Think about a night when you got a great sleep.
We’re talking the full eight hours here, a truly restful and invigorating night of repose. How did you feel in the morning when you woke up?
And what about a night when you didn’t manage to catch those zzz’s? Maybe you woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to bed, or maybe you spent hours tossing and turning between the sheets before you finally slipped into dreams. How did you feel the following morning? We’re going to hazard a guess that the answer is not great. Maybe you were irritable, sluggish and moody. And maybe you felt that cloud of bad humour dogging you all day.
There’s a simple reason for this. Sleep, and by that we mean the right amount of sleep each night, is one of the biggest factors in determining our mood and mental wellness.
Studies have proven that even a small amount of sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on your mood. Just a few hours, as research from the University of Pennsylvania found, of sleep loss made the participants in this study feel more frustrated, anxious and stressed than before. If you continue to lose sleep, this will only get worse. It’s a sliding scale: the less sleep you have, the worse your mood will be, and the worse your mood will be, the harder it will be to get to sleep.
There is some good news though, if you immediately rectify that sleep loss, you’ll see a result straight away. As soon as you start getting a proper night’s sleep your mood will improve. This can happen as fast as the morning after your first night of good sleep after a few days of restless nights. Think about how good that first sleep is after a busy weekend. Heaven, right?
As with most things sleep-related, it comes down to the fact that sleep is a time when your brain processes, regenerates and gears up for another day. It’s a chance for your mind and body to work through the day’s experiences and move forward. It stands to reason that if you have a poor night’s sleep, you are impeding significantly upon your brain’s ability to set itself up for the next day.
If you have a bad night’s sleep your brain isn’t able to make connections between all its disparate parts via neurotransmitters. That means that certain structures like the amygdala, of the part of the brain that processes emotions like anger, isn’t going to have as strong of a connection to the other parts of the brain that regulate, process and break down those emotions. Is it any wonder, then, that the day after a bad night’s sleep you might turn red at the smallest thing, or experience huge, uncharacteristic feelings of anger? If you’re tired, your brain isn’t working as well as it should.
So what can you do about it?
The first thing you can do is get the recommended amount of sleep each night. That’s between seven and eight hours for most women, but it can vary. If you’re not sure how much sleep you really need, try this handy little hack. Set your alarm for a full seven hours of sleep and see how you feel in the morning when you wake up for about a week. If you’re not feeling rested enough, increase the alarm by fifteen minutes until you reach the sweet spot that leads you to leap out of the bed in the morning, reinvigorated and refreshed.
The key thing, though, is to make sure that you’re not going to bed in a bad mood. The vicious cycle of sleep and moods is such that not only does poor sleep cause bad moods, but bad moods causes poor sleep. Great.
If you’re stressed, angry of upset, your brain will elevate certain neurotransmitters, all of which will stop you from relaxing in bed and the chances of you getting a good night’s rest are pretty dire.
So, if you can sense that your mood isn’t as calm as it should be, try a few little techniques for relaxation. A deep breathing exercise, which can be done as you lie in bed, will help with anxieties and stress. If you’re someone who loves meditation, it’s a great trick to do before bed. Even something as simple as reading a few chapters from a book, drinking a mug of soothing peppermint or chamomile tea, or a warm shower, will all help restore your mental wellbeing in the short term.
That way you can get into bed with a calm mind ready to nod off. Trust us, your mood will thank us the next day.
If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, your first port of call should be your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.