May is mental health month. In this article we are examining the link between sleep and health, sleep and sex and sleep and mental health.
Mental health is an expansive issue that encompasses a lot of conditions. While there’s no one singular solution for these, there are some practical ways to help alleviate symptoms.
Let’s take a look at how mental health is linked to sleep, and how a good night’s sleep can improve your mental health.
How Do You Define a Lack of Sleep?
Let’s take a look at how a lack of sleep is defined medically.
Wikipedia explains that a lack of sleep, or sleep deprivation as it is clinically known, is the condition of not having had enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation manifests in two different ways – it can be either chronic or acute. Physical symptoms of a chronic lack of sleep include clumsiness, weight fluctuation, fatigue, and sleepiness during the day.
Sleep deprivation can seriously affect your brain and cognitive abilities.
In contrast, some studies have shown that a lack of sleep can lead to an increase in energy, alertness and an improvement in mood. However, this state isn’t sustainable.
As well as the symptoms mentioned above, sleep deprivation can also induce side effects including sore muscles, memory loss, headaches, sty’s, increased blood pressure and an increase in hormone levels.
There are many ways that a lack of sleep negatively affects the body’s ability to function correctly. Sleep deprivation equally affects the functioning of the mind. Let’s take a look at this.
Sleep and Health: How it Affects the Mind
A lack of sleep is more severe than you may realize. This is because a healthy brain needs rest to work well.
Rachel Hosie of Independent explains that an Italian study was recently conducted around the effects a lack of sleep can have on the brain.
The study concluded that a lack of sleep could cause cells located in the brain to eat away at parts of the brain’s synapses.
These brain cells, in particular, are called astrocytes, and they are responsible for disposing of cells that are worn out. The study showed that when mice were deprived of sleep, these cells went into overdrive, breaking down more of the brain’s connections than necessary.
Another study shows how a lack of sleep affects the brain’s ability to control levels of anger and stress. The participants became angrier and more irritated when trying to complete a cognitive test while sleep-deprived.
This reaction is because of a part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for controlling our emotions. When your mind doesn’t get enough sleep, this part of your brain also goes into overdrive, sending mixed signals around appropriate emotional responses.
How Much Sleep do You Need?
We’ve looked at how a lack of sleep adversely affects the mind. We’ve also defined what constitutes a lack of sleep. Now that we know this information lets take a look at how much sleep the average person needs to avoid these side effects, relating to sleep and health.
The National Sleep Foundation explains that the amount of sleep you require varies depending on the individual and how old they are.
While other factors like lifestyle and health also determine how much sleep you need, the most significant indicator is age.
Adults between the ages of 18 and 25 need between seven to nine hours a night. Adults above this age bracket who fall between the ages of 26 to 64 require an average of seven to nine hours also.
However, adults above the age of 65 don’t need as much. Their average nightly requirement is just seven to eight hours.
These approximations are minimum and maximum ranges for individuals who fall within the various age brackets.
This is merely a general guideline. It’s scientific enough to rely on when trying to decide how much sleep you should get. However, because each person’s lifestyle is different, they will require a different number of hours each night.
It all comes down to the individual.
Sleep and Sex: What’s the Link?
We know how sleep affects our physical and mental states, but sleep and sex? How does it affect our sex life?
Sex is an integral part of any relationship. Let’s take a look at how a lack of sleep can negatively affect our libido.
Taryn Hillin explains that recent studies have suggested that a good night’s sleep may be the key to a good sex drive.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine recently released a study that linked sleep and health, and in particularly sleep and sex.
The study looked at the sex patterns of 171 female participants over two weeks. They concluded at the end of the two weeks that for every hour of extra sleep the participants got, their libido increased by 14 percent.
The reason for this is because sleep deprivation lowers testosterone levels in both men and women, but especially men. Testosterone is a hormone that is vital for a well-leveled sex drive.
The Journal of American Medical Association conducted a study on the levels of testosterone in men and how they were affected by sleep. After one week of sleepless nights, the participants were shown to have 15 percent less testosterone.
These low levels of testosterone inevitably led to a loss of sex drive. It seems that sleep and sex are closely related.
What is Mental Health?
We’ve looked at how a lack of sleep affects a person’s sex drive – an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Now we’ll look at how sleep and health of the mind are related.
How do we define mental health? Christian Nordqvist of Medical News Today explains that mental health is our behavioral, cognitive and emotional well-being.
Our mental health is inherent to the healthy functioning of our mind. It affects our daily lives, including our relationships and even our physical health.
The term mental health also encapsulates a person’s quality of life, and their ability to enjoy it. Good mental health is often achieved through a good balance between the specific activities of living and discipline that leads to mental resilience.
