It’s a common idea that sleep is essential for mental health. But is it true?
The answer is yes and no. Sleep may help with mental health in some circumstances, but it’s not a magic fix.
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Sleep does affect your brain, but it’s not clear how much of an effect. For example, studies have found that people who sleep only about four or five hours a night are more likely to be depressed than those who get eight or nine hours of sleep each night.
But that doesn’t mean getting more than eight hours of sleep will always improve your mood — nor does getting less than five hours of sleep seem to worsen your mood. And it’s important to note that these studies don’t prove cause-and-effect: it could be that people with depression are naturally more likely to feel tired or that people with depression tend to spend less time sleeping because they’re worried about falling asleep and staying asleep.
Sleep & Breaks
The human brain is an amazing thing, but it has its limits — it can only handle so much information at once before it starts getting overwhelmed and starts making mistakes. This is why we need breaks during the day to give our brains time to rest, digest what we’ve learned, and make new connections between things that weren’t there before (this is called “neuroplasticity”). Sleep also gives us time to take care of ourselves physically and mentally by processing thoughts about how we feel about ourselves and others; this process helps us develop empathy and compassion for others, which are important aspects of emotional intelligence (EI).
Does Sleep Matter?
Many people believe that sleeping is a waste of time. It’s not. Sleep is essential for your mental health and can help you think more clearly and make better decisions.
The most obvious way to improve your memory is with sleep. While we know that sleep is vital for brain function, we still don’t understand the full extent of its importance. Research suggests that even brief periods of sleep may be beneficial, but there’s more to it than just that.
Sleep also appears to affect how well people learn new information and retain what they’ve learned throughout their lives. This would seem to be an advantage for students who need to memorise a lot of material during the school year, but there are some caveats: It seems like it doesn’t work very well in adults who already have good memories from years of studying.
Body Chemistry & Sleep Deprivation
Sleep also affects mood and body chemistry in ways we still don’t fully understand. For example, research shows that people who get more sleep have less stress hormone secretion in their saliva and urine during the day. This makes sense — if you’re tired, studying or focusing on work at night is hard.
What Does Research Say
A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews, has shown that people who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety than those who get enough sleep.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has conducted several studies that suggest that lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. However, it’s important to note that this research has focused on people who already have symptoms of these disorders. If you don’t have any signs of mental illness, you may not see any changes in your mental health if you get enough sleep.
Other research suggests that getting enough sleep may help to prevent mental illness by improving your mood and reducing stress levels
A study looked at 545 adults between the ages of 18 and 30 who were asked if they’d experienced any of ten different mental conditions over the previous month. Those who reported feeling depressed or anxious were more likely to report sleeping less than seven hours per night than those who didn’t report these symptoms.
How much sleep should we get?
Sleeping for 8 hours each night is associated with better physical health and a lower risk of death from any cause. It’s also linked with a reduced risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night is associated with poorer quality of life and also an increased risk for both depression and anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Getting more than 9 hours of sleep per night can cause problems with memory performance, attention span, coordination, and reaction time — all factors associated with cognitive function and mental acuity.
Sleep affects everyone differently. So try to figure out what kind of sleep routine suits you the best so that your mental health remains healthy and prosperous.