A study on sleep shows that rats who have less sleep have a higher level of stress hormone corticosterone, and produces less braincells in the region of the hippocampus. Another indication of the importance of getting the right amount of sleep – well in rats at least.
We constantly inform people about the importance of sleep and warn that inadequate amounts of REM sleep, either too much or too little, is related to the development of depressive feelings at one end of the spectrum and states of psychosis at the other – but when applying this knowledge to your own life, how can you be sure that you personally are managing your sleep effectively? This is an area in which no clinical study will be able to help you, as each and every person is unique, with thousands of different variables which influence the amount and quality of REM sleep you might need.
As I experience it, despite my awareness and all I have learned about the importance of REM sleep and dreaming – I still have days where I know I would feel better if I had managed my sleep with more care.
I have never been someone who relishes early mornings, and I prefer to stay up late than get up early. My sleeping pattern is thus: I go to sleep later and later during the week (normally anywhere between 12 and 2am – while waking up at 8.00am) and I mostly sleep in until 11 or so at least one day at the weekend (this is a habit left over from University!).
However, I do now notice that when I have slept and dreamt too much, even if it’s only for one night, I really feel unmotivated, miserable, listless and my head aches for the rest of the day. I now account for this and have learned to recognise when to force myself to not go back to sleep or stay in bed for a few extra hours. So many times I have kidded myself that a lie-in would be nice, and have woken up feeling awful and regretting it.
I’d go so far as to say that one day of too much REM sleep affects me more than a few nights of sleep deprivation, so personally, I monitor my sleeping to accomodate this need. I can see that low periods in my life (not depression, just natural ebs and flows) correlated with times where I wasn’t sleeping properly or getting my emotional needs met.
The one thing that cemented a healthy sleeping pattern for me was having a job and a routine – and I have definitely benefitted from and improved my life through understanding how REM sleep can affect your state of mind.
Posted by: Eleanor