Irving Kirsch, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, was once a supporter of chemicalantidepressant medication — but then he began to analyze the data. Not the cherry picked data that gets published and widely spread; he analyzed the data the drug companies had tried to keep hidden from the public.
What he found was surprising. According to his research, chemical antidepressants provide a mild boost, above the placebo effect, of 1.8 points on average on the Hamilton scale (which rates depressive symptoms). While that may be helpful, simplyimproving sleep patterns offersthree times that score, a boost of over 6.0 on the Hamilton scale. And that’s without the side-effects associated with a lot of chemical antidepressants.
Quality sleep is one of nature’s top antidepressants
However,poor sleep is reported more frequently than ever. And not coincidentally, rates of depression are up as well.
Whether we toss and turn at night, or we get to bed too late or have to wake too early, most of us aren’t getting enough. In fact, it is thought that chronic sleep deprivation is one of the most overlooked public health issues in the United States. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to things likememory impairment,difficulty concentrating, increasedlevels of stress hormones in the body, andmetabolic disruptions. The good news is that, for most, treating this chronic issue doesn’t require a pill, it only requires an additional 60 - 90 minutes of sleep per night on average.
For as long as most of us can remember, the golden rule was to get at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Eight hours seemed to be what most people need to wake up feeling refreshed. However, what if there were more direct benefits to sleep than just feeling well rested? Did you know that there is apowerful relationship between sleep and happiness?
With proper sleep habits, you should fairly quickly find yourself feeling happier, more upbeat, and certainly more productive each day.
Connections Between Sleep and Happiness
Let’s take a look at some of the ways poor sleep impacts your mood and happiness.
#1 Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Throw Off Your Plans
Getting to bed too late one night has the potential to completely throw off the rest of your week. If you get to bed too late, and you are exhausted the next day then chances are you will write off some of that day’s plans and choose to tackle them some other time in the future. Adding more to your plate could easily mean you throw your entire sleep routine out the window while you are playing catch up — a vicious cycle. This can lead to increased stress, irritability,anxiety, and of course, exhaustion.
To prevent this, strive to get into bed at the same time each night and be strict with it. Don’t let other plans get in the way of you getting a good night’s sleep. Sacrificing sleep is not worth your health and happiness.
#2 A Lack of Sleep Can Lead to Mood Swings
We all know just how terrible it feels to go through a day feeling sleep deprived. Not sleeping can certainly cause irritability, mood swings, and can make for a downright unproductive day.
On the flip side, getting enough rest allows your body to function at its best and allows your brain to work the way it needs to in order to help you power through your day.
#3 Poor Sleep Habits Can Throw Off Your Healthy Eating Plan
Did you know that not getting enough sleep can directly impact your food choices? If you ever find that youcrave the foods you know you shouldn’t be eating when you feel the most fatigued, there’s a good reason for it. Studies clearly show the link between sleep loss and obesity, and that a lack of sleep can lead to an increased desire to select foods that contribute to health issues.
The healthier you are, the happier you are, so you want to do whatever you can to make sure that the food choices you make are healthy ones. Make it a priority to get at least eight hours of sleep per night to set yourself up for success when it comes to nutrition.
#4 Sleep Deprivation Can Lead to Cognitive Impairment
Being chronically sleep-deprived can significantly impair memory and decision making. It may also cause you to rely on stimulants such ascaffeine which can also impact your overall mood. Sleep Researcher David Dinges, PhD, ran experiments and found that participants who got less than eight hours of sleep per night had both cognitive and physiologic deficits. The longer you go without sleep, the worse your memory and cognitive function can get, so it is so important to address any sleep issues you may be dealing with right away.
Boosting Your Sleep for Happiness
Now that you know the disastrous effects lack of sleep can have on the body, you understand why getting enough sleep every night can significantly improve your overall levels of happiness. So many of us are living a less than optimal life due to a lack of sleep — it’s just not worth it.
Make it your challenge to get into bed earlier, and totake the steps that you need to get better night sleep each night. Here are some of the top tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.
