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The Effects of Sleep on Mental Health

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Sleep affects mental health, contributing in positive and negative ways depending on the amount and quality a person gets.

Studies show that when people sleep the recommended seven to eight hours consistently there is an increase in the ability to manage stress as well as engage in other healthy behaviors such as eating well (Chen, Wang, & Jeng, 2006). One of the central functions of sleep is to allow the brain to return to homeostasis and regain the ability to regulate emotions, allowing the person to wake up ready to face a day full of emotions (Weinberg, Noble, & Hammond, 2016). Another function of sleep is to enhance decision-making skills (Seeley, Beninger, & Smith, 2014). With enough sleep, people have the energy to make decisions and think through their actions. Adequate sleep can also increase a person’s satisfaction with life (Chen, Wang, & Jeng, 2006).

On the other hand, when someone does not get enough sleep, or the quality of sleep is poor, it can leave a person feeling sluggish as though working through a fog. A lack of sleep makes people not only feel tired but also irritable. Studies have shown that people who do not get enough sleep or who sleep poorly have increased rates of anger, stress and mental exhaustion (Burton, Chen, & Schultz, 2017). The lack of sleep also increases levels of anxiety and major depression, according to a study done by Rosekind, Gregory and Mallis (2010).

Another study done by Binghamton University in New York reported that participants who were regularly woken up in the night had more difficulty pulling their attention away from negative information compared with those who slept through the night (Press Trust of India, 2018). In an interview with Business Insider and Press Trust of India, Meredith Coles, a researcher in this study, said, “While other people may be able to receive negative information and move on, the participants had trouble ignoring it” (Press Trust of India, 2018). This study concluded that lack of good sleep may leave people susceptible to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Without a proper night of sleep, negative thoughts are difficult to pushed out; doing so requires emotional energy that is easier to access after a proper rest. This allows the thoughts to ruminate and possibly multiply which can lead to increased anxiety or be the cause of it.

How does someone deal with an inability to get enough sleep? The Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine has suggested steps to increase the    quality and quantity of sleep. The number one suggestion is to limit the number of stimulants (caffeine and tobacco) consumed four to six hours before going to bed and to even limit the daily intake of alcohol to one or two drinks a day (Twelve simple tips to improve your sleep, 2007). Other suggestions include only using the bedroom for sleeping, establishing a pre-bedtime routine to signal upcoming bedtime, going to bed only when tired and keeping a consistent sleep schedule, which includes going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day.

Weinberg and associates found that when people get adequate amounts of sleep, the impact stress has on them decreased (Weinberg, Noble, & Hammond, 2016). Therefore, improving sleep can help improve mental health and relieve some stress and anxiety, allowing people to manage the daily events of life.

Good sleep starts the day off on a high note.

References:

Burton, W. N., Chen, C., Schultz, A. B., & Li, X. (2017). Association between employee sleep with workplace health and economic outcomes. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 59(2), 177-183. doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000000934

Chen, M, Wang, E. K., & Jeng, Y. 1. (2006). Adequate sleep among adolescents is positively associated with health status and health-related behaviors. BMC Public Health, 6(1), 59-8. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-59

Press Trust of India. (2018, Jan 6). Sleeping less than 8 hours a night may lead to depression, says a study. Business Standard Retrieved from http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/sleeping-less-than-8-hours-a-night-may-lead-to-depression-says-a-study-118010500327_1.html

Rosekind, M. R., Gregory, K. B., Mallis, M. M., Brandt, S. L., Seal, B., & Lerner, D. (2010). The cost of poor sleep: Workplace productivity loss and associated costs. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 52(1), 91.

Seeley, C. J., Beninger, R. J., & Smith, C. T. (2014). Post-learning sleep improves cognitive-emotional decision-making: Evidence for a ‘Deck B sleep effect’ in the Iowa gambling task. PLoS ONE, 9(11), 1-9. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112056

Twelve simple tips to improve your sleep. (2007). Retrieved from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips

Weinberg, M. K., Noble, J. M., & Hammond, T. G. (2016). Sleep well feel well: An investigation into the protective value of sleep quality on subjective well-being. Australian Journal of Psychology, 68(2), 91-97. doi:10.1111/ajpy.12098

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