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We have all been there - sacrificing our sleep to catch up with friends or to catch up with work. But, did you know that not getting enough sleep could actually be having a negative impact on your mental wellbeing? Chloe Ward, TMS Technician at mental health clinic, Smart TMS, would be delighted break down exactly what effect those sleepless nights are having on your wellbeing, and gives her tips on how to get a proper nights sleep.

What are the implications of having too little sleep on your brain? 

After a sleepless night, your brain will almost feel as though it is fogged over. This will make it difficult to concentrate and focus, therefore, your creativity and problem-solving skills will not be up to par when you do not get enough rest.

On top of this, not getting enough sleep can also cause memory problems. Whilst you sleep, your brain is forming connections, helping you process and remember new information. Therefore, a lack of sleep can negatively impact both short and long-term memory.

There have been studies across the world, which have tested the effects of sleep deprivation on animals such as mice, as well as research conducted on humans. Both have found that lack of sleep over a long period of time can cause damage to cells within the brain. Cognitive processes, such as reasoning and alertness, can be affected if you are not getting enough sleep. This, in turn, can affect an individual’s ability to learn and process new information efficiently.

What are the effects of too little sleep on your mood – long and short-term? How can it affect your mental health?

If you are not getting enough sleep your mood can become affected in many ways, some people may experience fatigue, a shorter temper and a lack of focus. Whilst an occasional sleepless night can leave you feeling tired and irritable the next day, it will not affect your health. However, after several nights with little to no sleep, the effects on your mental health become more pronounced and you may begin to feel down, or even fall asleep during the day - this could be especially dangerous as it increases the risk of injuries and accidents at home, work or even on the road.

Regarding your mental health, sleepless nights and chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to long-term mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Studies carried out on those with anxiety and depression found that some were sleeping for less than six hours a night. The most common sleeping disorder, insomnia, has the strongest link to depression. 

In 2007, a study of 10,000 people found that those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression. Moreover, insomnia is often one of the first symptoms of depression. Insomnia and depression feed on each other, sleep loss often aggravates the symptoms of depression and depression can make it more difficult to sleep.

How much sleep do you need to be getting to regulate your moods and improve your wellbeing?

Most of us need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly, but some may need more or others may need less. What matters is that you find out how much sleep you need and then try to achieve it each and every night.

As a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a chance to have a nap, it is likely you are not getting enough sleep. Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. While you sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance and your brain forges new connections and helps memory retention.

If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. A review of 16 studies found that sleeping for less than 6 to 8 hours a night increases the risk of early death by about 12 percent!

Is the quality of sleep important too?

It is indeed - the amount of sleep you are getting is important but the quality of sleep you are getting is also very important; and while stimulants, like caffeine, may perk you up they aren’t enough to override your body’s profound need for sleep.

The quality of sleep is affected by what happens in your daily routine, for example; exercising in the day can help you rest better and get a better night’s sleep - particularly if it is completed at least three hours before bed. Ensuring you have a good sleep environment and not napping late in the day can also improve your quality of sleep. 

Your quality of sleep will be affected by your sleep schedule so sticking to the same routine of specific sleep and waking up times, even on weekends, can help to regulate your body clock and can improve the quality of sleep. Winding down and clearing your head before sleep will put your mind will be at ease which will also improve its quality.

How to catch up on lost sleep

If you have not been getting enough sleep, there is only one way to compensate – sleep more! It will not happen with a single early night; recovery could take up to several weeks.

Start on a weekend and try to add an extra hour or two of sleep per night - this is a good place to start.

The way to do this is to go to bed when you are tired and allow your body clock to wake you up in the morning. You should expect to sleep for a long amount of time to start off with but after a while, the amount of time you sleep will gradually decrease to a normal level.

Tips to ensure you will have a better night’s sleep.

- Avoid tea and coffee and don’t drink a lot of alcohol before bed.

- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

- Your bed should be associated with sleep, keep your laptop and any work firmly away!

- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine that allows you to unwind and sends a signal that it is time to sleep.

- If you can’t sleep don’t worry about it, get up and do something relaxing like listening to music or reading until you feel sleepy.

Chloe Ward, TMS Technician for Smart TMS, the UK’s leading mental health clinic specialising in transcranial magnetic stimulation.


How Lack Of Sleep Can Affect Your Mental Health
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