The close relationship between sleep and mental health
Not getting enough sleep skews our ability to regulate our emotions. In the long run, this can increase our risk of developing a mental health condition. In turn, conditions such as anxiety and depression may cause further sleep disruption.
Fortunately, there are proven ways to improve sleep quality and break out of this vicious cycle. In this Special Feature, we discuss sleep and its deep relationship with mental health.
More than 400 years ago, William Shakespeare described the gift of sleep and the distress of insomnia:
O sleep! O gentle sleep!
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
– Henry IV, Part 2
Shakespeare’s description of sleep as “nature’s soft nurse” was closer to the truth than he could have known.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, insufficient sleep increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
Sleep is essential for the physical upkeep of the body, but it also helps maintain cognitive skills, such as attention, learning, memory, and emotional regulation.
Getting a good night’s rest even underpins our ability to perceive the world accurately. Research suggests Trusted Source that going completely without sleep for 3 or more nights in a row results in perceptual distortions, hallucinations, and delusions.
The latest discoveries about the importance of sleep for physical and mental well-being come at a time when technology is putting pressure on sleep time as never before. Social media, the internet, TV on demand, and video games are increasingly keeping us from our beds in the evenings.
The CDC Trusted Source advise that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a day, with the specific recommendation varying by age.
However, according to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, almost one-third (29%) of adults in the United States sleep for less than 6 hours each night.