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How lack of sleep affects your mental health

We all have heard about how important sleep is. But do you know what sleep does for your body and how it is linked to your mental health?

Before we start, let me define “sufficient/good sleep”: For one to consider good sleep, we talk about quality and quantity. The correct quantity of sleep for an average adult should be around 7 to 9 hours a day. The quality describes how your sleep was. On a neurological level, it defines the amount of response of the amygdala. The amygdala is a vital centerpiece in the brain responsible for several things, most prominently, emotions. During a good amount of sleep, it describes the amygdala's regular and moderate response. Inadequate sleep would describe hyperactivity of this brain region, which describes the following day's heightened emotions and irritability. 

Dreaming is your brain's way of restoring and processing information and creating long-lasting new memories and therefore making your brain more efficient. During sleep, your body regenerates, and your brain forms new pathways to process all the day's information. Your muscles and other organs regenerate, and your immune system gets the time to do its job and protect you from foreign pathogens. A good night's sleep makes you more efficient, concentrated, and overall healthier. Still, we don't prioritize enough sleep in our society. It is usual to overwork ourselves, minimize the importance of sleep, and prioritize work and other activities. Let me show you how your body and your mental health will be affected if you don't take time to rest. 

According to Aviva's research, more than half of all adults in the United Kingdom sleep for less than 6 hours every night, with just 17% getting the necessary amount of sleep (the NHS's recommendation of 8 hours per night). As a result, it's critical to comprehend the influence that the lack of sleep can have on one's health, especially mental health and well-being. Just to put it into perspective. Specific brain regions, especially the Prefrontal cortex, don't function properly if you don't get enough sleep. The prefrontal cortex is a complex brain structure responsible for top-down decisions and executive functions. If you don’t rest enough, the connections between this region and others weaken, leading to you making unwise decisions and losing control of your executive functions. If you stay awake longer than 24 hours, your hand-to-eye coordination reduces to such an extent that it simulates a blood alcohol content of 0.1. This is one of the reasons why sleep deprivation behind the wheel is so dangerous. The circadian rhythm, which is the body’s natural clock that regulates mental and physical systems, in a 24-hour period, could be affected by many things like sleep illnesses, medication, the sleeping environment, and personal choices. The abrupt change and irregular sleep cycle lead to reduced alertness, shortened attention span, reduction of awareness and decision-making skills, and poorer memory. Poor sleep in children has been linked to risk-taking behavior, hyperactivity, irritability, and heightened emotions. 

The lack of sleep can increase mental health problems such as ADHD and depression and has been linked to the following diseases:

  • anxiety
  • bipolar disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • psychosis

Sleep is crucial for your body, and there are several things one could do to improve it. Practicing a straightforward routine and priming one's body when it's time to feel sleepy and going to sleep when needed. Go to sleep and wake up at the exact time. This makes it easier for your body. Set boundaries with your work and private life and prioritize your sleep. Put away the electronic devices. Your brain produces a hormone called melatonin, which makes you tired and puts you to sleep. If you do something existing or stimulate your body by swiping through your apps or work, your body produces cortisol, the stress hormone, which wakes you up. That would hinder you from falling asleep and slower your process. 

Try to practice mindfulness or meditation before going to bed to put your thoughts to rest and remain calm and relaxed. Exercise is also crucial. During the day, try abstaining from caffeine after a particular hour or other behavior that could worsen your sleep. If you should decide to take naps, try to keep them under 30 minutes so that they don’t disrupt your body's natural rhythm.

Sleep is an integral part of everyday life. It helps you be more active, healthier, innovative, creative, and happier. Start prioritizing your sleep and sleep tight. 


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