- Set up your room for sleep success by making your bed each morning, putting up some blackout curtains, and keeping it nice and organized.
- Try shutting off electronics two hours before bedtime.
- Don’t go to bed hungry.
- Cut out caffeine later on in the day.
- Avoid intense exercise in the afternoon or evening hours.
- Try a gentleyoga or meditation routine to wind down your day.
- Diffuse lavender essential oil to help promote relaxation.
- Sip on herbal tea instead of having a sugary dessert after dinner.
- Read a book if this helps you relax.
Making little changes can lead to huge results when it comes to how well you sleep. Plus, once you develop a successful routine and start sleeping better, you may just find that you start living better too!
From Better Immunity to Better Mood: Vitamin D
Vitamin D has long been known as the “sunshine vitamin,” but did you know that it is actually considered a hormone, not a vitamin? Vitamin D isso powerful that it affects almost every cell in the body. However, it is something that most Americans aren’t getting enough of.
In this post, we are going to focus on vitamin D’s amazing ability to help support a strong immune system, a positive mood, and also understand how much you need to ensure you are getting enough.
Vitamin D Improves Mood
One of vitamin D’s top benefits has to do with mood. Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D may be a very cost-effective way to help those suffering fromdepression on top of supporting long-term health. Studies have found that the lower the vitamin D level, the greater the chance of depression.
The good news is that The National Institute of Health found that getting out in the sun helped improve mood. There’s definitely a connection between optimizing your vitamin D levels and mental health.
Since vitamin D also plays an important role when it comes to fatigue, it makes sense that getting enough can help you feel more positive and in an overall better mood. When you are dragged down bychronic fatigue, it’s hard to be in a good mood. Think of how children act when they skip naps. Pretty irritable and cranky, just like adults get when we are tired. Something as simple as getting enough vitamin D may be able to help ward off that fatigue and help you feel happier.
How Can You Get More Vitamin D?
So, we know just how important vitamin D is for the immune system, mood, and overall health, but how do we get enough?
First, it’s important to know what to look for when it comes to a vitamin D deficiency. If you have never had your levels checked, it can be extremely helpful in determining where your levels stand. Here is what you need to know when it comes to checking your Vitamin D levels.
- 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/mL is considered normal in those who are healthy.
- Less than 12 ng/mL would be considered a vitamin D deficiency.
To make sure you are getting enough vitamin D, go outside for some good ole’ sunshine as often as you can. One of the big reasons people deal with a vitamin D deficiency in the colder months is that they just don’t get outside as often as they do in the warmer temperatures. If you work in an office and do not make frequent trips outside, maybe try eating your lunch under partial sun to help increase your exposure a bit. Of course, you don’t want to expose yourself to the sun for too long, as you want toprotect your skin as well. However, getting out for abrisk walk or sitting out and enjoying lunch can be an excellent way to boost your vitamin D levels naturally. Ten to fifteen minutes a few times a day should do the trick.
With a stronger immune system and a more positive mood, you may be surprised at just how much vitamin D can do for you. If you have never had your vitamin D levels checked, talk to your doctor about it at your next appointment.
If you know that you don’t get outside nearly enough, or don’t eat vitamin-D rich foods, it may be time to look into taking a high-quality supplement. Shoot for a plant-basedVitamin D3 supplement with 5000 i.u per serving (and makeabsolutely sure that it includes Vitamin K2!).
The Bottom Line
We want to be clear here. Antidepressants can be helpful and even necessary for some people. We are not here to shame you for doing what you need to do to support your mental and emotional health. We also realize that sleep disorders are real and depression can contribute to poor sleep, so even taking the steps we listed above may not be enough for some. We do recommend taking a gentle, natural sleep supplement such as Smarter Sleep if you need a little help, and most importantly if you are struggling with depression, seek help from professional healthcare providers, support groups, and follow your doctor’s recommendations.
With all that in mind, nature does provide us with a few natural antidepressants and those include quality sleep and vitamin D. Do your best to get adequate sleep each night, get enough vitamin D each day, and see what a difference it can make.