The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep. E. Joseph Cossman
If you haven’t picked up this book yet, do it. It’s a fascinating read. (Just don’t try to read it before going to sleep.)
Now, we don’t really need a neuroscientist to tell us what we already know by experience: sleep deprivation messes with our emotions. Just think of the meltdowns your children (and maybe you) have had, and the go-to solution that was probably passed down to you through umpteen generations: “Somebody give that kid a nap.”
But the research studies Walker cites in his book reveal a disturbingly long list of sleep-related issues.
In children and adolescents, sleep disturbance is linked to behavioral problems, bullying, aggression, and suicide.
In adults, disrupted sleep patterns are found in depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. In fact,
There are NO psychiatric conditions in which sleep remains normal.
Science simply provides a more detailed picture of what’s happening behind it all. Sleep deprivation acts like a lead foot on the brain’s emotional “gas pedal.” This ramps up feelings of irritability, impulsivity and anxiety. At the same time, it hampers the brain’s emotional “brake” that usually checks unhelpful and unhealthy feelings.
This brain imbalance is a common part of mood disorders like depression and anxiety. As Walker points out, it probably points to a two-way relationship between sleep and mood. Our mood can certainly affect our sleep, but brain imaging studies would suggest that sleep can also affect our mood.
If that’s the case, then one important way to improve our mood and make sure we can effectively with workplace stress is to make sure we get enough sleep.
How to get a great night’s sleep
There are 3 parts to healthy sleep: amount, regularity, and quality.
In terms of amount, seven to eight hours is thought best for most of us.
Sleep regularity means that we go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same times every day, including weekends. (I know. I like sleeping in on weekends, too.) This helps regulate our biological clocks and produce those all-important mood chemicals in the brain.
You’ve probably heard that changing work shifts – morning to night or night to morning – can be particularly hard on your mind and body. The drastic effect this has on the biological clock explains why. If you must do this, try to ease into the change gradually, shifting one hour at a time.
In terms of quality, here are some tips from Matthew Walker:
Do's and Don'ts of Quality Sleep
The following tips come from Matthew Walker's book How We Sleep: