The Importance of Sleep: Are You Getting Enough?


Getting a goodnight sleep plays an essential role in overall health and well-being.

Have you ever felt like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed after a poor night sleep?


Quality of sleep greatly impacts mood, brain health, and the ability to function at optimal capacity throughout the day.


Sleep is linked to the brain functions of concentration, productivity, and cognition. Depending on one’s age, there is a recommended amount of sleep required for the body and brain to function optimally. In children, an adequate amount of sleep is crucial for body and brain development. Below are recommended sleep guidelines based on age.(1) (2)


Poor quality of sleep can have many contributing factors including restless, insomnia, and disturbed sleep patterns. Sleep patterns are influenced by circadian rhythm, which is the body’s 24-hour internal clock. Circadian rhythm is dictated by environment. The brain receives signals from the external environment of light or dark, which activates hormones (cortisol and melatonin), alters body temperature, and regulates metabolism, putting the body in an alert or restful state. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you sleepy, and typically is released at night and suppressed during the day. The hormone cortisol makes you more alert and is released in the morning hours. Cortisol is also released during the stress response and high levels of cortisol in the body can impact sleep, as the body is kicked into overdrive in an alert and active state. Poor sleep patterns can dramatically impact individuals health, including psychological well-being, cardiovascular and immune systems, hormones, brain development, body weight, and fertility.(1)


When you are not getting enough sleep, you are more likely to be irritable and have impaired cognition, impacting your ability to function at an optimum fashion in day to day activities. Ongoing sleep issues can attribute to sleep disorders and chronic fatigue.


SLEEP AFFECTS MENTAL HEALTH


Sleep and mental health are intimately connected.(3) Sleep deprivation significantly impacts your psychological state.(3) Sleep cycles determine quality of sleep. When you are experiencing disrupted sleep patterns, with multiple interruptions throughout the night or inconsistent sleep, the body is unable to obtain a restful state.(3) There are four stages of deep sleep; during these stages the body temperature drops, muscles relax, and heart rate and breathing slow. During “deep sleep” stages, the body is able to recover and replenish. This stage boosts immune system functioning, allowing you to feel rested. During the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stage, which is the “dream state,” learning, memory, and cognition are enhanced.(3)


IMPACT OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION


Sleep deprivation can amplify existing mental health conditions and onset poor mental health outcomes. There are more than seventy types of sleep disorders that exist.(3) If you are experiencing ongoing sleep struggles, seek care from your physician.


Lifestyle factors that may influence sleep deprivation:


• Shift work or irregular work hours, such as night shifts that disrupt circadian rhythm.

• Lack of deep sleep due to frequent periods of wakefulness throughout the night. This is commonly experienced amongst parents with infants and young children.

• Breathing difficulties (sleep apnea).

• Chronic pain.


HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS


Good sleep habits can support your sleep cycles and improve well-being. The best way to avoid sleep deprivation is to first acknowledge your current sleep patterns and where you can make improvements. Some factors such as work schedules (shift work) or having infants/small children may be more unpredictable and challenging to work around. However, it is important to acknowledge what you can do to ensure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep.


• Create a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time.

• Reduce screen time near bedtime.

• Explore relaxation techniques close to bedtime (meditation, deep breathing, or a warm bath).

• Take naps to catch up on sleep.


References


(1) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/307334#symptoms-of-deprivation

(2) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times

(3) https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health



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