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Why Sleep is Important for Your Mental Health

November 17 2020 - With mental health making a move to the forefront of healthcare and government investment, there's more acceptance than ever before when it comes to speaking about those internal struggles.

More than 45 per cent of people are predicted to have depression at one point in their lives, and more than 2 million suffer from anxiety at any given moment. That said, mental health problems affect quite literally millions of us, but there are a few things you can do to help regulate your feelings and push for a happier life.

One of those things is ensuring you're focusing on a nightly wind down and getting a good night's sleep. When we're sleeping poorly, we don't get the time to shut off or reset, and this keeps us in a stressed and anxious state - something we should all work to combat.

To learn a little more about sleep and mental health, and what you can do about it, take a look below.

Dealing with Poor Sleep

Two of the critical factors that affect our sleep are lifestyle choices and sleeping disorders like sleep apnea.

When it comes to sleep apnea, for example, we may be getting our allotted nine hours of sleep, though due to the constant wakes and breathing difficulties, our bodies aren't able to fall asleep properly.

This, as a result, prevents the much-needed refresh or reset that's imperative to maintaining happiness levels. Combatting this can typically be as simple as investing in a CPAP machine, which keeps the airways open and enables a good night's sleep without constant wakeups.

For lifestyle choices, consuming alcohol, coffee and using other stimulants and smartphones before bed is also going to affect the mind's ability to unwind, which will damage your mental health.

As you may already know, alcohol prevents quality sleep, as does caffeine. You may be asleep, though the process of REM sleep (the sleep needed to consolidate memory and regulate hormones, etc.) is prevented almost entirely. The next day you may feel rested, at least physically, though your mental health remains at risk of deteriorating.

Below we'll look at a few of the issues associated with poor sleep.

The Mind Slows Down

An effect of poor sleep that has a knock-on effect for everyday life is the slowdown of the mind.

You'll be a lot less alert and not have the ability to focus or problem-solve when you're not sleeping well - and this fosters a feeling of doing poorly at work and school. If you're tired, sluggish and poorly performing, you're more likely to see yourself in a negative light, which spirals us into being more self-critical and pessimistic.

Sleep studies have shown that not only does this have an impact on happiness levels, it also reduces mental agility and overall intelligence.

You're at Risk of Memory Loss

Another significant negative to poor sleep is memory loss or the ability to recall important information.

Whether this is linked to depression directly is still debated; however, when we're unable to pull upon memories in crucial moments throughout the day, this relates to feelings of self resentment. Again, affecting how we perceive ourselves and increasing the risks of depression.

Stress is Majorly Increased

As we mentioned at the start of the article, we're unable to genuinely shut off and unwind when we're not sleeping, increasing stress hormones in the body.

That in mind, the day after a poor night's sleep will be a lot more 'tense' in a sense, which keeps us on edge. We're less alert, unable to draw on important information when we're asked and we're also at risk of injury.

Essentially, we're less confident, more self-critical and tenser when we're tired - and as a result, at a higher risk of depression and anxiety. Research puts people with poor sleep habits at five times more likely to develop depression.

Lack of Mental Clarity and Reduced Happiness

One final thing to note is that with little time to reset the brain's chemical and emotional balance, you're leaving yourself open to being less happy and more disoriented in the day ahead.

When there isn't a whole unwind and 'reset' of the brain's chemicals, there's an increased chance of your happiness being reduced. You'll be unable to be your refreshed and resilient self, and more likely to be affected by the negatives in the day and unable to manage the feelings of stress and anxiety.

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