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Have you ever been so sleep deprived that you’ve been yawning, short-tempered and tired all day long? Ever heard of waking up on the wrong side of the bed? Well, as most of us know, functioning on a few hours’ sleep can result in lower productivity, decreased focus, and irritable feelings. And the reason behind this is the effect that getting only a few hours’ sleep has on your mental health. We spend one-third of our life sleeping! And that reflects the necessity of quality sleep for a quality life. So, in this article let's see how improving your sleep can improve your mental health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to the community”. From the WHO definition we understand that mental health is crucial for well-being. Also, new researches are suggesting that it’s bidirectional. Although the mutual connection between mental health and sleep is not defined yet, we all know from experience that good sleep can benefit psychological and mental health/ resilience. In other words, constant sleep deprivation can cause negative thinking, anxiety and depression to name a few.
Things You Should Know
During the day, our brains are flooded with information, we take in a lot. And our brains need to process all this. Sleeping gives the brain time to process and store information, so that we are able to retrieve them when we need it. So, how are they really connected? But the underlying biochemical pathways are not fully understood.
Two major categories of a sleep cycle are identified and when you’re in your ‘quiet sleep’, your body temperature drops, your muscles relax and your heart rate slows down. The deepest stage of this category helps to boost the functioning of your immune system. The second sleep category is ‘REM sleep’ – Rapid Eye Movement. This is when you dream! In REM, your body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate are the same as when you’re awake. Your brain sorts and removes the unwanted emotions and prepares you for any upcoming situations that might disturb you. Studies convey that REM enhances your learning, memory and emotional health.
Many brain chemicals which are responsible for good sleep are also responsible in managing our mental health. When one gets disturbed, so does the other! When you have a restless night, the next day is a little moody, right? It happens because of the amount of sleep we had, which actually rewires your brain. It shifts your emotional center away from the rational part of your brain. It results in seeing things from a negative point of view. If this prolongs, it can cause severe damage to your mental health.
So, if you are having sleepless nights lately, here are some tips that might help you. First things first, you have to change your lifestyle and sleep habits.
Sleep duration: It’s recommended to have 7 hours of sleep but with the hectic lives we lead, try at least 6. More than 10 is also not advised.
Physical activities: Regular physical activities help people fall asleep faster and wake less often during the night.
Relaxation: To fight anxiety, you can meditate, do deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation.
Battling insomnia: Sleep in (is) a natural biological process so it’s not wise to control it the way you want. Get rid of sleeping tablets and let go of battling.
Be regular: Have a regular bedtime and waking time.
Prepare the setting: Start dimming lights in your bedroom 30-40 minutes before you go to bed. Switch off your devices.
Avoidance: Avoid consuming stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to your bedtime.
Remove electronics: Remove mobile phones, computers and televisions from your bedroom since exposure to that blue light interrupts melatonin levels and they can cause major sleep disruptions.
Stay in bed: If you wake at night, stay in bed, welcome thoughts and emotions, it’s better to analyze your feelings than to run from them.
Mattresses: Buying a mattress that matches your preference also can improve your sleep and therefore your mental health.
Having a good sleep helps you concentrate, be creative, builds your mental resilience and assist you in learning. If you are having problems with dealing with sleep or experiencing mental health issues, you can consult a sleep psychologist who can direct you to the right path effectively.