Why sleep is so powerful for mental health
In this fast-paced Western society, we are constantly connected and available 24 hours a day, we have information flowing to us on a daily basis, and there is a growing expectation that we will respond instantly. Given all this, there is a growing need for us to be operating or functioning in terms of our mental health, not just at “normal” or “acceptable” levels, but at “optimal” levels.
Optimal means that we are functioning at the highest levels mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually so that we can cope well with the demands of life. If we are operating at a suboptimal level, it is much more difficult for us to perform even the basic functions of life.
So how do we ensure that our levels of health and well-being are what they should be?
A key factor that contributes to long-term mental health and well-being is ensuring that we have 7-9 hours of good quality. to sleep per night.
Sleep repairs the body. This has a positive knock-on effect on how you function cognitively on the following and subsequent days. When we sleep, we sleep in cycles of 60 to 90 minutes. During that time we oscillate between deep sleep (called delta) where the body repairs itself and lighter REM sleep.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, or lighter sleep, moves information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. This helps you better remember the information you absorb on a daily basis. It is during this REM phase of sleep that your eyes flick back and forth (hence the name) and you dream.
Going to bed at the right time (ideally 10 p.m.) and getting enough sleep each night keeps your circadian rhythm in check. Your circadian rhythm is your natural body clock that tells you when it is time to sleep and when it is time to wake up. Work shift patterns (especially night shifts) can throw this out of balance, which can have major consequences not only for your mental and physical health, but also for your gut health.
Lack of good quality sleep means that instead of being fully awake and energetic during the day, you may feel sleepy, sluggish, and unable to focus for a significant period of time. Also, when you are in bed at night, you may feel “tired and connected” (meaning your body is physically tired, but your mind is wide awake and therefore unable to sleep).
Melatonin, the hormone that prepares your body for sleep, and serotonin (your waking hormone) must be in balance so that you can function at its best during the day. This means that melatonin is naturally activated from 9 p.m. (to help you sleep) until 7 a.m., when serotonin is released to help you get through the day. When the melatonin and serotonin cycle is in balance, you are wide awake during the day and sleepy at night (when you should be). This, in turn, means that you sleep better at night.
So never underestimate the power of sleep if you value your health and well-being. Good quality sleep not only helps us function more effectively, it also boosts our immune system, helping us avoid viruses and other infections that we could more easily contract with a lower level and quality of sleep.
Therefore, sleep is one of the fundamental pillars of amazing health and well-being. Without it, we may eventually find ourselves not only operating low but also opening up to exhaustive chronic conditions like MS, chronic fatigue syndrome, or fibromyalgia. These conditions can be debilitating and, if left unchecked, could leave us in bed or in a wheelchair.
So a key way to take care of your long-term mental health is to make sure that you not only have your 7-9 hours, but make sure you go to bed at the right time to increase your chances of having a much better night. to sleep.