In my previous blog post, we discussed the role of exercise as an effective treatment intervention for depression, and patients in recovery from drug and alcohol dependence.

The importance of stress reduction cannot be overstated when addressing the management of these disorders. Stress results from a number of sources, and is a bio-psycho-social phenomenon. It can be treated by a number of interventions, including medications, psychotherapy, exercise, meditation, hypnosis, and other nonpharmacologic strategies.

A critical stress reduction strategy is sleep. Sleep is essential for normal cognitive functioning. We all know how poorly we feel after a poor night’s sleep. The body cannot function at its highest level without restful sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to psychotic thoughts and significant alteration in our ability to think clearly. It has been a form of torture often portrayed in movies.

A key question for many is how much sleep is enough? Is it true some people don’t need sleep (or only very little)? The answer is no, we all need sleep to maintain physical and mental health. Virtually everything that effects our sleep (jet lag, certain medications, drugs of abuse, stress, environmental factors) adversely effects our health. Sleep quality is actually more important than sleep quantity. It is not just the amount of time spent in bed that matters. The real issue is the way we feel when we get up.

The key issue to knowing if you got enough sleep is quite simple. Do you feel rested when you get up in the morning? Sleep requirements change throughout the life cycle. Worrying about getting enough sleep actually impairs the quality of sleep (anxiety makes it harder to fall asleep). With so many factors effecting sleep quality, the bottom line of feeling rested in the morning remains the key issue. In my next blog, I will review the important factors that promote restful sleep, and the best treatments for those with sleep abnormalities.

Till next time, get your rest!!