Sleep and Mental Health

 Many of us are probably familiar with the expression “…woke up from the wrong side of the bed”.

Typically, having a bad day is believed to be related to the “sleep experience” of the previous night. The last thing we wish ourselves daily is “goodnight” while every day begins with a chat about how the night was (most of the time with respect to sleep in this part of the world). These show us how much we reckon with our sleep even in social considerations.

After an overnight restful sleep, the individual wakes up focused, calm and energetic. The body internal organs are in a stable state of readiness to take on the day’s challenge.

Without a good night’s sleep, the individual wakes up feeling weak, restless, irritable, edgy (sometimes angry) with poor concentration and memory problems. Some other persons complain of heat in their body or other unusual sensations.

One part of the story is that mental illness could disrupt an individual’s sleep pattern. The other side is that disruptions in sleep characteristics could affect mental health and well being.

For instance, health professionals and other professionals who run shifts (Night and Morning) have to deliberately disrupt their normal sleep cycle due to the nature of their jobs. The usual thing is for the individual to be given time “off duty” to allow the body to reset its biological clock and also recuperate. Otherwise, there might be a body system failure.

A lot of professionals don’t spend this time to sleep and have the needed rest. They simply spend their time off duty in the pursuit of other goals. This could have adverse effects on the wellbeing. An individual who fails to have adequate restful sleep will eventually suffer ill health (mental and/or physical).

In the field of mental health, not getting enough sleep is a very common complaint. Feelings of not haven rested is also very frequent. Clinically, we try to distinguish between the quality and quantity of sleep.

Quantity is in terms of how long (duration) the sleep lasts while quality is described as how satisfying or refreshing the sleep has been in terms of how much rest the sleep has helped us to achieve. Health professionals will normally ask about both characteristics of sleep. We know that the quality or the quantity of sleep could differ across individuals due to differences in genes, age, sleep environment, diet, drug use, physical illness, mental illness and lifestyle. Hence, we always bear these in mind when probing into the underlying cause of an individual’s sleep difficulty.

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Ola Ibigbami


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