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
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
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
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!