Get your sleep. Your mental health depends on it
Awaking from a good night’s sleep can help you feel energized and ready to take on the day ahead, however the benefits of a sound sleep go far beyond vitality.
What happens to your brain during sleep
A lot happens in your brain while you are sleeping. Sleep serves to reenergize the body’s cells, dispose of toxic proteins, restores information learned that day and preserves important memories.1 Sleeping plays a vital role in regulating mood and appetite and is extremely complex.
Why your brain needs sleep
Sleep deprivation affects your psychological state and your emotional well-being. Not getting the necessary amount of sleep makes you more emotionally reactive, meaning you will be more irritable to those around you. These reactions are due to the amygdala, our central control for emotions, being in overdrive. While the amygdala is working overtime, a lack of sleep also blocks communication to the prefrontal cortex, whose main job is to regulate our emotions and help reset our emotions during sleep.2
How sleep affects mental health
Without sleep, our brain cannot perform the daily tasks necessary for a healthy state of living. Other psychological effects of sleep deprivation include:
Depression. Insomnia and other sleep problems increase the risk of developing depression. A study from the Michigan health organization showed that 1,000 adults ages 21 to 30 who reported a history of insomnia were four times as likely to develop major depression within three years.3
Anxiety disorders. One in ten Canadians aged 18+ report having a mood or anxiety disorder.4 As disrupted sleep can lead to emotional changes or anxiety, these conditions can also cause a lack of sleep. Even small levels of sleep deprivation over time can cause symptoms of anxiety and alter your mood. This can lead to a snowball effect where you become concerned about the lack of sleep but also can’t sleep due to anxious feelings. If you are experiencing either of these, it’s important to speak with your doctor.
Tips for a better sleep
Try to sleep and wake at consistent times. Your body has a circadian rhythm which is a 24 hour cycle in the physiological process of all beings.5 This rhythm aligns itself with sunrise and sunset so if your sleep times are not consistent, the rhythm will be off, leading to inconsistent melatonin which signals your brain to sleep.
Reduce blue light exposure two hours before sleep. Blue light is one of the highest energy and most efficient wavelengths found everywhere from natural sunlight to electronic devices When looking at electronic devices at night, your brain is only seeing blue wavelengths leading it to think it’s daytime. This can make it difficult to fall asleep, leaving you tossing and turning.
Avoid caffeine late in the day. Found naturally in over 60 plants, caffeine can stay in your bloodstream for up to six hours.6 Early cups of coffee can jumpstart your morning but caffeine intake after 3 p.m. can keep you awake when you’re ready for bed.
Your extended benefits can help
Talk to your doctor about your options if you are having trouble sleeping. Seeking the advice of a professional therapist or social worker and openly communicating about what is keeping you from a good night’s sleep may be a helpful step towards feeling restful. Many OTIP-administered benefits plans provide coverage for various support services. To review what’s covered under your plan, log in to your OTIP secure site to review your benefits booklet or call OTIP Benefits Services at 1‑866‑783‑6847.
Government of Canada
National Sleep Foundation