,” Dr. Walker educates listeners about how sleep works and walks through five steps to help you and your employees cultivate healthy habits for better sleep. The five steps are organized into the following episodes:
- Don’t Try, and Don’t Worry! (Episode 1)
The first step to getting a good night’s sleep is reframing the moment when sleep eludes you rather than putting pressure on yourself. When you try to sleep, you push it away. But when you reduce the stress around it, you let sleep happen. Dr. Walker outlines proven strategies to lessen your stress and invite better sleep, including writing down your worries and taking a mental walk. (Note, counting sheep is not recommended.)
- Your Sleep Type (Episode 2)
According to Dr. Walker, 22 different genes influence our “chronotype,” our body’s natural tendency towards sleep and when we actually wake up. There are three chronotypes: morning, evening, and neutral. It’s important to know your chronotype, Dr. Walker says, accept it, and sleep in harmony with it. But when you can’t, Dr. Walker provides tips to change your type…a little bit!
- Sleeping with Your Phone (Episode 3)
Sleep is not just a physical and biological process; it’s also environmental, Dr. Walker explains.Technology can invade our sleep environment, affecting our quantity and quality of sleep, but we have the ability to control technology rather than let it control us. Rather than ban technology outright, he offers suggestions for setting clear boundaries with technology to get better sleep.
- Sleep and Your Mood (Episode 4)
According to Dr. Walker, because our emotional state is often the reason behind poor sleep, it’s important to manage our anxiety and stress throughout the day, starting in the morning. To optimize sleep, you need to optimize your waking day. He makes recommendations for how to manage your day, including setting boundaries about what you will and won’t attempt to get done. He also provides guidance for how to wind down your day and explains why a nightcap is not a good idea.
- Your Sleep Environment (Episode 5)
In addition to technology, several factors affect your sleep, including temperature, scents, light, and sound. To optimize your sleep, you need to build the right sleep environment, Dr. Walker says. For example, we need darkness at night to trigger the release of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. We also sleep optimally in an environmental temperature of 67°F. He offers several tips to create the ideal environment for quality sleep but also suggests not worrying about getting it perfect.
Fall Asleep with Dr. Walker’s New Sleep Story
Finally, as a last step, Dr. Walker has created his own Calm Sleep Story, “Why Do We Sleep?”. Drift off as he takes you on an immersive and informative journey that will help you embrace the wonders of sleep.
Implement sleep support as part of a preventive approach to employee mental health
With the vast majority of adults struggling to get quality sleep consistently and workforce well-being on the decline, employers should expand their mental health strategies to include sleep support as part of a preventive approach. Not only are adults looking for help to sleep better, but by focusing on sleep solutions, employers can help break the mental health stigma and provide a safe entry point to broader workplace mental health support. Check out Dr. Walker’s new sleep series here and new sleep story here.
For more information about improving your employees’ sleep and reducing stress and anxiousness, connect with our Calm specialist today.