A good night’s sleep does wonders for your mood and energy, but did you know it also plays a crucial role in your overall well-being?

If you’re like me, sleep is not only a bodily function we are required to do every night, but rather something to look forward to at the end of a long day. The act of getting under warm covers and snuggling my favourite pillow is a comfort unmatched by anything else.

On the contrary, there are those who stay up all night, and are what some would call “night owls”. You may know a person who brags that they only sleep a few hours a night and are still super productive the next day.

Whether you love sleep or think only a few hours of shut-eye a night is necessary, sleeping an appropriate amount every night is important for your mental and physical health. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults recommends 7-9 hours of sleep a night for adults 18-64, and 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night for adults 65 and older.

How Sleep Can Affect Your Mental Health

Throughout the day, your brain is processing different information such as events, emotions, and different sensations, and then passes this information along to the rest of your body so it can react — that’s a lot of work!

This information is transferred chemically through sites called synapses. After a day of hard work, these synapses can become overloaded and tired, which may leave you feeling what some may describe as mentally drained.

A good night’s sleep will restore and refresh these connection sites so you are able to successfully do it all again the next day. A lack of sleep has also been tied to mental health disorders and their severity, including the risk of suicidal ideas or behaviours.

What About Over-sleeping?

So, sleep helps to restore the brain and it’s processes, which means that we should get as much sleep as we can, right?

Well, just as not sleeping enough can be harmful, over-sleeping also holds some consequences. In a study conducted by Kronholm et al, longer sleep was proven to be associated with decreased cognitive function.

Additionally, in a study by Benito-León et al, conclusions showed that prolonged sleep duration, including both night-time sleep and daytime napping, may be associated with an increased risk of dementia.

Over-sleeping is also often associated with depression. Note that this does not mean that over-sleeping causes depression, rather it is a symptom of depression and can actually worsen depression symptoms.

How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep:

Sleep is important for our physical and mental well-being, but sometimes getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done as you may spend more time tossing and turning than actually getting rest. Here are just a few tips to help you get a better night’s sleep:

  • Reduce screen time in the evening: Night time light exposure can trick the brain into thinking it is still daytime, which can reduce hormones such as melatonin. Try to stay away from TV and electronics for a couple of hours before bed time.
  • Reduce long daytime naps: Although short naps can be beneficial, taking long naps during the day can actually be harmful to your nighttime routine. If you are tired during the day, try to keep your naps around 30 minutes long.
  • Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule: Studies have highlighted that irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin. Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day can aid in long-term sleep quality.

 

Blog post by Bianca Biasini, Volunteer.