How Does Sleep Affect Your Mental Health?

Have you ever woken up and felt like you just needed to hop right back in bed? Or have you experienced those days where everything is in a fog and you can’t seem to focus or get any type of productive work done? If so, you might need to look into your sleep cycle. For the last decade case studies have shown that sleep and mental health go hand-in-hand. Most doctors recommend 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. However, the reality is that most people stay up late - watching TV, working, or just having downtime - without realizing that these awake hours are eating into their sleep cycle and subsequently, the state of their mental health.


Why is sleep so important?

In fact, the results of one 2007 case study published in Nature Neuroscience Journal, showed evidence that strongly indicated a night of restful sleep is needed to ‘reset’ brain reactivity in order to prepare for the emotional challenges of the next day (Yoo, 2007). In essence, sleep is your body’s battery charger - without the proper amount, you will constantly feel like you are running on low battery throughout the day. Continuous sleep deprivation can lead to serious mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. In short, sleep is needed for your performance to be at its peak. When you miss out on sleep, not only are you physically tired, but your mental health is also negatively impacted.


What typically causes a lack of sleep?


Between the stressful environment at work and overstimulation before bed, several common triggers are making it difficult for you to catch up on sleep. Stress is the most common factor at work with sleep deprivation. Concerns about work, family, and finances can make it nearly impossible for your mind to rest and experience refreshment. This is because “sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information.” During deep sleep, your brain can process and store thoughts and memories that have been experienced throughout the day. Multiple case studies have found that “…a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content,” which can in turn directly impact mood, behaviors, and emotional activity negatively. In short, your sleep cycle directly correlates with your mental health (Sun, 2022).





Psychological & Physical Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation:

  • Irritability

  • Poor Cognitive Function (avoidable mistakes being made throughout the day, forgetfulness)

  • Anxiety

  • Tiredness

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Depression



Steps to improve your sleep and mental health:

  • Create and maintain regular sleep cycles - this starts with setting a routine for lights out and logging a consistent amount of sleep hours.

  • Ensure that the room sets the tone - if possible, minimize noise and light in the bedroom and allow the space to be a place to breathe and relax.

  • Use 30-minutes before bed as quiet time - read a book, meditate, or perform a self-care routine that puts your mind away from the stress of the day and into a night routine.

  • Turn off electronic devices an hour before bed - this includes computers, phones, televisions, and anything that casts blue light and overstimulates your brain.

Sources:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2016, October 15). Insomnia. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167

Suni, E. (2022, April 15). Mental health and sleep. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health

Yoo, Gujjar, et al (2007). A deficit in the ability to form new human memories without sleep. Nature Neuroscience, 10(3), 385-392


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