There are various studies and a multitude of research that support the importance of getting enough sleep and rest. Sleep and mental health are so closely intertwined and complex that it can be hard to know for sure which disorder came first. In addition to the troubling effects poor sleep has on our emotional and mental health, insomnia has a major impact on our brain’s health too. Last month, CNN reported on a study that showed just how significant lack of sleep is in our brain’s health and function.
A European study that spanned 3 ½ years followed 147 adults; with 35% of those fitting the criteria for poor sleep health. Researchers examined their brain’s volume at the beginning of the study and again at the end. What they found was pretty astonishing; those who struggled with adequate sleep had rapid decline in the brain’s size or volume over the course of the 3 ½ years compared to those who slept well. The research also found that sleep deprivation can cause a buildup of proteins in the brain that attack brain cells, and may even affect our weight, immune system, memory and cardiovascular health.
However, getting a good nights sleep can be much easier said than done for women suffering from mental health issues. Post-traumatic stress disorder is marked by nightmares and flashbacks that disrupt nighttime sleep and cause emotional distress. Women with bipolar disorder may find they need very little sleep during manic episodes. But though they may think they are functioning fine without sleep, the insomnia can in fact, heighten anxiety, have trouble making decisions, and increase feelings of depression.
With new studies continually being done, we are becoming more and more aware of the important role rest and rejuvenation plays in maintaining holistic health. Understating how the physical, mental and emotional affects of sleep and lack of sleep is a major component in the treatment of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, and the women at Brookhaven Retreat are urged to create a sleep routine that will support their emotional and mental wellness. Activities ranging from bathing and reading, to mindful breathing and stretching are adopted in the daily routine as a healthy way to relax, de-stress and support our emotional, mental and physical wellness.
“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good nights sleep.”- E. Joseph Cossman