The secret to a great night's sleep

Your sleep is a postcode lottery... But does it affect your mental health?

We all know how dreadful we feel when we are tired and suffering from a sleepless night. But now our experts have warned the nation's 'sleep debt' could also be having a negative effect on our mental wellbeing. If you are sleeping less than six hours sleep per night, scientists believe you are more susceptible to anxiety or depression.

This month, Silentnight worked with Dr Anna Weighall at the University of Leeds to delve into Britain's toxic sleep patterns. Looking at how different people sleep in different areas, researchers also found there is a strong relationship between getting a good night's sleep and positive mental health. 

Struggling with sleep…? Then experts say you are more likely to be irritable and lack in concentration. Essentially, lack of sleep lowers the threshold at which we will experience an event as stressful. 

awake at night

Did you know that sleep deprivation decreases the efficiency of something called 'top-down inhibition' which enables us to control and regulate our behaviour? This means when we haven't slept our brain struggles to to function, and becomes unable to regulate the emotional messages being sent through the body.

The healthiest approach for anyone suffering from mental health problems is to try and adopt a regular bedtime routine, ensuring they rise at the same time every day. 

When people suffer from anxiety or stress their sleep patterns become compromised, this Dr Anna Weighall argues, is when we need those precious six to eight hours per night the most!

Our sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, also believes sleep problems can be the ultimate trigger to mental health issues, arguing without a healthy sleep pattern, over time insomniacs will develop symptoms of anxiety. 

"Sleep is vital for healing the body on every level and not just physical," she said.  "When we don't get deep restorative sleep, over a period of time we can start to feel symptoms of anxiety and depression. I see this all the time at the psychiatric clinic where I work where I put a lot of emphasis on helping the patients to restore healthy sleep patterns. 

"Good sleep heals mind, body and spirit. When we get the right amount of deep sleep, this rebalances every cell, tissue and organ system in the body. Levels of hormones and neurotransmitters are restored and rebalanced and we wake up with good energy."

Dr Nerina claims those suffering from mental health will most commonly struggle to seek solace in their bedtime routine, often waking up during the night and finding they can't go back to sleep. The most likely time for someone struggling with anxiety to wake is around 2am to 4am in the morning.  

Offering advice to those struggling with depression and their sleep patterns, she said: "It is important to have the balance right across the board; eat breakfast within 30 minutes of getting up to stabilise your biochemistry, avoid caffeine which will make mood swings worse, stop worrying about how much sleep you are or aren't getting. It is also important to avoid checking the time during the night and leave technology out of the bedroom."

For more information about our University of Leeds research check out our blog on the nation's sleep debt

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