Quality sleep, which means getting enough of it and staying asleep for an uninterrupted period of time, is as essential to your health as food and water. While getting the proper amount and quality of sleep is so important to your body’s physical health, it is also crucial for your mental health as well. The reason why has to do with your sleep cycle. You see, spending enough time in the REM stage of sleep allows your body to regulate your emotions better.
First, what is REM?
There are two basic types of sleep: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep (which has three different stages, including Deep Sleep). Each stage is linked to specific brain waves and brain activity. REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep, and occurs around four or five times during the night. It is characterized by low muscle tone, rapid eye movements, and vivid dreams. Your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids, so someone watching you would actually be able to tell you’re in REM.
How Your Emotions are Affected
To understand how the REM cycle of sleep affects your emotions, you first need to understand a little about how our brains work. The amygdala is a part of our brain that is known to be involved in the processing of emotions, particularly negative emotions like fear, anxiety, and stress. In an interesting study published recently in Current Biology, the authors point out that REM sleep is associated with a massive reduction in noradrenergic tone in the forebrain centers, including the amygdala. Essentially, what this study says is that your brain is “washed clean” during REM. They presented evidence consistent with the idea that one of the REM cycle’s functions is to aid in emotional regulation. They found that nearly all participants with mood disorders displayed sleep disorders as well.
In fact, just one night of sleeplessness changes your ability to regulate emotions and set aside the mental resources necessary for objective cognitive processing. This objective cognitive processing is what allows you to focus at work, make safe decisions when driving, and calmly understand what your partner is telling you in an argument. In another study, University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only four and a half hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects were told to resume normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood and were able to better function in their daily lives.
There’s a lot of science here that may be difficult to understand, so let’s break it down a little easier. Sleep and mood are closely connected! Poor or inadequate sleep will cause irritability and stress, often after just one night. It is understandable then that chronic insomnia increases the risk of developing a serious mood disorder, such as anxiety or depression. Studies have found that 15% to 20% of people diagnosed with insomnia will develop major depression as well. In the same study, people with insomnia were 20 times more likely to develop a panic disorder. If your body isn’t reaching REM for long enough and the proper amount of times during the night, your brain isn’t getting “washed” the way it should and the negative emotions build up. When this happens again and again, these negative emotions develop into a major problem.
A High-Quality Mattress Makes Reaching REM Easier
You probably know firsthand that sleep affects mood and don’t need a scientific study to tell you that you’re more prone to negative emotions when you are tired! Without quality sleep that regularly cycles through REM, you will find yourself more cranky, sensitive, and even volatile. This will affect your personal relationships, job, driving habits, decision making ability, and so much more.
If you think you’re waking up too often throughout the night and therefore not entering REM the way you need to, City Mattress can help! For many people, a better mattress can be a big part of the solution. While in our store, you will have the opportunity to lay on and try out several different mattresses, produced by a variety of brands, made from different materials, and all with their own unique feel. As quickly as tomorrow night, you’ll be sleeping soundly through the entire eight hours and entering REM on a regular cycle. Your emotional state will begin to improve quickly as your mind, body, and spirit finally gets the rest you need!