Getting a good night's rest is essential for multiple reasons, and they aren't all physical. There's a close relationship between restorative sleep and your mental and emotional health, too. More than 400 years ago, William Shakespeare referred to sleep as "Nature's soft nurse,” and we know now that sleeping problems can increase your risk of developing mental health conditions and impact your ability to regulate your emotions. Discover the importance of restful sleep and how it helps maintain cognitive skills such as attention, memory, and learning.
Mental Health Risks of Poor Sleep
Poor quality rest caused by chronic insomnia, restlessness, lack of REM sleep, and difficulty achieving deep sleep are recognized risk factors for the development of mental health issues, including:
A study of 1200 young Michigan adults showed that ongoing insomnia accounted for a four times higher risk of depression in the three years following the research. Additionally, those respondents who had chronic insomnia were also more likely to develop anxiety.
In 2020, a psychiatric study on parent-reported sleeping problems in early childhood showed evidence of patients developing psychotic or borderline personality disorder symptoms in adolescence. They were also more likely to show signs of bipolar disorders and schizophrenia. Other research shows that sleep problems and insomnia typically worsen before an episode of mania or bipolar depression, and lack of sleep can trigger mania or contribute to a relapse.
None of this is new information. Since 1992, research has shown that sleep disturbances have a reciprocal relationship with emotions and are a primary cause of psychiatric disorders. The regulation of our circadian rhythms is also linked to the serotonin in the brain, which caused people suffering from chronic insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns to have a higher risk of suicidal thoughts.
Between 25% and 50% of people with ADHD symptoms experience sleeping problems such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, or sleeping restlessly. This disorder causes them to be hyperactive, inattentive, and emotionally unstable, even if they are not clinically diagnosed with the condition.
Emotional Impact of Poor Sleep
Anyone not getting enough restful sleep can find their mental and emotional health affected significantly. In most instances, people don't realize the importance of restful sleep and the toll sleeplessness takes on their cognitive and emotional health. In addition to reducing the ability to cope with stress, insufficient sleep causes irritability and anger. It creates difficulty concentrating, can damage work performance, judgment, mood, and personal safety.
Slowing Down the Brain
Fatigue and drowsiness slow down the thought process, leading to lower levels of alertness and concentration. This makes it harder to focus or pay attention, which affects your ability to complete complex tasks. Making decisions is difficult because your ability to evaluate criteria is compromised.
Research shows that sleep strengthens the nerve connections that create our memories and that different phases of sleep have a specific impact. It's harder to remember things when you're suffering from sleep deprivation, and difficulty focusing and concentrating weakens short-term memory even more. Since we store recollections and learnings in short-term memory first, anything that doesn't make it short-term definitely won't be retained long-term.
Slower Reaction Time
One of the primary risks of lack of restful sleep is the way it slows reaction time. This factor applies to both emotional reactions as well as physical ones. A slow emotional response can lead to a delayed reaction to trauma, which triggers nightmares, flashbacks, and depression.
People who have chronic insomnia often become preoccupied with not being able to go to sleep. If you fall into this category, cognitive behavioral therapies can help you to change your negative expectations and build up your confidence that you can get a good night's sleep. Natural sleep supplements also provide relief for mild to moderate sleeping problems and enable many people to avoid the high risks of prescription sleep medications.
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