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In our blog, we delve into the intricacies of mental health, offering practical advice, thought-provoking insights, and compassionate narratives.
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The Social Correlates of Sleep: Enhancing Accessibility for Better Mental Health

Updated: Mar 16


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World Sleep Day, celebrated annually on the 15th of March, reminds us of the profound impact sleep has on our mental health and overall well-being. This year's theme, "Better Sleep, Better Life, Better Planet," emphasizes the interconnectedness of sleep, mental health, and the environment. While we often focus on personal habits and bedroom environments, it's crucial to consider the social factors that influence our sleep quality. In this article, we'll explore the social correlates of sleep, discuss strategies for making sleep more accessible, and highlight the importance of addressing these factors for better mental health.


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The Social Correlates of Sleep

Sleep is not solely a biological process (read more about How Sleep Works and the Stages of Sleep) but is deeply intertwined with social, economic, and environmental factors. Work schedules, economic status, and social support all play a role in determining our sleep patterns. For example, individuals working irregular or night shifts may experience disrupted sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation and associated mental health issues  [1]. Economic stressors, such as housing instability or financial insecurity, can also contribute to sleep difficulties [2].


Social inequalities can result in disparities in sleep quality and duration. Marginalised communities may face additional challenges in accessing resources that promote good sleep, such as safe and quiet living environments or affordable healthcare [3]. Addressing these social determinants of sleep is crucial for promoting mental health equity.


Making Sleep More Accessible

Improving sleep accessibility requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both individual and systemic factors. Flexible work schedules can allow individuals to prioritise sleep and maintain a consistent sleep-wake cycle. Affordable housing and access to mental health services can reduce stressors that contribute to poor sleep quality.

Community-based interventions, such as sleep education programs and support groups, can also enhance sleep accessibility. These initiatives provide individuals with the knowledge and resources needed to improve their sleep hygiene and manage sleep disorders. By addressing social determinants of sleep, we can create environments that promote better sleep and overall mental health.


  1. Every Mind Matters - NHS campaign (UK)

  2. Project Sleep - campaigns and helpful resources

Tips for Enhancing Sleep Accessibility

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There are steps individuals can take to improve their sleep quality (for more info, visit The Sleep Charity UK; Advice for Teens and Parents; How To Sleep Better) . Creating a sleep-friendly environment, such as a dark, quiet, and comfortable bedroom, can promote better sleep. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can also improve sleep quality. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends, can help regulate your body's internal clock and improve overall sleep quality. Avoiding stimulants like caffeine and electronic devices before bedtime can also promote better sleep. The interaction of sleep and hormones is another significant aspect to consider, for example in regards to hormonal changes for those who menstruate.


However, it's crucial to shift the focus from individual blame to addressing the root causes of sleep disparities, which are often deeply intertwined with societal aspects and require systematic change to create environments that support better sleep for all.


As the bare minimum, organisations need to actively promote sleep health by providing high-quality resources, offering psychoeducation on sleep hygiene and mental health, and facilitating access to support for individuals experiencing sleep difficulties. These efforts can help create a more supportive environment that prioritises the well-being of employees and fosters a culture of understanding and compassion.


How Improving Sleep Accessibility Can Improve Mental Health

Addressing social correlates of sleep can have a profound impact on mental health outcomes. By improving access to resources that promote good sleep, we can reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, better sleep can improve cognitive function and emotional regulation, leading to overall better mental well-being.



Conclusion

As we celebrate World Sleep Day, let us not forget the social factors that influence our sleep. By addressing social determinants of sleep, we can create a more equitable society where everyone has access to the resources needed for better sleep and mental health. Together, we can make sleep more accessible and improve mental health outcomes for all.


Join us in advocating for policies that promote sleep accessibility and mental health equity. Share your own experiences with sleep and social factors on social media using #BetterSleepBetterHealth. Together, we can create a world where everyone has the opportunity to get the sleep they deserve. Together, we can make sleep more accessible and improve mental health outcomes for all.



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