Sleep is just as vital to the normal functioning of our body as eating and breathing. Without proper sleep, our ability to carry out the usual chores of a day is greatly affected. Apart from making you feel sluggish, sleeplessness can also impact your mental wellness.
Several studies have concluded the interconnection between sleep and mental health. Sleep deprivation can affect your memory and the capability to process information. Besides, mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression, have been linked to insomnia and poor sleep. As a matter of fact, sleep disturbance is often the first symptom of psychiatric disorders.
Here is a rundown of how sleep can lead to a better and happy state of being.
1. Recharges your brain
Your brain is always working and processing tonnes of information that you expose it to. With the increased usage of mobile phones and the internet, the brain does not get any downtime during the day. Moreover, as you try to juggle your different hats during the course of a day, you also expose yourself to more stress and mental pressures.
Sleep is the only time when the brain gets a real break. With a rested mind, you wake with a smile and the energy to seize the new day. This is why you feel low, irritable, or groggy when you don’t get enough sleep.
2. Aids better memory and concentration
As you sleep, the brain gets the opportunity to process and organise everything that has happened in the day. It is the time when the brain reinforces any new learning and aids better memory.
If you do not get enough sleep, and if it becomes a chronic problem, your brain’s capacity to assimilate new information also gets reduced. With continued periods of sleeplessness, you will start feeling foggy and experience an inability to focus on things. You may also become forgetful, and the instances, where you can’t remember if you turned off the lights before stepping out, will increase.
With proper sleep, you will be more alert. Armed with renewed enthusiasm, you can go about fulfilling your goals. Do you remember how your parents always asked you to sleep well before an exam or an interview? Well, now you know the reason.
3. Reduced risk of a mental disorder
Insomnia and other sleep-related problems can increase your chances of depression and anxiety-related disorders. Of course, these disorders are often a result of chemical imbalances or traumatic life experiences.
However, sleeplessness can inflate these problems. Michigan Health Maintenance Organisation found that people with insomnia were four times more likely to experience severe depression in the future.
Moreover, people who continue to experience sleep problems during the course of medication do not respond well to the prescriptions.
4. Peace of mind
Are you going through a tough time in your life and are continually stressed? If yes, a good night’s sleep can take your mind off the current stress and allow you to concentrate on the solution instead of worrying about the problem.
With a peaceful mind, you can also enjoy your present moment and reduce your anxiety about the future.
5. Lesser stress
Without proper and enough sleep, your body produces more amounts of cortisol and adrenaline. These are the main stress-causing hormones that can make your mind unnecessarily active even when you want to rest. With hundreds of thoughts racing through your mind, you may experience a reduced ability to live a quality life.
How are mental disorders like depression and anxiety connected to sleep?
To understand the correlation between depression and sleep, you need to know two essential hormones in our body — serotonin and dopamine.
Dopamine is a hormone that affects your motivation and happiness. People with depression often have trouble experiencing these emotions.
Sleep deprivation leads to a reduction in the brain’s ability to perform cognitive tasks. Moreover, it also causes dopamine to increase in the brain to stimulate a feeling of wakefulness. However, it is not sufficient to manage the usual cognitive tasks of a day and may even add to it. It is the reason why you feel tired and confused even if you miss 1.5 hours of sleep.
With chronic sleeplessness, an imbalance of dopamine may occur that may prevent you from feeling happy and motivated in your daily life. These are the common symptoms of people suffering from depression and anxiety.
Serotonin, on the other hand, has a more complex relationship with sleep. Its concentration on one part of the brain may cause you to have a good sleep while if it builds in another part, it makes you alert. Serotonin also affects the mood and is closely related to mood swings and emotions.
Serotonin is used by the body to synthesise melatonin which governs the wake-sleep cycle. Melatonin is produced at night and any imbalances can further cause sleep problems. Since serotonin affects the mood, people with depression and anxiety also experience sleep disorders.
How to get sleep back on track?
1. Better sleep environment
Your mattress has a deep impact on your sleep environment. Investing in a good mattress that takes the shape of your body and has high resilience can make a lot of difference in your sleep quality. There will be less tossing and turning in the night, and you will wake up feeling refreshed.
2. Exercise and an active body
Exercise produces endorphins that release a positive feeling in your brain and reduce your perception of pain.
Apart from this, exercise is also closely related to dopamine and other neurotransmitters. The brain works on regulating their amounts during your sleep. Thus, there is a close interconnection between the brain and sleep, which you can regulate with exercise.
Meditation is the antidote to stress. It works on your thoughts and trains your mind to enjoy some peace and calm. It is also effective in controlling the effects of mental disorders and in turn, allows you to sleep better.
4. Lifestyle changes
Your body is a temple and, your mind is the supreme power that resides within. What you eat and drink will determine the strength of the foundation of your temple.
Taking too much caffeine can interrupt your sleep, and so can a heavy meal or sugary foods before bedtime. An excessive amount of alcohol is also related to poor quality of sleep.
Your mental well being is as crucial to living a meaningful life as is physical fitness. Armed with the information shared in this article, you can sleep well and keep a check on your mental health.