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Groundbreaking discoveries about sleep and how it affects all aspects of our physical, mental and emotional health, including our creativity and longevity.
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Sleep is closely connected to mental and emotional health and has demonstrated links to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other conditions. Unfortunately, most people in modern societies are sleep-deprived, and we don’t even realize it because we’re so used to operating at sub-optimal levels. It’s time we understand and unlock the transformative power of sleep.
While research is ongoing to better understand the connections between mental health and sleep, the evidence to date points to a bidirectional relationship. Mental health disorders tend to make it harder to sleep well. At the same time, poor sleep, including insomnia, can be a contributing factor to the initiation and worsening of mental health problems.
Both sleep and mental health are complex issues affected by a multitude of factors, but, given their close association, there is strong reason to believe that improving sleep can have a beneficial impact on mental health and can be a component of treating many psychiatric disorders.
Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. During sleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and it appears that a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content. This can influence mood and emotional reactivity and is tied to mental health disorders and their severity.
Sleep impacts all aspects of your mental, emotional and physical health:
• Sleep benefits the brain with 3 main cognitive benefits: (i) improved memory, (ii) improved motor task proficiency or “muscle memory”, and (iii) improved creativity. REM sleep connects your different memories, experiences and skills to create new ideas and insights.
• Dreams deliver real benefits. REM-sleep and dreams (i) reduce the pain from traumatic events, (ii) helps us decode facial expressions accurately, and (iii) improve problem-solving and creativity.
• Sleep-deprivation harms the brain to (i) impair memory, (ii) worsen focus/concentration, (iii) worsen emotional control, and (iv) play a role in mental illnesses from psychiatric conditions to Alzheimer’s Disease.
• Sleep-deprivation harms the body—it damages every aspect of our physiology and is linked to a shorter lifespan and a host of diseases like cancer and heart diseases. That’s because it severely impacts your cardiovascular system, metabolism, reproductive system, immunity system, cancer growth and inflammation, and even genetic activity and makeup.
• Sleep disorders can disrupt our lifestyle and well-being. Such disorders include somnambulism, insomnia and narcolepsy. At the extreme, sleep deprivation can even cause death.
As a result, the traditional view, which held that sleep problems were a symptom of mental health disorders, is increasingly being called into question. Instead, it is becoming clear that there is a bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental health in which sleeping problems may be both a cause and consequence of mental health problems.
A common cause of sleeping problems is poor sleep hygiene. Stepping up sleep hygiene by cultivating habits and a bedroom setting that are conducive to sleep can go a long way in reducing sleep disruptions.
Examples of steps that can be taken for healthier sleep habits include:
- Having a set bedtime and maintaining a steady sleep schedule
- Finding ways to wind-down, such as with relaxation techniques, as part of a standard routine before bedtime
- Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine in the evening
- Dimming lights and putting away electronic devices for an hour or more before bed
- Getting regular exercise and natural light exposure during the daytime
- Maximizing comfort and support from your mattress, pillows, and bedding
- Blocking out excess light and sound that could disrupt sleep