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Sleep Helps People Feel Happier and Less Anxious

Samantha Anders, PhD, LP

Lots of people want to know how to feel happier and less anxious, especially in the midst of our stressful world. One of the most direct and important ways to influence our mood is by improving our sleep quality, and potentially, quantity, depending on how much you already sleep. For instance, most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but often get less than that. Most people can recall a time when they didn’t get enough sleep for one reason or another, and the next day they felt more sensitive or sad or anxious. If this pattern continues over months and weeks, it can contribute to developing an anxiety disorder or depression.

During sleep, our brains get a chance to rest and to process the events and emotions of the day. Some people think one of the most important functions of sleep and dreaming is to allow our brains to remove the intense emotions from certain events that have occurred. In order to do this, we need to get high-quality sleep for the amount of time  our bodies need (again, this varies from person to person). “High-quality” means we fall asleep relatively quickly and stay asleep for the most part until our bodies have had the rest  they need.

If you get the chance to sleep the amount you need for several nights in a row, check in with yourself about how you are feeling, emotionally. You will likely feel more resilient, more capable, and more stable. When you feel this way, you are more likely to do things (exercise, eat right, spend time with supportive friends and family) that contribute to future feelings of happiness and contentment and less anxiety. This, in turn, contributes to getting better sleep. Whenever I work with someone who wants to feel less anxious and happier, I always check in on their sleep and see what we can do in order to improve their sleep. Some people have insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep or waking too early or having non-restorative sleep) and can benefit from professional help in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI), a brief, evidence-based intervention for insomnia.

For a general overview of the relationship between sleep and mental health,

 

For more information on depression and sleep,

For more information on finding a provider who provides CBTI,

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I received my BA in psychology from Carleton College. I completed a PhD in counseling psychology at the University of Minnesota, in its top-ranked, American Psychological Association (APA) Accredited doctoral program. During my capstone clinical training year, I completed an internship at the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Albuquerque, NM. I then completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Brain Sciences Center at the Minneapolis Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center.

 

I strive to have a high level of competence in my work as a practitioner. To that end, I have received specialized training in many therapeutic practices: career counseling and assessment; cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia; dialectical behavior therapy; prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapies for PTSD; tobacco cessation; and cognitive behavior therapy. I have an on-going interest in mindfulness and mind-body interventions and frequently use these techniques in my practice. I have received advanced training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia at the University of Pennsylvania. I was a counselor and the coordinator at the Career Counseling and Assessment Clinic at the University of Minnesota during graduate school, and I currently co-direct the clinic. I enjoy helping people find careers that they are passionate about. I worked for 5 years as a Senior Clinical Psychologist treating insomnia and other sleep disorders with behavioral interventions at Hennepin Healthcare’s Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorder Center.

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