How Sleep Contributes to Mental HealthThere are two types of sleep we experience and every 90 minutes we cycle between them. One is sometimes called "quiet" sleep. The other type is REM or rapid eye movement. How long we remain in either varies through the night. During "quiet" sleep we progress through four ever deeper stages of sleep. Our body and its systems slow down. At the deepest level is where we get the physiological changes that help boost the immune system. It is during this part of sleep that our bodies rest and repair. Studies have shown REM sleep helps us maintain our mental health as well as memory and learning. During this period of sleep we dream. Our bodies systems like blood pressure, heart rate and breathing return to states we see when awake. The mechanism by which this period of sleep contributes to mental health is still being studied. They do know disruption of sleep messes with hormone levels and impairs thinking and our ability to regulate our emotions.
The StudiesAccording to an article on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, one third of American adults get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep on a regular basis. Seven to nine hours is what is needed to maintain good health for the majority of adults. The CDC has also been tracking depression for several years in the U.S. and has found 1 in 12 adults have moderate to severe depression. They say this may even be an underestimate. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some sort of mental illness. Tying the two together, a BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) article states sleep problems can contribute to mental health issues and help maintain existing ones. It was once thought that insomnia and other sleep disorders were symptoms of mental illness. Now scientists are taking another look. There is such a strong correlation between sleep and mental health that the psychiatric field often considers a person's sleep patterns in the diagnosis of mental illness. They are now finding that the poor sleep habits may be causing or at least exacerbating the problem. A study by Daniel Freeman at the University of Oxford using sleep therapy to cure insomnia also found that improved sleep habits reduced levels of anxiety and depression by 20%. It seems sleep is not only necessary to maintain good physical health. It is just as important to mental and emotional well-being.
How to Improve Your Sleep HabitsSo what can you do to improve your mental and emotional well-being with sleep? There are a number of previous blog posts that show you how to improve your sleep habits. Below is a list of what you can do and links to those posts to help you delve deeper.
- Reduce screen time before bed.
- Have a relaxing evening routine.
- Eat foods conducive to sleep. Learn more here and here.
- Practice this .
- Sleep in a dark environment.
- Spend time outside in the morning light to let your body regulate itself.
- Reduce overall stresses.
- Find the perfect mattress for you.