The Impact of Quality Sleep on Mental Health
Have you ever woken up irritated and moody after a night of lacklustre sleep? Has this negative feeling persisted over the day, killing your productivity and straining your relationships?
If you've suffered from poor sleep for a night or two or more consecutive nights, you're probably well aware of how inadequate sleep can affect you. That said, these moody mornings aren't the polar end of the stick regarding the adverse effects of sleep deprivation. Far from it.
Poor sleeping habits have been linked to a variety of mental health conditions. These disorders include depression and anxiety, as well as more extreme issues like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Furthermore, the lack of quality sleep has been correlated to poorer performance in stressful situations, decreased creativity, and impaired decision-making.
Consistent sleepless nights can make these issues even more pronounced. In the worst cases, you can even develop chronic health conditions like kidney disease and stroke.
If you want to regain control over your health, start by sleeping better. Let's look into the intimate connection between sleep and poor mental health, as well as ways you can sleep better at night.
The Harmful Effects of Sleep on Mental Health
Just like how we need to charge our smartphones when it's low on battery, sleep's primary function is to recharge our bodies and keep us active for the upcoming day.
Besides its restorative properties, quality sleep also reduces stress levels, helps form long-term memories, and clears out toxins from the brain.
Without proper rest, our bodies and minds don't get the chance to undergo these vital functions. Besides manifesting as early morning grumpiness, this can also cause a variety of mental health issues.
And unfortunately, many sleep conditions can get in the way of quality rest, with insomnia and sleep apnea being two of the most common conditions.
Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Sleep apnea is when the airway gets too narrow during sleep, causing shallow breathing and loud snoring.
If left undiagnosed or untreated, these conditions can negatively impact a person's mental state and productivity.
With that said, a lot of these disorders can arise due to various environmental stressors, so it's important to speak with a medical professional before attributing all of it to sleepless nights.
Regardless, sleeping better is a positive first step to ensure that you don't suffer from any mental health issues related to inadequate rest.
3 Ways Good Quality Sleep Can Improve Mental Health
Sleeping less than 7 hours a night? If so, work on upping those hours. Getting at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night can give your mental health a boost in more ways than one.
Here are three ways good quality sleep improves your mental health:
1. Enhances Your Memory
When you lack sleep, there won't be enough time for your brain to enter the NREM (deep non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep) stage of sleep. This stage is crucial since it transports memories in your hippocampus to more permanent areas of the brain.
In fact, memories improve by as much as 40% if the person has had a good night's sleep the night before the test time.
Besides aiding in long-term memory formation, sleep also helps you memorise items in the short term, which can help improve your results in school and work. And when you're performing well in these areas, it'll naturally follow that your mental health will be in good shape too.
2. Lowers Stress Levels
Have you ever set an alarm for the next day—only to find that you have 3 or 4 hours to go before you're supposed to wake-up?
While the above situation is annoying, what's even worse is hearing the dreaded ringing the day of. The last thing you'd want to do is wake up. This negative feeling is attributed to the ramped-up production of the stress hormone known as cortisol.
When the body produces too much cortisol, it'll signal the body to be in "fight-or-flight" mode. This will prevent your body from entering a relaxed state, even hours after you wake up.
This phenomenon can be reversed when you sleep at least 7 to 8 hours a night, as sleeping lowers the production of these stress hormones. This also helps lower episodes of anxiety.
3. Reduces Depression
While the causes of depression can be extensive, having poor sleep can contribute to a person's depression too.
Besides the elevation of cortisol, you may also not be able to produce the right amount of hormones necessary to regulate your mood, such as serotonin. This can play a direct role in your mood.
When you sleep more, your body will have more time to produce these hormones, which will help balance your mood and make you more "on" throughout the day.
How To Achieve Quality Sleep: 5 Ways
Getting the right amount of sleep is a struggle for people with sleep conditions like sleep apnea and those with bad life circumstances in general.
As difficult as it is, you should focus on protecting your relationship with sleep. This is to ensure that you remain healthy both mentally and physically.
Here are five ways to help you achieve quality sleep:
- Use blackout curtains, eye masks, and earplugs to remove distractions.
- If you're suffering from sleep apnea, get a suitable CPAP mask here.
- Refrain from using smartphones and laptops at least an hour before bedtime.
- Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks beyond 3 PM.
- Use TouchPoints for Sleep to calm racing thoughts before bedtime.
If you still have a hard time getting quality sleep, your best bet is to contact a doctor for medical assistance. They'll be able to provide better guidance once they assess your symptoms and personal situation.