Significance of Sleep for Mental and Physical Well-Being

Sleep deprivation is common in the young generation, especially students. Due to workload, deadlines, and personal choices, the sleep pattern of an average student is deteriorating. The consequences can include but are not limited to psychological issues and insomnia. 

More than half of teens ages 15 and older sleep less than seven hours per night, and about 85% of teens get less than the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Age 14-15 appears to be a big turning point for sleep deprivation, a year when teens experience the greatest drop-in hours of sleep per night.

Sleeping less leaves your brain exhausted, so the brain cannot perform its duties well. People find it more difficult to concentrate or acquire new things. The signals your body sends may also be delayed, decreasing your coordination and increasing your risk for accidents. It is reported that an estimated 7% cent of all motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. and 16% of fatal crashes include driver drowsiness. As the study suggests long time effects of sleep deprivation is real and could be fatal.

It is necessary to understand that stimulants such as coffee and energy drinks are not enough to override the body’s profound requirement to sleep. The most common issues with a person with chronic sleep disease are stress, tiredness and fatigue. Long time sleep deprivation causes diabetes mellitus and heart diseases. Sleep is highly underrated however; sleep is of utmost importance.

Sleeping allows effective functioning of the nervous system, when someome has chronic sleep disease the information sent and processed from the brain is disrupted which makes it difficult to concentrate and causes stress.

Sleep also controls hormone production, it’s a fact that the body needs at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep to produce testosterone wherein pauses between sleep can interrupt the production of hormones. Leptin and Ghrelin are two hormones that are responsible for the sense of hunger. Sleep deprivation decreases the production of Leptin (which gives the feeling of fullness) and increases Ghrelin which is an appetite stimulant that increases the feeling of hunger and can cause obesity as a result.

Hence, sleeping not only gives you a feeling of freshness every morning it also recharges your body and actually stimulates how our brain and body functions.

Key points:

  • Sleep deprivation is more likely to affect people with psychiatric disorders than people in the general population.

  • Sleep difficulties may increase the risk for developing particular mental illnesses, as well as physical disorders.

  • Treating your sleep ailment may help alleviate symptoms of your mental health problem.

Some important things to get started to improve sleep:

Certain sleeping techniques will improve sleep quality and help treat insomnia. This includes limiting caffeine intake, limiting exposure to the blue light from screens at night and setting a regular sleep and wake time. (Pro tip: Try give yourself 9 hours sleep so you factor in the time it takes for you to fall asleep – don’t put yourself under pressure!)

Some people are genetically wired towards being more of a morning or night individual, so we need to be careful to have some flexibility in this regard (especially with work schedules).

The other important thing for better sleep is to reduce exposure to light – especially blue light from electronic gadgets such as desktops and mobiles– two to three hours before bed. This will increase the secretion of melatonin in your brain, which makes you feel sleepy thus promoting the onset of sleep.

Physical activities. Getting enough time for relaxation and leisure activities is essential to control stress. Hobbies can also improve mental health particularly if they involve physical activity. Excercise can also increase your deep sleep which is very beneficial for the body. 

Get a dose of the living world. Adequate contact to sunshine helps levels of the mood-maintaining chemical serotonin (good for sleep). It also increases vitamin D levels, which also has an effect on mental health, and helps at the appropriate time to regulate our sleep-wake cycle.

A remedy to this is simply spending time in nature & sunshine. Studies show time in the wilderness can improve self-confidence and frame of mind. In some parts of Asia, going to spend time in a forest (known as forest bathing) is prescribed by many doctors for mental health treatment.

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