The World Health Organization explains that mental health is connected to a person’s well-being. Within this well-being, an individual is able to identify their abilities and cope with the normal stresses of life.
They are also able to work on a productive level. Lastly, a good state of mental health ensures that an individual is able to contribute positively to society.
Most importantly, the World Health Organization emphasizes that mental health isn’t merely a lack of psychological disorder.
Mental Health and Sleep: What’s the Link?
Now that we know how to define mental health let’s take a look at how mental health is intricately linked to how much sleep you get.
There are a number of different ways mental health is linked to sleep:
- Ability to Think: having a clear mind that isn’t foggy is essential to psychological health. Neurocore explains that sleep deprivation can result in impairing our ability to think with clarity. When we don’t get deep levels of sleep, our minds are adversely affected, and we struggle to think clearly.
- Cause or Affect: for a long time, issues with sleep were seen as a symptom of problems with mental health. However, new research suggests that sleep deprivation may negatively contribute or even cause psychological health conditions.
- Depression: studies have shown that up to 90 percent of adults and children who are suffering from symptoms of depression also experience trouble sleeping.
- ADHD: adults and children who experience ADHD symptoms will often develop issues around sleeping as well. This includes having trouble getting off to sleep and shorter duration of sleep in general.
- Medicine: interestingly, treating a lack of sleep with medication often isn’t an effective permanent solution. It can help temporarily, but for long-term sleep improvement, treatments like neurofeedback have been found to be effective.
How Does Sleep Effect Anxiety?
We’ve seen the link between mental health and a lack of sleep. Another sleep and health concern is anxiety. Let’s look a bit more in-depth at how sleep deprivation is linked to anxiety.
Harvard Health Publishing explains that issues with sleep effect more than 50 percent of adults who have been diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder.
One study, in particular, found that children who had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder took longer to fall asleep, and when asleep didn’t enter REM as much as children that haven’t been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Sleep deprivation also puts individuals at risk of developing an anxiety disorder. In studies of teenagers, a lack of sleep preceded the diagnosis 27 percent of the time.
While this percentage isn’t as high as it is for depression, insomnia has been shown to worsen the symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder. In addition, a lack of sleep was also shown to prevent recovery from anxiety issues, too.
While many factors contribute to an anxiety diagnosis, sleep deprivation seems to be a mitigating factor in a lot of cases.
How Does Sleep Effect Depression?
Now that we know how a lack of sleep negatively effects individuals who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder let’s take a look at the link between sleep and depression.
The link between a lack of sleep and depression is complex. Web MD explains that research has indicated that sleep deprivation can be both a cause and effect of a depression diagnosis.
The inability to get a good night’s sleep is one of the first, most integral signs that an individual may be suffering from depression.
However, another sign of depression is an individual getting too much sleep.
Suffering from sleep deprivation is not solely responsible for causing depression, but it certainly does play an important role.
If personal issues or another, unrelated medical problem is causing you to experience sleep deprivation, this could potentially make the depression worse.
Experiencing feelings of depression for a prolonged period can adversely affect your ability to live a well-balanced, healthy life.
Getting proper sleep is vital for restoring both your mind and your body, enabling you to function at a high level. If your mind is getting the restorative sleep it requires, it may not have the resilience to defend itself against chaotic feelings and emotions, including depression.
How Does Sleep Affect Stress?
We’ve looked at the link between anxiety and depression. Sleep and health are also related when it comes to stress. Now we’ll take a look at how a lack of sleep can affect your stress levels.
The American Psychological Association explain that there are strong links between stress and sleep deprivation.
Our bodies need a good amount of sleep to get the therapeutic benefits. This includes memory consolidation and the repair of muscles. A survey in America implied that stress was responsible for a notable lack of sleep in both adults and teenagers.
Stress often gets in the way of getting to sleep that an individual requires. The sleep stress cycle indicates that the less rest an individual receives, the more their levels of stress increase.
In fact, 21 percent of adults admit that they feel more stressed when they’re suffering from a lack of sleep. Up to 45 percent of adults who suffered from higher levels of stress said that they thought there was a direct link between the amount of sleep they got and their stress levels.
A further 37 percent of adults reported feeling tired and fatigued due to stress. As you can see, the sleep stress cycle goes around continually, each factor aggravating the other.
Fighting Mental Health Issues with Sleep
May is mental health month. It’s also professional wellness month.
Our mental health plays a vital role in our general well-being, but so does how much sleep we get. While there’s no definitive answer to which one comes first, they certainly have proven to have close ties.
At How to Stop Snoring, we believe that a good night’s sleep is critical for your general health and well-being. Let us help you achieve this and improve your quality of life by extending the amount of sleep you get.
Get in touch with How to Stop Snoring today here. They can make a difference to your sleep and health.
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