Why Improving Your Sleep Can Improve Your Mental Health
Mental disorders are among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide, with one in four people being affected at some point in their lives.
Sadly, due to the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health problems, up to two thirds of people do not seek help from a health professional. Altogether, the reduction in productivity and health has cost the UK economy £40.3 billion, and as much up to £328 billion for the US economy.
The lost productivity resulting from depression and anxiety, two of the most common mental disorders, is estimated to cost the global economy US $ 1 trillion each year (772,300,000,000.00 GBP).
The good news is that there is changing attitudes about mental health in the workplace due to the growing recognition of the importance of mental well-being.
Many mental health programmes within the workplace aim to decrease daytime distress and increase resilience therefore it’s only natural for them to be daytime focused. However, science suggests that targeting the quality of our nighttime, specifically aiming on getting a good night’s sleep may be the answer to managing our daytime mental health.
As the prevalence of mental health disorders increase, it is imperative to find the right solutions that provide guidance globally that can be used by countries of all income levels.
How are poor sleep and mental health connected?
Difficulties associated with sleeping, has always been recognised as a core symptom of many mental health disorders. Recently, there has been a shift in view where sleep and associated problems may be an early alarm bell for the onset of any mental health problems. As a result, research has been focused towards trying to understand the role in improving the quality and quantity of sleep as a target for preventing the onset and maintenance of a variety of mental health difficulties.
This should not come as a surprise,considering how we spend one third of our lives spent asleep, reflecting the absolute necessity of good quality sleep for a good physical and mental well being.
While we sleep, restoration and reparation of the brain and body occurs which is why a good night's sleep is essential in fostering both a mental and emotional resilience.
In this way, chronic sleep deprivation paves the path for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability by affecting the levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, possibly triggering and/or amplifying the effects of psychiatric disorders.
The exact biochemical pathways underlying mental health and sleep are only partially understood. Nevertheless,with growing focus on both the importance of sleep and mental well being, a growing body of evidence is being revealed.
Below are a range of example example:
Change in brains signalling chemicals
Many of the brain’s chemicals responsible for enabling us to sleep well are the same chemicals as those responsible for managing our mental health. Therefore it comes as no surprise that when one becomes disturbed, so does the other! For example, serotonin is a core neurotransmitter in our brains, responsible for regulating our mood, social behaviour and appetite and has been found in dysregulated in many patients with depression.
It is the same chemical which is involved in the regulation of our circadian rhythm but also is a building block in the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone. Aside from genetic reasons,stress is a common cause of low serotonin levels which creates a vicious feedback loop where low serotonin levels causes low mood, which in turn disrupts sleep, causing fatigue during the day which further can lowen mood.
Rewires our brains
We all know that after a restless night we are more likely to be short tempered, irritable and moody, hence the phrase “getting out of bed the wrong side”. This happens because poor sleep rewires our brains, shifting the amygdala, your emotional centre, away from the rational part of the brain (pre-frontal cortex), towards the flight-or-fight area ( brain stem). The result is that we tend to view ourselves, others and the world around us in a more negative light, which if prolonged, increases our mental health risk.
Can better sleep lead to better mental health?
All the evidence above points to a lack of sleep as a causal factor in the occurrence of mental health problems. Assuming this was true, it should also mean that improving sleep should improve psychological health.
Indeed, a growing body of science points to the role of sleep in good mental health but it has also been found to reduce symptoms of mental health disorders such as psychotic experiences. This demonstrates the importance of treating sleep difficulties as a novel approach to psychosis itself.
This may be attributed to the powerful role of sleep in it’s emotionally defusing effect. This occurrence can be explained by the role of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase in our sleep a period where typically dreams occur. First, the brain sorts and defuses through any unwanted emotions, mentally preparing individuals to deal with any upcoming stressful situations. It also reprocesses any emotional memories whilst suppressing your stress response so that the overall intensity of any negative emotions are reduced.
With life constantly throwing challenges at us, it is important to invest time into creating better sleep. Good sleep helps build on your emotional and mental resilience which will help to ensure longevity and happiness in your life. Here are our Top 10 Tips for better. sleep.
If you need help overcoming insomnia , we recommend our Sleep School for Insomnia App. It contains proven tools to help you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.