It is easy to see the chaos caused by the lack of a good night’s sleep in a toddler. Without enough sleep, a young child can be irritable, cranky, loud, and unreasonable. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same for all of us. Adults become irritable and unreasonable without plenty of sleep, too, although we are perhaps a bit less obvious in showing the symptoms of sleep deprivation than our children. Even if we try to soldier on and believe we can live our lives unaffected by too little sleep, the deficit affects our ability to handle what life throws our way.
Quality of sleep is a common factor in determining a person’s mental health, and fortunately, it is something that we can manipulate, in a world full of the uncontrollable. Take a seat, and get comfortable, because we are going to dive right into the relationship between sleep and mental health and hopefully convince you to take proper sleep a priority tonight, and every night.
Brain and Body Health
When we sleep, our brains clean out toxins that otherwise will slow down our ability to think. That same lack of sleep impacts the part of the brain, called the amygdala, that runs our emotions. The amygdala is the emotional, reactive part of our brain. It needs to be tempered by the prefrontal cortex or else chaos prevails and we become more emotional, more easily angered, and more prone to depression. If that lack of sleep builds up, it can lead to mental health issues. Bottom line, the brain needs sleep to function and to be healthy.
Getting enough sleep is as important to our bodies as getting enough oxygen to breathe. During sleep, our brains cycle between a deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Both are essential for our mental and physical health. The deep sleep repairs not only our brains but our bodies as well. Our immune system is boosted, too, which helps us to stay healthy. The REM sleep processes our emotions and enhances our memories, both of which help make our waking hours more cogent and creative.