The more we learn about sleep the more we realise that it is essential for a wide range of physical and psychological factors. Sleep is far from being some simple downtime when it is dark but rather a vital part of the overall wellbeing of your body and mind. Therefore it comes as no surprise that lack of sleep can have a wide range of both mental and physical consequences. Sleep deprivation has been shown to amplifies anticipatory anxiety by activating the brain’s amygdala and insular cortex—both regions associated with emotional processing. The resulting pattern mimics the abnormal neural activity seen in anxiety disorders. In other words, lack of sleep is essentially the same as having an anxiety disorder. It is no wonder that missing even a night’s sleep can have such an impact on your life.
Sleep. For a long time it was seen as simply a time when you recharged the body’s batteries. This simplistic view of sleep has been blown wide apart in the past few decades as research has uncovered what an incredible array of different processes sleep helps to instigate and regulate. Sleep has been shown to help with the storage of memories, it also plays a vital role in the regulation of your appetite. Recent research has found that sleep also plays a part in our emotions.
They have found that sleep deprivation exacerbates anxiety by stimulating areas of the brain, namely the amygdala and insular cortex that are associated with emotional processing. The resulting patterns are similar to the abnormal neural activity seen in anxiety disorders. They also found that people who could be classified as innate worriers, those people who are more naturally anxious and therefore more likely to develop a full-blown anxiety disorder, are acutely vulnerable to the consequences of sleep deprivation.
What this means is that a lack of sleep and your emotional state are closely linked, that sleep helps to regulate your emotions. It also means that people who are suffering from such problems as generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder may benefit from some form of sleep therapy.
Sleep is also connected to depression, though to say one lack of one causes the other is too simplistic. It seems that those who are already depressed, or are on the verge of depression, can become more depressed if they are sleep deprived, though some would argue that in many cases it is the lack of sleep that creates the depression. Either way, getting good quality sleep every night is essential for those with depression and those with some form of insomnia should be monitored for depression.
We are still exploring how sleep affects the brain but the more we learn the more we discover how central its role is. Even without knowing how this works, we can glean one very important conclusion: it is essential that we aim to get a good quantity of high quality sleep every night as sleep plays a central role in our mental wellbeing.
Sleep well and be happy.
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