Although we spend one-third of our lives sleeping, we often forget to acknowledge the importance of sleep. When you sleep, you aren’t just doing your body a favor - you’re also helping your mind!
Thanks to countless mental health advocates and awareness programs, we know now that mental health is as (if not more) important than physical health, and it is so important to take care of our minds as much as we take care of our bodies. Sleep is one way to give our mental health some tender loving care! So, without further ado, let’s look at how sleep can improve mental health:
One of the Best Stress Busters
So much happens each day, from the time you wake up to when you hit the bed at night. You witness so much, your mind processes it, and then you act on it. Your body and mind are constantly on, and during the day, several things can happen which can trigger a stress response. Your body and mind must have a reset, which is exactly what sleep does every night. It calms the body and mind, hits the reset button, and helps you process what’s happened during the day, making you ready for the next day!
Additionally, the lack of sleep can, in fact, result in the release of more stress hormones such as cortisol. Ever noticed how you feel cranky after a night of little or no sleep? The lack of sleep is to blame!
Sleep and Depression
Most people who suffer from depression also complain of insomnia. There is no denying that sleep can play a huge role in depression; in fact, it can be one of its symptoms. Medical experts agree that the early detection and treatment of insomnia can be beneficial for those who suffer from depression. In the case of those who suffer from depression, sleep-inducing methods such as medication, hypnosis, or cognitive behavioral therapy seemed to have helped with their insomnia, which in turn helped with their depression.
Helps with Anxiety
The relationship between sleep and anxiety goes in two directions - the lack of sleep can cause anxiety, and anxiety can cause the lack of sleep! Studies have proven that the lack of sleep can trigger anxiety-related responses, and those who suffer from anxiety had one thing in common - an inadequate amount of sleep.
Bipolar Disorder and the Lack of Sleep
People who have bipolar disorder often complained of a lack of sleep as well. Bipolar disorder essentially involves sudden mood swings that alternate between extreme mania and depression. One of the symptoms of bipolar disorder is the inability to sleep. Studies have shown that treating insomnia helped people with bipolar disorder and reduced their manic and depressive episodes (5).
Great for Your Memory
It may seem like you’re fast asleep, and your entire body, including your mind, is on a shut down as well. However, your brain is constantly at work while you’re sleeping as well. Have you ever heard of the term “memory consolidation”? It is a process in which your experiences, stored as short-term memory in a temporary form for a short while, are changed into long-term memory. All the memories you have, which can be retrieved in the long run and at any given time, are known as long-term memory. It is extremely important, as it contains so much information, for example, about your motor skills, emotions, behaviors, and more. It is safe to say that long-term memory is vital to survival.
Now, what does sleep have to do with long or short-term memory? During sleep, your brain processes information you’ve gathered throughout the day and helps you make sense of it. It then optimizes memory consolidation, thereby improving your memory. In fact, the lack of sleep can result in memory loss!
Other Ways That Sleep Can Help You
Your physical health can play a huge role in your mental health as well. When things aren’t going too smoothly on the physical front, you will notice that your mental state is affected too. So, here’s a few more ways in which sleep can have a positive effect on your overall physical health, thereby improving your mental health as well:
Better Heart Health
We did mention that the lack of sleep can put your body under stress, and stress can release certain hormones, one of which is cortisol. Cortisol can be great and essential for your body - it prepares you to face danger and can increase glucose production. These two factors can be highly crucial when in a dangerous situation as they can trigger a fight or flight response. Cortisol also works like a steroid hormone and can make your heart work harder than usual (or required). This, too, can come in handy in a few situations, but on a daily basis, it can harm you.
Getting enough sleep can regulate the production of cortisol, which is essential for good heart health. Additionally, your body goes on to produce a few hormones that can help keep your arteries and blood vessels healthy as well.
It May Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
When you don’t get enough sleep and your body has not had the chance to restore itself, a spike in blood sugar levels is observed. With an adequate amount of sleep every night, your body refrains from producing hormones that trigger glucose production. Studies have observed that a body deprived of sleep tends to develop insulin resistance, which leads to an increase in blood sugar levels.
No Sleep May Mean More Weight
The lack of sleep is directly linked to weight gain, while the opposite is true for weight loss! Firstly, when you don’t get enough sleep, your appetite increases, as hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin are released. It can also decrease your resting metabolic rate. Now, your resting metabolic rate is the default number of calories you will lose when you aren’t involved in any physical activity. Another way sleep can cause weight gain is that it can make the cells in your body inclined to insulin resistance. If your cells become insulin resistant, they tend to hold more sugar in the body (basically, and increase in blood sugar levels). When this happens, the body produces more insulin, which in turn can make you hungry. It’s a vicious cycle, one that can lead to an increase in pounds!
It May Protect You!
Your immune system has what is known as the T-cells. These cells are responsible for fighting off infection and protecting you from disease-causing pathogens. Good sleep helps your immunity by helping these T-cells. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces hormones such as prostaglandins, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, all of which can inhibit the production and function of T-cells. The bottom line is that sleep can help regulate T-cell production, which boosts your immune system, thereby protecting you from infection and disease.
Additionally, when you’re asleep, your body releases cytokines. Cytokines have the responsibility to regulate your immune system. All of these directly contribute to the betterment of your immunity.
May Reduce Inflammation in Your Body
When your body comes in contact with a foreign substance such as toxins, bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, a biological reaction is triggered. This natural reaction is called inflammation, and it may look something like pain, fever, chills, stiffness, swelling, or excessive sweating. Although inflammation is beneficial to the body and can help protect you, it can backfire and prove to be harmful when it happens too often when it is not necessary. Chronic inflammation is an actual concern that many people face, and sleep seems to be directly associated with this condition. When you don’t get enough sleep, your circadian rhythm is disrupted, which can cause inflammation. Similarly, inadequate sleep can trigger an inflammatory response, thereby resulting in inflammation.
The next time you undermine the importance of sleep, tell yourself that just like food and exercise, sleep too is essential for optimal health of body and mind. Make use of sleep calculators to maximize sleep cycles. So many people have come out of mental and physical issues by incorporating a healthy lifestyle in which sleep plays a crucial part. Have you been getting enough sleep? We hope so!
Impaired sleep can seriously affect your quality of life and productivity. Behavioral changes implemented under the guidance of an experienced clinician can improve sleep quality and help you feel more alert and functional on a regular basis. Sleep is a third of your life – make it count!
Alaska Sleep Clinic is the most comprehensive multisite sleep lab in Alaska with clinics in Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks, and Soldotna and we continue to expand our services to those with sleep disorders. Angie Randazzo, PhD, is a specialist in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with expertise in sleep disorders. No other CBT sleep specialist provides care in the state of Alaska. She is available to Alaska Sleep Clinic’s patients via telemedicine, through SleepTM.
Ramya Karamsetti is a contributor to StyleCraze.com. She loves writing articles on beauty, health, and wellness and advocates using natural remedies to solve everyday skin and hair issues. When she is not writing, she loves traveling and going on adventure trips.