All's Well When You Sleep Well
Sleep can be a difficult and elusive dream for many, considering the normal daily stressors we all endure with our busy schedules. This is compounded by screened devices that keep us constantly stimulated and distracted and the constant notifications that buzz on our mobiles at all hours of the day. These issues are exacerbated depending on your occupation, shift work, living in a busy urban center or if you have children that naturally deviate your sleep cues. Obtaining good sleep is complicated and the ability to simply laydown and drift into your subconscious realm of peaceful repose, is getting progressively more difficult. This discussion will deliberate on the functions of sleep, the mental health effects of diminished or ineffective sleep, other health detriments and treatment options and strategies.
Why Do We Need Sleep?
Sleep is a biologically imperative activity that is conserved across the animal kingdom. Sleep is a coordinated and controlled activity required for proper brain and cognitive functioning. It helps to consolidate memories, to maintain and prune brain synapses to enhance and improve cognitive functioning and to clear brain waste products by specialized cells that reside there. Sleep is also essential to regulate metabolism and energy conservation, to enhance and regulate immune responses, disease and regulation of psychological functions. Sleep is not a stagnant state, and there is a lot of activities that transpire during sleep. Sleep is characterized by 4 stages, that transition during a given period of time and each is identified depending on eye movement (REM sleep vs. non-REM sleep), body movement, breathing rates and brain wave patterns, with each stage having its own biological purpose. If you would like to learn more about these stages check out this journal article! (Medic, Wille, & Hemels, 2017) & (Zielinski, McKenna, & McCarley, 2016).
Not only is lemon balm tea a great way to get great sleep, lemon balm is the herb to treat anxiety and depression. Not only does it balance your stress responses, it can support a strong fight-or-flight response long-term providing the body with the resources to respond to perceived dangers.
What are the Mental and Neurological Effects of Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation whether it be a clinical diagnosis of insomnia, narcolepsy, or a subclinical and subjective loss of sleep, the effects can be very detrimental and can adversely impact one’s ability to function normally. Sleep deprivation can negatively impact the ability to learn, to retain and consolidate memories, and to maintain optimal cognitive functioning. It also negatively impacts the ability to reason and function properly, and there are many automobile accidents, annually, that can be attributed to sleep deficiencies. Finally, sleep insufficiency can also cause an increase in psychological stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms (Medic, Wille, & Hemels, 2017).
Other Health Effects?
Sleep deprivation can have far reaching, negative physiological effects. Sleep disruption, especially prolonged bouts, can increase physiological stress and stress hormone release. This can decrease immunity and can cause vasoconstriction, inflammation and be prothrombotic, all factors which can predispose one to cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Sleep deprivation also deranges the so called circadian or sleep/wake cycles and cause weight gain attributed to the stress hormone release, the disruption of normal eating patterns and imbalances of satiety hormones (Medic, Wille, & Hemels, 2017) & (Zielinski, McKenna, & McCarley, 2016).
For non or subclinical sleep loss, behavioral or lifestyle changes may be enough to circumvent these issues, such as:
- Avoiding alcohol or caffeine in the evening,
- Setting an earlier bedtime,
- Avoiding TV or mobile devices in the bedroom,
- Working out earlier in the day,
- Taking a relaxing bath,
- Drinking a decaffeinated tea or one formulated for sleep and relaxation,
- Meditation or reading a book before bed may provide relaxation in preparation for sleep.
Purchasing over the counter herbs like valerian root, lemon balm, lavender or a hormone that your body naturally produces, melatonin, may also remedy this issue (2020). If these strategies do not prove fruitful, an appointment to your GP might be merited as further study and perhaps prescribed sedatives or hypnotics might be warranted. Sleep well my friends!
Medic, G., Wille, M., & Hemels, M. (2017). Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep, Volume 9, 151–161. doi: 10.2147/nss.s134864
Natural Sleep Aids: Home Remedies to Help You Sleep. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/natural-sleep-aids-home-remedies-to-help-you-sleep
Zielinski, M. R., McKenna, J. T., & McCarley, R. W. (2016). Functions and Mechanisms of Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5390528/