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How Sleep Affects Our Mental Health
We all deserve to feel good! But what if we see ourselves faced with a mental disorder? Feeling darkness over longer periods of time. A majority of people suffering from mental disorders additionally see themselves faced with sleep problems too.
As it is not clear yet if the mental disorders promote bad sleep or vice versa I find it to be most helpful to see them as a whole instead of separated parts.
But how can this help us?
Our Emotional Controller
Mental disorders have a variety of sources. As an example, these can include personal circumstances, traumas, genetic programming, and many more.
Even though we all tend to fall into an emotional default state I hope we can all agree that our brain is something like an overall emotional controller.
At times it is enough to think about a wonderful memory (e.g. a holiday, somebody saying or doing something lovely for you, something that you achieved that made you proud of yourself) to light up a good emotional state.
This is probably the reason why the medications that get designed to cope with mental disorders are also mainly active in our brains.
So, the following will be interesting for you to know.
The BIG Opportunity
Now let’s have a look at what Sleep alone can do for our brains. And there are two profound sleep stages that do tremendous amounts of work in our brain that will reward you with positive mental benefits.
This is also known as the deep sleep stage. What essentially happens is that
- slow brain waves flush through our entire brain
- our brains get cleansed from poisons (amyloids)
- memories get fixed in deeper regions of our brain
These functions alone can have a massive positive effect. Our brains will certainly work better when the poison gets flushed away through our lymphatic system. And just imagine how much time you can save when the thinking or therapy you might be going through at the moment actually gets memorized better (instead of forgetting wide parts daily due to a lack of sleep)?
This is the sleep stage in that most of our dreams occur. It is also the sleep stage that the sleep expert Matthew Walker calls the “free therapy system”.
There is a lot of science around dreams and they are still somewhat mystical. But it seems to be clear that we walk through things that we experience in the daytime in a brain chemical friendly environment.
There is also a study that Charlie Morley did with veterans suffering from PTSD that showed that actively influencing our dreams can have a highly therapeutic character. As we are integrating the things shown to us on the level they occur (our dreams) this makes complete sense.
So – especially when we have a mental disorder we want to get as much REM sleep as we can.
There are two things we need to consider here:
- alcohol blocks REM sleep
- REM sleep shows up in bigger amounts in the later hours of our sleep
The one thing that mental disorders and sleep have in common is our brain. Both NREM and REM sleep play an important role for our mental health!
Knowing this can give us the tremendous opportunity to set a clear priority on our sleep and reap the benefits. To max out on the positive effects best sleep can give you, stick to a regular sleep schedule, take care that you get enough sleep and avoid using sleep harming substances like alcohol.
Doing so will let you max out on the positive effects that sleep can have on your mental health.
Interested in more information about the relationship between sleep and mental health? Check out this youtube video I did for you.
Sending you good vibes and sleep.