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Advice for Healthy Living

March 16th, 2021

National Sleep Month: Are You Running on Empty?

By James Huysman, PsyD

With apologies to acclaimed singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, are you running on empty?

There is plenty of evidence that sleep and happiness are closely linked. Sleep is one of the body’s regular functions that keeps us healthy. When we don’t get enough sleep, fatigue, a feeling of tiredness and decreased energy, can set in.  Fatigue can affect everything we do, both personally and professionally.

At WellMed, we are taking the time to focus on sleep from all viewpoints – medically, psychologically and socially – for National Sleep Month in March. The amount and quality of our sleep has an effect on our emotional wellness and flexibility in our jobs. In America, 70% of people report they have at least one night of poor sleep every month. More than 11% say they don’t get enough sleep every night.

Ongoing fatigue can also happen when work is intense or the hours are long. Getting too little sleep, or sleep deprivation, has long been known to decrease mood, motivation, response time, and drive. Sleep research is an important field within the health and wellness sector for a good reason: There is a direct relationship between your sleep patterns and your mental health.

Most people love sleep. Even so, there are far too many people who get too little or poor quality sleep in the modern age. More than 25 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Many others cope with other sleep problems. Suffering from ongoing sleep disorders also makes it harder to cope with multiple medical problems successfully.

The connection between sleep and mental health is still being studied, but many scientists believe that good sleep habits can help support a healthy mind in the long-term. Lack of sleep has been proven to cause emotional unrest, negative thought patterns, and even depression.

I started this article by recalling the song “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne because so many of us are. I’d like to end it on a more hopeful note by quoting Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and invite you to sing along: “Dream on, dream on, dream on, dream until your dreams come true.”

James “Dr. Jamie” Husyman, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical social worker, author and caregiving expert. He serves as chief compassion officer for WellMed.