Sleep and its impact on pour health is an understudied area of biology. However, over the last 10-years, research into the subject by medical professionals yields surprising results. Studies suggest that there is indeed a connection between our state of mental health and the quality, as well as the duration, of our sleep.
Recommended Sleep Guidelines
Research shows that the brain requires 8-hours of sleep every night. Under-sleeping results in a host of adverse neurological conditions that affect our health. However, over-sleeping is as detrimental to our mental state as well.
The consensus in the medical community is that we can catch up on sleep, but we cannot store it. Therefore, if you miss out on a few hours tonight, you can catch it up the following day. However, people that don’t have a regular sleeping cycle and practice this behavior often will also pay the price with their mental health.
What Happens to the Brain While We Sleep?
While we sleep, your brain clears neural pathways of toxins accumulated during the day. These toxins include pollutants from our environment, as well as stressors that increase conditions such as anxiety.
If we fail to achieve the recommended amount of sleep, then our brain does not recover to its baseline functional level.
The Impact of Sleep on Mental Health
Research suggests that people who receive the recommended guidelines for sleep, 8-hours, live happier, healthier lives. However, those people that consistently sleep for 7-hours or less place their mental health in jeopardy.
If the brain does not obtain the therapeutic value of sleep, the first disorders that appear are an increase in mental fatigue and a loss of cognitive awareness and ability. Living in a constant state of exhaustion and “brain fog” induces feelings of malaise. Malaise is a condition where individuals suffering from the disorder notice a general sense of discomfort and ill well-being.
This feeling persists until they receive adequate sleep that recovers neural function. If left untreated and the lack of sleep continues, the individual will notice feelings of depression begin to materialize. The individual may incur nightmares and broken sleep that further exacerbates their disorder.
If the sleep behavior continues the affected individual will begin to develop symptoms of anxiety disorder, and they risk exposure to developing auto-immune diseases, such as adrenal fatigue.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
From the research, we can see that a lack of sufficient sleep is detrimental to our mental health.
If you find it challenging to fall asleep, there are steps you can take to improve your sleep quality. “Sleep hygiene,” is a term to describe the behavior and habits before, during, and after sleep. Improving your sleep hygiene will assist with your quality of sleep.
During the day, it’s critical that your limit the use of caffeine and other stimulants, such as energy drinks. Stimulants will affect your mind and cause it to run wild while you’re trying to fall asleep. Don’t eat anything in the three to four hours before you go to bed. Digestion requires plenty of metabolic energy and will limit blood flow to the brain.
Before you go to sleep, run a hot bath or take a hot shower, this relaxes the body and prepares you for sleep. Drink a cup of chamomile tea. The polyphenol compounds in the tea relax blood vessels and soothe your nerves. Use blackout curtains in your bedroom and purchase a sleeping mask to block out the light.
These are essential guidelines for sleeping better. Implement as many as you can and track your progress in a journal. Note your improvements after 30-days and make adjustments from there.