Sleep has an enormous influence on our overall mental health. Put simply, when you have a good sleep you feel happy and when you don’t you feel unhappy. Often we find ourselves in a perpetual loop of bad sleep caused by long work hours, blue light emission from our many devices, stressful busy lifestyles, relationship issues and financial worries. Sometimes it is very hard to pause and put our mental health first with this mounting pressure on us. Some of the more common mental health issues perpetuate sleep problems like these:
Something we all deal with, some of us on a daily basis. Anxiety can cause our minds to race and prevent us from falling asleep.
A sign of depression can often be low energy and a tendency to sleep in or take long naps during the day. Depression can also lead to insomnia which is a serious stressor on our overall health and wellbeing.
These can manifest themselves as very high highs and very low lows rather than maintaining a stable emotional balance. We all feel much more emotional if we have not slept well the night before and are more inclined to feel angry or sad.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
This disorder involves a significantly reduced attention span and increased over-activity. Many sufferers report waking up easily during the night, having difficulty falling asleep and feeling tired during the day.
The relationship between mental health and sleep is complex but we do know a lack of sleep can play havoc with our emotions and mental wellbeing.
Sleep scientist Matthew Walker carried out important research to try and find out why this is by using MRI brain scanning on two groups of people. One group slept normally at night, the other group stayed awake all night. They were then each shown images that were designed to evoke emotion the following day and their brain reactions recorded. The research found that the amygdala, the part of the brain primarily responsible for emotion, fight-or-flight response and memory, showed an incredible 60% increase in activity in the underslept group compared to the well slept group. The well slept group showed that their amygdala was much more controlled, only showing a small amount of activity in response to the images.
Whilst sleep is not the be all and end all answer to our mental health issues, having good sleep habits can be very effective in curtailing their influence on our brains and bodies.