“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” ~ E. Joseph Cossman
Sleep Is Essential To Mental Health
Sleep is absolutely essential to our mental health. If we fail to get an adequate amount of sleep, we will be much more prone to becoming depressed, anxious, and falling into further consequences.
Dr. Matthew Walker (Author of Why We Sleep) says it best when he states:
“I doubt you are surprised by this fact, but you may be surprised by the consequences. Routinely sleeping less than six hours a night weakens your immune system, substantially increasing your risk of certain forms of cancer. Insufficient sleep appears to be a key lifestyle factor linked to your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep—even moderate reduction for just one week—disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Fitting Charlotte Brontes prophetic wisdom that “a ruffled mind makes a restless pillow,” sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depressing, anxiety, and suicidality” (pg. 3).
Getting poor sleep is not only dangerous, but also damaging. If we fail to get the sleep we need, we will be much more prone to being led by our emotions, rather than rationality.
Rationality > Emotions
Dr. Matthew Walker states that “The under-slept brain (is) excessively (prone) to both extremes of emotional valence, positive and negative” (Why We Sleep, pg. 148).
When we fail to get the proper rest, we cannot think as clearly. This is most likely due to not getting enough REM Sleep.
REM Sleep is essential to our cognitive functioning the next day. Without good REM Sleep, we tend to become less attuned to reality. We are not as sharp, mentally. When this occurs, events and circumstances take a stronger hold than they otherwise would (had we gotten the adequate amount of REM Sleep).
Even the Sleep Foundation states that “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.”
Mental Health Problems That Occur From Lack of Sleep
There is a wide range of mental health problems that can occur from a lack of sleep, disrupted sleep, or poor sleep. These include:
- Seasonal Affective Disorder - a sub-branch of depression that most often affects people during times of the year with reduced daylight hours.
- Anxiety disorders.
- Bipolar disorders.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder.
There is also a variety of other mental health problems interwoven and related to lack of sleep.
Why Sleep Is Important For Mental Health
Hopkins Medicine reveals that “a healthy amount of sleep is vital for “brain plasticity,” or the brain’s ability to adapt to input. If we sleep too little, we become unable to process what we’ve learned during the day and we have more trouble remembering it in the future. Researchers also believe that sleep may promote the removal of waste products from brain cells—something that seems to occur less efficiently when the brain is awake.”
When we sleep, our brain forms new neurological pathways and gets rid of less productive, inefficient synaptic connections. As this occurs, the brain is strengthening its memory, creativity, innovation, and stability for the following day.
As these new connections are formed, the brain is getting its proper amount of sleep. As it gets an adequate amount of sleep, it grows its neurological pathways. As this occurs, one is able to have an increased memory of what was learned the day before.
Just as our stomach craves food when it is hungry, so our brain craves sleep when we are tired.
Sleep Is Absolutely Essential To Our Mental Health
Sleep is absolutely essential to maintaining a level head and feeling overall happy and more joyful.
If we don’t get the proper amount of sleep, we won’t be able to handle the upcoming day to our fullest. We will continue to “push through” thinking that willpower is enough.
Willpower is not enough. We must prioritize sleep if we desire to live a longer, healthier life. Not merely in how we feel, physically, but in how we operate, mentally.
For knowing more about the benefits of REM Sleep, see our article, “What are the Benefits of REM Sleep?”