Sleep and (Mental) Health2024-02-12

I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?

Ernest Hemingway

Sleep is the ultimate regenerative medicine, for body and mind. The body rests. Cells in general, and neurons in particular, discard waste product and recharge with what is needed for proper activities. Repairs are made, and new connections are reinforced, particularly during REM sleep.

Sleep is also a vulnerable state of loss of consciousness, so it is disrupted when individuals are afraid, such as in anxiety disorders, PTSD, paranoid schizophrenia. Sleep is also disrupted when individuals have bursts of excessive energy and activity, such as in mania. Conversely, oversleep occurs in depression. Circadian clock genes, which underlie sleep-wake cycles, are among the genes and biomarkers we and others have identified as involved in psychiatric disorders in general, and mood disorders in particular.

As such, sleep is an objective vital sign for health in general, and mental health in particular. Keeping track of the quantity and quality of sleep with wrist trackers, understanding what life activities and environmental events affect it with journaling and apps, and taking proactive sleep hygiene measures can all have a great impact on health and well-being.