Multiple studies show that good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining one’s mental health and cognitive functions in shape.
It used to be that sleeping was associated with weakness or attributed to being boring. How many times have you heard the sayings, “sleep is for the weak” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” Sage advice? Not really. A growing body of research is pointing to the fact that good night’s sleep is crucial for maintaining good mental health as well as peak cognitive performance.
Modern research is showing us that sleeping is more important for our physical as well as our mental wellbeing than we previously thought, and that a scarcity of sleep can be detrimental in both the short and long-term. There’s a direct link between how you feel when you’re awake and both the quality and quantity of your sleep the night before.
Why You Should Sleep
Not only does sleep feel good, it’s important for a number of different health factors. The most obvious symptom of sleep deprivation is the grogginess you feel in the morning and throughout the day, but it goes beyond that.
Physically, a lack of sleep puts you at risk of heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes and diabetes. It can also be devastating to your sex life, lowering libidos and interest in sex.
If you’re one for training at the gym, then you are also going to want to ensure you’ve put in enough hours sleeping the night before. This study, for example, found that your time to exhaustion is decreased when you train while sleep deprived, meaning you will likely be close to collapse before you finish your sets and reps.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Memory
The famous author Stephen King once said, “Memory is identity.” It’s a truism that makes one shudder in the face of memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. After all, without the formative memories that shaped your person, who are you?
Having a good memory is, therefore, vital if you’d like to think clearly, retain more information and be more productive overall. Sleep encourages our brains to remember more, solidifying memories and strengthening brain connections that allow us to transfer information effectively from one region of the brain to the other.
Without a good night’s sleep, these connections are weaker, meaning information isn’t transferred as effectively around the brain, leading to impaired memory.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Mental Illness and Cognitive Performance
Sleep deprivation is also a primary cause of a number of different mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. The reason for this has to do with the fact that those who miss out on sleep compromise their mental health because they don’t give their brain time to process and organize thoughts, the way you would defragment a hard drive.
While lying awake in bed at night, this may lead people to dwell and obsess on negative thoughts which could exacerbate certain illnesses such as anxiety. It was thought that sleeplessness was a symptom of mental illness, but only recently has it come to be seen as a potential cause.
It almost goes without saying that good night’s sleep is also linked with enhanced cognitive performance.
Think about the last time you rolled out of bed after only getting four hours of sleep and had to work the entire day. It’s a good guess that your performance was lacking, you were slower to react and you made a few mistakes. Adequate sleep is important if you want to be as cognizant as possible and mentally perform at your best.
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is the first step to improving cognitive function. The easiest way to do this is by tailoring your sleeping environment to nurture better sleep.
Since we spend a large portion of our downtime on a mattress, it’s arguably the most important tool in this regard. You’re going to want a mattress that is firm and supportive and ideally one that regulates your body temperature to ensure that you don’t overheat and wake up during the night.
You are going to want to ensure that your bedroom is used exclusively for sleeping. TVs, laptops and mobile devices should be used in a different part of the house so that your room is distraction-free when you go to bed.
Heavy curtains should be used to control the light levels and a fan or heater can be used to ensure that the room is a comfortable temperature. Both of these measures will help your body to feel relaxed and minimize the chances of you waking up during the night due to discomfort.
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