Whether it be regular gym visits, yoga, or eating your five a day, the term ‘health’ can mean different things to certain people – and although many may naturally think of physical health on the topic of wellbeing, our mental health is equally as important.
This Sunday (7th April) is World Health Day – an annual global health awareness day, officially sponsored by the World Health Organisation. As millions of people across the globe still have no access to basic healthcare, this year’s World Health Day is focusing on the importance of universal healthcare – which caters for both physical and mental health.
A starting point for good physical and mental health is getting good quality sleep.
Although the national recommended average amount of sleep per night is 7.5 hours, 25% of us are actually only getting five hours or less, according to research by Silentnight and the University of Leeds.
The detrimental effect of sleep deprivation on mental health
A lack of sleep has serious health implications, both physical and mental, and can result in poor daytime performance. In some circumstances, it can even affect our memories and our ability to learn and store new information – crucial in the workplace and also for those in education.
Silentnight’s resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan knows the health benefits of good quality sleep all too well, and has spent decades conducting research into various complaints. She believes that the nation’s ‘sleep debt’ could have a detrimental effect to our mental wellbeing.
Talking about the topic, she said: “Different phases of deep sleep rebalance the mind and body in different ways, and missing out on certain stages of sleep can have negative consequences.
“Night owls tend to suffer from adrenal and thyroid problems as they miss out on the initial pre-midnight phase of sleep. They often find it hard to get up in the morning and feel groggy, and they may have difficulty concentrating during the day.
“Between the hours of 1-3am our bodies are working to rebalance our feelings of fear, anger, frustration and rage, so experiencing sleep disturbances in these vital hours can also have a negative effect on our mood the following day.”
The final deep sleep phase, which takes place between the hours of 3am and 5am, releases toxic waste from lungs, hence the reason why smokers tend to cough in the morning. This phase is also vital in alleviating feelings of grief and sadness.
Dr Nerina added: “Those suffering with depression typically wake in the early hours and miss their 3-5am sleep, which is vital for rebalancing sadness and grief.
“Sleep is vital for healing the body on every level, not just physical. 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, and I put a lot of emphasis on helping patients to restore healthy sleep patterns – good sleep heals the mind, body and spirit.”
What our sleep study with the University of Leeds revealed
As part of wider research into the health benefits of sleep, Silentnight has also worked with the University of Leeds, and interestingly, researcher Dr Anna Weighall believes there is a strong ‘bi-directional relationship’ between getting a good night’s sleep and positive mental health.
Discussing the research, Dr Anna said: “In terms of the nation’s sleep debt we could argue that there is a strong relationship between getting a good night’s sleep and positive mental health. There is no doubt that continued sleep loss has a negative impact on mental health.
“One of our observations is that there could be a link between sleepless nights and the rise in mental health, as areas where we see a drop in the number of hours people sleep are more inclined to have a higher amount of mental health problems.
“Mental ill health can have a negative impact on sleep, and likewise, poor sleep patterns can make mental health issues worse.”
A lack of sleep lowers the threshold at which we will experience an event as stressful, and so 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 can be compromised – and this is when we need those precious six to eight hours the most, according to Dr Anna.
Are you kickstarting your healthy sleep routine this World Health Day? Let us know on our social pages.