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The Crucial Connection Between Sleep and Mental Health

Introduction:

Besides helping us feel less sleepy in the mornings, there are a range of benefits associated with a good night’s rest. Sleep helps us feel more alert and assists us in concentrating on daily tasks. However, sleep is also important in the aid of Mental Health symptoms. Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety can both be reduced with the assistance of sleep. This blog will talk about what an adequate rest means for our minds and why it is important.


What is sleep?:

Though we may think of sleep as being passive and nothing happens, our brains are still active and busy at work. Serotonin and norepinephrine are produced by neurones in the brainstem. When we are awake, these hormones keep our brains working. You alternate between non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep throughout the course of the night. During each of these phases, your body and brain behave differently.


Non-REM sleep occurs in three stages. The first stage lasts up to 10 minutes where our body is preparing for the next stage. Stage 2 involves a period of light sleep where our eye movements stop and our muscles being to relax. While the final stage reduces the speed of brain waves, and we fall into deep sleep. Non-REM sleep is important as it assists in building bones and muscles, regenerates and repairs tissues and strengthens the immune system.


What about Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep? When this occurs, our sleep is not deep as our brain activity has increased, also causing our heart rate and blood pressure to rise. REM sleep normally occurs for a duration of 10 minutes and occurs one and a half hours after falling asleep. This may change with age, as when we age, the occurrence of REM sleep decreases.


Sleep and Mental Health:

What is the relationship between sleep and our mental health? During sleep and its different stages, our brains experience their largest fluctuations of activity. Disruptions to these activities can also affect how we feel the next day i.e. fresh as a daisy or groggy and fatigued.


The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown a connection between lack of sleep and type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. However, the effects go far beyond bodily issues. Bipolar Disorder, depression, and anxiety are just a few of the conditions or mental health problems that repetitive sleep disturbances can cause or make worse.


Anxiety and sleep are inversely correlated. In other words, anxiety sufferers frequently have more sleep disturbances, and more sleep disturbances might make anxiety worse during the day. This may result in a never-ending loop that, over time, may negatively affect mental health.


Both those who have insomnia and those who suffer from depression are more prone to struggle with sleep issues. The link between sleep and depression runs in both directions, much as the one with anxiety.


Another element of sleep that has been connected to mental health is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). OSA is a condition that causes fragmented and disturbed sleep by causing breathing pauses while you sleep and a drop in your body's oxygen levels. People with psychiatric problems are more likely to get OSA, which can harm their physical health and increase their chance of experiencing severe mental distress.


Finally, people diagnosed with Schizophrenia may also experience an increase in symptoms with lack of sleep. People with this mental illness are more likely to experience sleep disturbances with 30 to 80% reporting sleep deprivation in a survey conducted in 2017. For people with Schizophrenia, this may result in increased hallucinations and delusions, making their regular day to day function and concentration more difficult.


How to Get Good Sleep?

There may not be a thing as the perfect night’s sleep, however there are various techniques that can be used to achieve a better slumber.


Exercise:

Regular exercise can increase the natural sleep hormones such as melatonin. Endorphins are released by the body after aerobic exercise. Some people's brains may become so active because of these hormones that they remain awake. These people ought to work out at least one to two hours before night so that endorphin levels can dissipate, and the brain can relax. In addition, exercise also increases our body temperature. Our body clock is notified that it is time to awaken by an increase in core body temperature. The body's core temperature starts to drop after roughly 30 to 90 minutes. Insomnia is made easier by the deterioration.


Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake before sleep:

Wine or chocolate shouldn’t be consumed before sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant found in chocolate. Alcohol also has the same result. Although it temporarily induces sleep, it acts as a stimulant and prevents sound sleep at night. Avoid anything spicy or acidic, which might cause heartburn, such as citrus fruits and liquids.


Reduce Stress:

Evenings often bring daytime concerns to the surface. An inducer is stress. It triggers the fight-or-flight hormones, which are antagonistic to sleep. Allow yourself time to unwind before going to sleep. Learning how to relax can help you get a good night's sleep and can even help you feel less anxious during the day. Practice deep breathing techniques to unwind. Exhale after taking a long, slow breath in.


Conclusion:

In summary, there are a range of benefits that a good night’s slumber may bring. These benefits may include feeling more refreshed in general the next morning, to a reduction of negative mental health symptoms. Symptoms of depression and anxiety are aided by sleep

as they allow the brain to experience less activity and process less data. Regular exercise, reduction of alcohol and caffeine, and reducing stress can all be factored into improving sleep quality. Everyone is different in their sleeping rituals and how they fall asleep. If falling asleep is genuinely an issue where day to day life is affected, it is recommended to see a doctor or specialist to assist before health concerns become detrimental.

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