Brain activity fluctuates during sleep. The different stages of sleep either quickens or slows the activity of the brain. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep brain activity picks up rapidly and NREM sleep, the activity slows down. These stages of sleep are vital to the health of our brains.
Each stage of sleep plays a roll in our brains ability to learn, process emotional information, better thinking, and memory. During sleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and it appears that a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content. This can influence mood and emotional reactivity and is tied to mental health disorders and their severity.
Lack of sleep has been linked to these specific mental health problems:
- Depression - a type of mood disorder marked by feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Many people with depression also suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness and hypersomnia, which is sleeping too much.
- Anxiety - excess fear or worry that can affect everyday life and create risks for health problems including heart disease and diabetes. Types of anxiety disorders include general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Bipolar - episodes of extreme moods that can be both high (mania) and low (depression).
- Schizophrenia - mental health disorder characterized by a difficulty in differentiating between what is and is not real.
- ADHD - neurodevelopmental disorder that involves reduced attention span and increased impulsiveness.
- Interaction of Mental Health Conditions - it is not uncommon for people to experience both depression and anxiety, and people with both conditions have been found to have worse sleep.
There are things that you can do on your own to improve your sleep hygiene. However, if your sleep or lack of sleep is a result of any of the health concerns mentioned above then you should seek professional help.