The connection between sleep and mental health is a close one.
Not getting enough sleep is known to affect the well-being of your mind. People who suffer from mental disorders are more prone to insomnia than others. And so, improving sleep quality and patterns becomes very crucial.
During sleep, our bodies repair themselves. This is why it has a healing effect on our psychological processes as well.
On World Mental Health Day, let us discuss ways in which we can ensure better sleep in order to improve our mental health.
But before we do that, we should briefly discuss why poor sleep aggravates mental illnesses.
Sleep and mental health
The Harvard Medical School explains the connection between sleep and mental health.
According to them, a normal sleeper oscillates between two major types of sleep, during a duration of 90 minutes. The categories are called Quiet Sleep and REM Sleep where REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement.
The time spent by the sleeper in each category of sleep keeps changing as the sleep progresses.
When in Quiet Sleep, the sleeper moves through four stages. Each stage is deeper than the previous one. As the sleeper transitions through these stages, there is a fall in the body temperature. The muscles begin to relax, breathing gets slower and so does the heart rate.
The fourth stage of Quiet Sleep, which is the deepest stage is of great psychological relevance as it produces psychological changes and enhances the body’s immunity.
The Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the category of sleep where dreaming happens. The body functions like temperature, blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate, go back to what they are when the person is awake.
REM is responsible for learning and memory. It also improves emotional health.
When sleep is disrupted, the neurotransmitters and stress hormones of the sleeper get adversely affected. It can have terrible consequences on how the person thinks, how their brain functions, and how they regulate their emotions.
Mental illnesses associated with sleep
The Harvard Medical School suggests that there are more than 70 types of sleep disorders. The ones we are most familiar with are insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and narcolepsy.
According to researchers, there is an overlap between sleep disorders and mental illnesses which cannot be ignored. For instance, most people who are diagnosed with depression have insomnia too, and one out of five of them have obstructive sleep apnea.
Having insomnia also heightens the risk of the person developing depression. Moreover, depression patients who also have insomnia or other sleep disorders, contemplate suicide more than those who sleep alright.
These are some very disturbing findings that cannot and should not be ignored.
Improve sleep to improve mental health
Improving your sleep hygiene can help you maintain good mental health.
A good sleep hygiene involves sleeping rituals that improve sleep quality. This may vary from person to person, but a general one can consist of not using devices at least an hour before bed, drinking chamomile tea to soothe the nerves, reading a book, listening to calming music, doing meditation, doing breathing exercises, and maintaining a gratitude journal.
All of this is recommended for better and more restful sleep.
Apart from this, making certain changes to your lifestyle, such as keeping a check on your caffeine intake, avoiding alcohol, and consulting a therapist, are crucial to ensure good mental health.
Also, physical exercise is known to boost both sleep quality and mental well-being. It improves the endorphin levels, the “feel good” hormone produced by the brain to create feelings of happiness. Exercise is also known to decrease stress, a major component behind most mental illnesses.
Sleep deprivation affects mental health and vice-versa. Taking necessary steps, can therefore help deal better with both.