Sleep is a physical activity sought by all people. Whatever status we hold in life, none of us can go on with our daily lives without sleep. Sleep affects how we function, how we react to people and situations, and our mental well-being. Some people working under night shift have trained their bodies to operate with fewer hours of sleep. Towards examination periods, students increase their efforts to study into the wee morning hours. Insomnia causes others to get little or no sleep. All these circumstances mentioned deny us sleep. So, how does sleep deprivation affect your mental health?
What is Mental Health?
Good mental health, as defined by Mental Health Foundation, considers it as a person’s ability to:
- Cope with learning.
- Deal with positive and negative emotions.
- Develop and continue having a good relationship with others.
- Cope well when circumstances change or become uncertain.
In simple terms, mental health affects how we behave, think, and feel. This begs the question, what amount of sleep should you get to function well?
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Scientists and sleep researchers recommend seven to nine hours of sleep every night for you to function at your best. With these sufficient hours of sleep, your body can recover from mental, physical, and emotional stress to meet the demands of the next day. It is important to remember that not getting enough sleep or too much sleep increases your risk of physical and mental health problems. Too much sleep refers to sleeping over nine hours a night.
The connection between Sleep and Mental Health
The link between sleep and mental health is sometimes a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, meaning it is difficult to state which of the two occurred first and which caused the other one. Some mental health issues prompted by other factors might lead to a lack of sleep. A lack of sleep might cause you to have a mental disorder. Consider the following points:
- Sleep Deprivation and Accidents
Research reveals that several people involved in work or vehicle-related accidents had a night of insufficient or disrupted sleep. A survey published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that drivers who had not had sufficient rest or sleep caused 16% to 20% of motor vehicle accidents in the U.K., Australia, and Brazil. In the USA, drowsy drivers caused 100,000 motor vehicle crashes yearly, as reported by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- Sleep Deprivation and Forgetfulness.
Lack of sleep affects you mentally, causing stress, anxiety, or depression. Stress, anxiety, and depression can make you feel confused, have difficulty concentrating, and forgetting things on a more frequent basis. When we sleep, our body goes through a sleep cycle from falling asleep to deep sleep to wakefulness. The cycle repeats itself throughout the night until our body and mind complete their rest. During these sleep cycles, your brain organizes the pieces of memory you have learned or seen during the day. Your brain integrates these recent memories with previously combined memories to create a library-like station in your brain, from which you get information when you need it. Constantly breaking the sleep cycle or having little or no sleep limits the ability of your brain to gather and store information leading you to forgetfulness.
Learning to set aside time for a good night’s rest of seven to nine hours requires you to schedule a time to sleep and wake up. Sometimes your circumstances can force you to get an insufficient amount of sleep, but if it is within your control, avoid prolonged periods of inadequate sleep. Your very mental health depends on you getting enough sleep. The article by Health.com for example, gives further information on how to arrange your surroundings for a good night’s rest.