Do you find yourself irritable on days when you get too little sleep? Do you think you could change how you act if you know that your irritability is likely due to sleep deprivation? Around 45% of Americans say they have been affected by poor or insufficient sleep in the previous seven days, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health Index. Numerous studies have pointed to the importance of good sleep. Failing to catch enough zzzs or to enjoy enough quality rest time can affect the learning and memory, weight, mood, and cardiovascular health. A new study has shown that sleeping too little can also make people unsociable.
What Are the Emotional Effects of Lack of Sleep?
Your emotions are regulated in the brain — most notably, by the amygdala. When you are sleep deprived, the amygdala goes into overdrive. It produces more intense emotional reactions to difficult situations. Ultimately, sleep deprivation can make it harder for the brain to keep the amygdala in check. This can increase your likelihood of feeling more difficult emotions. But you may also have a more negative outlook toward even positive and neutral situations, as suggested by a 2020 study.
Poor Sleep and Social Rejection
The above-mentioned study, undertaken by scientists at the University of California – Berkeley, found that the brains of students who lacked sufficient sleep showed heightened activity in the areas that perceive human threats, and a shutdown in areas that encourage social interaction. Moreover, participants shown videos of sleep deprived people felt more alienated, suggesting that antisocial sentiment is contagious. The researchers noted that it is no coincidence that the past few decades have seen a rise in loneliness and an equally large rise in sleep duration. Without sufficient rest we become a social turn-off, and loneliness soon kicks in, noted one researcher.
How Sleep Affects Mood
Sleep can affect our social lives in many more ways than the above. One fascinating study at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology found that chronic sleep deprivation in teens produces social jetlag, increasing the risk of depression and addiction in teens. Even a short period of sleep deprivation affects the putamen: the part of the brain that plays an important role in goal-based activity and learning from rewards. In the study, the putamen of those who were sleep deprived became less responsive to rewards. Moreover, after just one night of restricted sleep, those with lower activity in the putamen also reported greater symptoms of depression. The findings are consistent with others showing that lower activity in this region is associated with depression.
Chronic sleepiness puts you at greater risk for depression. They are so closely linked that sleep specialists aren’t always sure which came first in their patients. “Sleep and mood affect each other,” says Avelino Verceles, MD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the school’s sleep medicine fellowship. “It’s not uncommon for people who don’t get enough sleep to be depressed or for people who are depressed to not sleep well enough.”
In Pursuit of Sleep Hygiene
Getting a better nights sleep necessitates specific lifestyle changes for some people. Doctors recommend the adoption of a strict bedtime routine; this may involve having a shower, meditating, or reading just before bed, and restricting gadget use and caffeine to earlier in the day. Ambience is also key; bedrooms should be quiet and blackout curtains should ideally be fitted to ensure complete darkness. Mattresses should possess the right firmness and quality, which is why it is recommended that people not only test mattresses but also receive the help of advisors. For instance, the firmness of your mattress will depend on your sleeping position, weight, and other factors. Finally, your room should be cool and be located far enough from common areas so that noise isn’t a problem.
Herbs and Essential Oils for Better Sleep
Essential oils found to promote a sense of calm (such as lavender or orange) can be diffused through a room at bedtime. Herbs which are commonly taken to enhance sleepiness include Valerian, Passionflower Passiflora Incarnata, California Poppy, and Humulus Lupulus. Some are taken in capsule form, while others are enjoyed in tea. Make your own herb pillow by filling small cushions with relaxing herbs and popping them in your pillow. Add a few drops of essential oils for stress relief.
Meditation and controlled breathing can help bring down stress hormone levels naturally. Progressive muscle relaxation is another exercise that is often recommended at bedtime. Simply tense up and release all the muscles in your body, starting with your toes and ending with your face.
Resting is vital for so many physiological processes, but it also helps keep us in the right mood for socializing. Try to ensure you get enough hours of quality sleep by taking time to make your bedroom quiet, dark, and appealing. Finally, find additional support in the form of natural supplements and exercises that ease the mind and spirit as well as the body.
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