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Can deep sleep help with anxiety?

The relation between insufficient sleep and mental disorders has long been a source of interest for scientists. The latest research published in the journal of Nature Human Behaviour shows that experiencing anxiety can be strongly associated with frequent sleep deprivation. Furthermore, specialists suggest that deep sleep is one of the most effective natural ways to alleviate anxiety.

Problems after one sleepless night

The research team, led by a professor of neurology and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, decided to look a little more closely at how sleep affects the type and strength of emotions felt. 18 different people took part in the experiment and the study scheme was as follows – on the first night, the subjects did not sleep at all. Then they were shown stressful and suspenseful films. After each of the films, the patients completed questionnaires assessing their condition in terms of perceived anxiety. Other thrilling movies were shown to them after a good night’s sleep. During the experiments, researchers used various methods, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or polysomnography.

After analysing scans and forms, it was shown that one sleepless night caused an average of 30% increase in anxiety! “78% of all participants after a sleepless night reported an increase in anxiety levels, confirming the strong impact of sleep loss on its escalation in healthy people”, wrote the study authors. “What’s more, half of the sleep-deprived participants actually exceeded their anxiety levels, which serve as the primary threshold for finding clinical signs of anxiety disorder – and only one sleepless night was enough.”

Impaired regulation of emotions

After looking more closely at the MRI scans of sleepy brains, the researchers noted something else – increased reactivity in the amygdala, which controls our ‘fight or flight’ response. Brain cortex was also stimulated, which is activated by tasks with a large and negative emotional charge. Interestingly, activity in the areas responsible for regulating emotions was significantly reduced.

“We’ve identified a new deep sleep function that reduces anxiety day by day by reorganizing certain connections in the brain. Deep sleep seems like a natural anxiolytic medicine – an anxiety inhibitor if we take it every night”, commented Matthew Walker, the study’s initiator.

However, these are not the only disorders that can occur with sleep deprivation. The work of Dr Walker shows that sleep dysfunctions affect the development of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, obesity and many more. But that’s not all! Not getting enough sleep:

– reduces the brain’s ability to remember and create new memories by as much as 40%
– negatively affects areas of the brain responsible for psycho-emotional regulations that become irrational and overactive

– causes increased mood swings due to increased activity of the amygdala (up to 60%!).

A simple recipe for mental health

To enjoy deep, and thus the most effective sleep, you should stick to a few simple rules:

– go to bed at least 40 minutes before the planned time to fall asleep – this is the time to calm down,

– don’t use electronic devices in the bedroom, try to relax with your eyes closed,

– try to make the times of getting up and falling asleep as consistent as possible every day,

– care for clean and comfortable bedding adapted to the season and climatic conditions,

– with problems falling asleep, use the weighted blanket for adults or CBD drops dissolved in water,

– before going to bed ventilate the bedroom and adjust the optimal temperature (not too cold, not too warm),

– try to plan your next day so as to enter the bedroom without stress and chaos in your head.

Good Luck!