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Everything you need to know about getting a good night’s sleep


Not many are aware that good sleep quality is linked to mental health, just as getting enough rest can help restore your physical health.

In an interview with the Social Brain Blog, Dr. Sigrid Veasey, a professor at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology, talked about the link between sleep and mental health.

Dr. Veasey, who studies sleep disorders and sleep disruption, said that “the current understanding of the relationship between sleep and mental health” is made up of various components. These include alertness, attention, compassion, motivation, perception, and rational behavior, and these factors may be affected by different mental health conditions along with sleep quality.

She shared that sleep loss early in life can significantly impact an individual’s neural connectivity. This can hold the key to understanding bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and general anxiety disorders, along with genetics and other environmental factors. Dr. Veasey posited that these early-life sleep changes could have something to do with various mental disorders.

The brain responds to things slowly and with early sleep loss, brain connectivity will gradually be lost. Dr. Veasey shared that data from sleep deprivation studies revealed that sleep loss can injure the amygdala. The amygdala is linked to “anxiety responses, mood and memory, and how you act upon something,” making it crucial to a person’s mood.

Sleep quality and misconceptions about sleep

When asked about the possibility that some individuals are immune to the side effects of sleep deprivation, Dr. Veasey explained that according to data from David Dinges, a psychologist at UPenn, “you become a really bad judge of your own state.”

Dinges, who studies neurobehavioral impairments in relation to chronic sleep deprivation, proved that your performance will worsen in correlation with the length of prolonged wakefulness. Even if you think you’re fine, there’s no actual proof that you get used to being sleep deprived.

Dr. Veasey acknowledges that there’s a chance that some people can function just fine even if they’ve only had about three hours of sleep at night. However, she added that this could only be because you’ve gotten used to having less than eight hours of sleep every night. Your body adjusts to sleep deprivation, which becomes “your chronic new norm.”(Related: Improve your sleep with these 5 easy tips.)

Dr. Veasy also warned against taking drugs or drinking alcohol to induce sleep. She added that unlike medicated sleep, natural sleep is better for your overall health. When drunk or drugged, there’s a chance that you’ll feel more tired even after sleeping.

Dr. Veasy also talked about the window for a good night’s sleep, which doesn’t strictly say that you must sleep at the same time every night. There are two major influences that regulate sleep in healthy individuals: a circadian influence and the homeostatic factor.

Circadian influence means “the right time for you to sleep,” which may also differ depending on a person’s age. There’s also the real circadian clock that sets the best time for you to sleep. Meanwhile, circadian pro-wakefulness influence inhibits your sleep. If you’re used to being awake in the morning, you might have trouble falling asleep while the sun’s still up.

The second influence is the homeostatic factor. The longer you’ve been awake, the greater your need to get some sleep. When you nap in the afternoon, this drive is reduced. Napping also affects sleep depth at night.

While there’s no study that confirms that you have to fall asleep at the same time every night, you have a leeway of about two hours to get good quality sleep.

According to the psychologist, light has acute and chronic effects on sleep. First, the acute effect is that light at the lower frequencies may make you feel alert and change circadian time at different points of the 24-hour circadian cycle. At certain parts of the circadian cycle, extra hours of light will suppress melatonin.

With lower overall melatonin levels, you aren’t as well-protected against certain cancers. You’ll also have fewer antioxidants. This confirms that it’s better to sleep in a darker room. Eliminate TVs or gadgets in your room because they can distract you. Put your phone away so you don’t stay up late checking your social media.

In a separate study, Dr. Ulysses Magalang of Ohio State University discovered that simply having a nightlight in a room can increase insulin resistance. It even makes humans prone to weight gain.

On sleeping in and napping

Dr. Seavey noted that since sleep is “controlled by circadian and homeostatic factors,” there’s no such thing as sleeping too much. While you may feel hungover after sleeping in on weekends, it’s still sleep that your body needs.

You often feel tired after sleeping in because you’ve gone into a deep sleep. When you wake up, you’re still in a sleep inertia phase. This just means you’re not totally out of that sleep yet. It’s not bad to sleep in, but try to get enough sleep throughout the week so you don’t have to sleep in on weekends.

Dr. Seavey added that research at UPenn disproved the myth that you can “reduce your sleep time during the week and then catch up on the weekend.” Data from a mouse model revealed that mice suffer from “lasting neural injury and neuron loss in specific groups of neurons with sleep loss.”

The mice lost locus coeruleus neurons, which, when injured in animal models, may worsen Alzheimer’s pathology. This implies that short sleep early in life “could hasten the onset of Alzheimer’s.”

Napping is a gray area, but Dr. Seavey advised that it’s better to nap, especially if you work long shifts as the brain is often stressed when you’re awake for a long stretch of time.

Sleep deprivation is linked to poor performance. Since the neurons are activated when you wake up, staying up forces them to constantly remain active.

But when neurons are active for too long, they develop oxidative stress. Proteins also misfire, which implies that sleep deprivation is bad for your physical and mental health.

You can read more articles about the link between sleep and mental health at Brain.news.

Sources include:

PsychologyToday.com

MentalHealth.org.uk

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