Have you ever wondered why you feel better when you wake up the next morning after a bad day or stressful incident?
Sleep’s connection with mental health is understood to an extent, but still mysterious. So much so that scientists in the U.S. have used AI designed sensors to study people’s sleep patterns and better understand its effect on our mental health.
A study from New Zealand has now found that people who slept close to 10 hours a day showed fewer depressive symptoms. It was carried out by researchers from the University of Otago.
The study, which had nearly 1,100 participants from the U.S. and New Zealand, saw that not sleeping enough (less than 8 hours) or too much (more than 12 hours) did not make people’s mental health worse, but nor did it reduce depressive symptoms unlike for those who slept for 10 hours.
The participants were chosen after an online survey in which they mentioned they woke up feeling refreshed each morning, which is an indicator of good sleep. For adults, as explained here, “good quality sleep means that you typically fall asleep in 30 minutes or less, sleep soundly through the night with no more than one awakening, and drift back to sleep within 20 minutes if you do wake up.”
Their effect is like that when you’ve consumed alcohol.
Essentially, getting 10 hours of good sleep is better than all other sleep for our mental health, because it reduces depressive symptoms.
Chennai-based clinical psychologist Swetha Sundaresan agreed with sleep’s ability to help combat stress and aid our mental health. This, according to her, happens in our brain due to a complicated battle royale of hormones that takes place when we’re sleeping. “Our muscles tend to relax when we sleep. When that happens, our body releases endorphins,” she told Re:Set. “Their effect is like that when you’ve consumed alcohol. It’s almost the same high. Our mind, in turn, tends to relax too which reduces stress.”
This is why even small naps are helpful in relaxation, which happens in the third stage of the human sleep cycle called deep sleep, Sundaresan said.
“When we’re stressed, a hormone called cortisol is released in our body. Our sleep is controlled by a hormone called melatonin, and it is needed in adequate amounts so it can keep rising cortisol levels in check,” she added.
As time comes to make our new year resolutions, maybe rather than getting abs, we should be focusing on just sleeping better and for a longer period of time.
Also read: Why You Need to Daydream At Work