Sleep Helps Control Stress
Sleep and Stress HormonesCortisol, a key stress hormone, is hypersensitive to sleep loss. Even if we miss a few hours of sleep one night, our natural stress response is affected, and our cortisol levels are higher than usual the next day. READ MORE
In one study, three different groups on different sleep schedules demonstrated the importance of adequate sleep to regulating stress hormones. During a 32-hour period, one group followed its normal sleep schedule, one slept for four hours and the third did not sleep at all. The normal sleep group showed a regular pattern of cortisol levels during the study. But both groups that lost sleep had higher levels of cortisol the next day. Those allowed to sleep for just 4 hours had 37% rise in cortisol levels in their blood. The sleep deprived had a 45% increase. LESS
Handling Stressful EventsCould sleep help people cope better with stressful memories? Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley conducted an 18-month study to find out. They showed images chosen to invoke an extreme emotional response to 35 young adult subjects. After seeing the images one group was allowed to sleep, the other stayed awake. Then, 12 hours after the first showing, all participants viewed the images again. Researchers tracked activity in each subject's amygdala, the part of the brain that guides emotional reactions. Those who had a chance to sleep had a less intense emotional response the second time around, while those who hadn't slept still had an extremely negative reaction. Over 18 months, these results were consistent. Researchers hypothesize that the phase of sleep in which we process other emotional phenomena—REM sleep—may also help us to process and “file away” our stress-inducing memories.
Sleepy and MoodyREAD MORE
But sleep is a factor in many serious mood disorders, as well. Sleep loss is often the first sign of depression. A study of 10,000 adults found that those with insomnia were 5 times more likely to develop depression and 20 times more likely to develop a panic disorder than those who had an easier time sleeping. Whether the mood irregularity is causing insomnia, or sleep loss is causing the mood issue is still not clear to sleep scientists. In very serious cases of insomnia that seems to be paired with depression, some doctors prescribe antidepressants and find that they alleviate both problems. LESS