You may think that you need Sleep just to have the required energy you need to get you through the day, yet modern research has unearthed the vital connection between a peaceful slumber and your brain health to show how sleep affects mental health of a person. This means that if you do not get adequate sleep, it has a negative impact on your brain and vice versa. Studies further indicate that sleep is the fundamental link between your physical and mental health.
Effect of Sleep on Your Mental Health
When awake, your brain is busy handling the many functions of the human body, sleep rejuvenates the brain by clearing toxic waste proteins that accumulate between the brain cells that build up throughout the day. Studies on the relationship between the human brain and sleep show that lack of adequate slumber over time leads to a decline in the size of the brain. It is documented that poor quality of sleep can increase the rate of decline in brain volume over the span of 3-5 years. Any injuries to the brain are irreversible, so even sleep recovery of three days does not normalize the cognitive function of the brain. As one grows older, sleep deficiency can accelerate the age of the brain; reduce cognitive performance and increased brain-ventricle enlargement. These are prominent brain aging markers that one associates with the onset of the Alzheimer’s disease.
There is an intricate connection between sleep and your holistic mental health. So, how does sleep affects mental health? The people getting adequate sleep are found to have lower chances of developing mental illness. The ultradian rhythms of the body govern the appetite, hormone regulation, and temperature. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter secreted by the brain, regulates the rhythms so if there are disturbances in sleep patterns, this will interfere with the dopamine levels. Studies link such imbalances to schizophrenic and bipolar disorders.
Some conditions that show how sleep affects mental health
Sleep and Depression
Studies show that 90% of children and adults suffering from depression tend to suffer from sleep issues of some kind, with sleep apnea and insomnia being the most common influencer. Those suffering from insomnia have 4 times more likelihood of developing depression than those whose sleep is not disturbed?
Sleep and ADHD
Many people with ADHD also have complaints of sleep disturbances with sufferers experiencing difficult sleep that they describe as being in a state of wakefulness that leads to feeling tired and lethargic the next morning. Such people report symptoms such as lack of focus, distractibility and mood swings that can be related to their difficulties in falling and staying asleep, that prevent them from a restful deep sleep. This lack of deep sleep that regenerates and rejuvenates the brain, can eventually lead to sleep deprivation that can contribute to more serious physical and mental symptoms.
Sleep and Anxiety
Most people with an anxiety disorder tend to also have sleep issues, where a recurring pattern of feeling anxious makes falling or staying asleep difficult. Loss of quality rest time amplifies the anxiety symptoms, yet studies show that indicators of anxiety surface prior to sleep problems, unlike depression.
The Relationship between Mental and Physical Health
When you are not getting enough sleep it not only affects your mental well-being, it also has an influence on your physical well-being. Lack of sleep can make you feel lethargic where energy levels can consistently drop throughout the day and can even affect your appetite. Due to sleep deprivation, the body releases Ghrelin, a hunger hormone at higher amounts with lesser amounts of Leptin, a satiety hormone, thus your body starts to crave unhealthy foods. With the prolonged deprivation in restful slumber, your chances of weight gain and developing diabetes increases.
During sleep, the immune system makes antibodies and recharges your immune system, therefore obtaining less than 7 hours of sleep increases your chance by 2.94 times of developing a cold. When you are sick, the repressed immune system takes more time to fight the infection, so the recovery is slow. Sleep deprivation also has an influence on signs of aging, where people can experience things like puffy eyes and sallow skin after missing sleep for just a few nights. Chronic loss of sleep can also lead to the development of fine lines, dark circles, and lackluster skin. Having an undisturbed and peaceful night sleep will go a long way in helping rejuvenate your skin and retain that youthful glow.
Some Natural Ways to Improve your Mental Health
When your aim is ‘mens sana in corpore sano’, meaning ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’, it is necessary to prioritize the management of your mental health that includes a healthy practice of promoting a regular sleep pattern. To help ensure a good night’s rest, keep regular wake-up and bedtime hours, allow adequate time in bed, develop relaxed evening routines, refrain from alcohol and avoid caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, instead of lying there feeling restless, suggestions to overcome this agitation may include meditation, relaxing music, yoga stretches or read a book to help relax your body and mind.
When feeling worried and frustrated, instead of attempting to sleep in vain, writing down your thoughts, feelings, worries and/or everything that is on your to-do list is a great way to release and let it go of the clutter in your mind. This is a great way to surrender all the brain chatter so that you don’t have to hang on and ponder such things when you are attempting to fall asleep. Feelings of anxiety and stress will hamper your sleep and can have a profound, long term effect on your health.
There are other factors to consider that can also hinder a restful sleep
This can be anything like tags, valleys or lumps on the mattress or even poor pillow support. When the issue stems from chronic pain, it’s a great idea to find a mattress that supports your body and fits your sleep position. Other environmental factors that can affect sleep are room temperature (too hot or too cold), noise, and lights.
Suggestions for a restful sleep
Simple precautions such as blackout curtains and plush accessories to absorb sound can help to ensure an environment to support sleep. Other ideas such as a nightlight with motion activation features will help to keep the light at a minimum during the night. Keeping your bedroom at a low temperature between 60-68 degrees Celsius helps to facilitate a drop in your body temperature, this can assist in promoting a more relaxed sleep.
Some Natural Food Sources to Improve Brain Health
Having a healthy brain keeps the body healthy and a healthy body keeps the brain healthy. Eating consciously and choosing nutritional foods is one factor that will not only help you to feel happy and energized, but these healthy food choices can also promote a sense of well-being to assist with your ability to handle stress, anxiety, and depression more efficiently.
Here are some brain foods commonly available in the kitchen:
- Blueberries: can improve your focus and may delay the loss of memory
- Tomatoes: can help to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, you can enjoy these in all their available forms
- Coffee: caffeine has been proven to have brain-boosting power, it also contains antioxidants
- Pumpkin seeds: contains the mineral zinc, has been known to play a vital role in memory and cognition
- Fatty fish: sardines, herrings, salmon, and trout contain EPA, DHA, and omega-3s that facilitate brain health
With so much importance on the value of proper sleep, it’s highly suggested that you include sleep as a part of your daily regime because there can be more severe consequences of how sleep affects mental health of a person. Make this an important priority in your daily routine so that your body and mind can get the required rest it needs to live a fulfilling life full of energy and vitality.