Mental Health Benefits of Sleep
Sleep is a natural recurring condition of the body and brain, characterized by sleep restricted to a few hours per night, significantly reduced sensory activities, decreased muscle activity, decreased motor skill performance, decreased emotional arousal and concentration, and decreased behavioural patterns. Sleep is important for several reasons, including regulating the body’s chemical and electrical homeostasis, allowing the nervous system to regenerate and recharge itself, and allowing for the restoration of physiological balance. Sleep is also required to enable the body to recover from stress and to deal with physiological and behavioural stress that occur throughout the day. It is important to note that sleep can be disrupted by several factors, including insomnia, jet lag, and changes in environmental conditions such as light and noise.
Sleep is divided into two types: Stage I and Stage II. Each type is associated with different phases of sleep. There are four stages in every sleep cycle, and each cycle lasts approximately 80 minutes. During the first three stages of sleep the brain is in the’restorative’ stage, while at the fourth stage it is in the’arousable’ or waking state.
During the first three stages of sleep the brain is in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage. This stage of sleep allows the brain to store information and memories and to work efficiently. During this time the body is in a highly functional state, while being partially asleep. The second part of sleep is known as Stage IV and is the deepest sleep stage, where the sleeping brain is awake and responsive to stimuli. While in Stage IV the brain is more receptive to stimuli, the amount of sleep is much less than in Stage I and the REM sleep is over.
As the brain moves from Stage I to Stage II it does not increase brain activity very significantly. Because the brain is in REM sleep it is less likely to remember things or to process new information. Instead, the body goes into NREM sleep. NREM sleep is also the stage where dreams occur. As the brain moves from Stage I to Stage III, it becomes increasingly active and its ability to convert sensory inputs into behavioral and cognitive responses increases.
At the fourth stage of sleep known as Alpha, sleep can begin to be consolidated. This is the period where the brain regains the ability to convert sensory inputs into learned behaviors and memories. However, the brain must first awake so that it can make use of the previously stored information. With each passing cycle through each stage the brain activity increases and more is learned and memorized. The cycle then repeats itself a number of times before a person passes into a REM sleep phase.
Sleep is important for your mental health. When you don’t get enough sleep your brain is trying to process too much information and can become exhausted. In addition to keeping you alert, sleep helps you recharge your batteries so that you can function properly again the next day. Getting enough sleep will help your memory to come forth the next day when you recall what you heard and learned during the night. And as you sleep deeper cycles of brain activity result in more efficient decision-making and more accurate mental performance.