How does poor sleep affect your mood?
If you’ll remember back to my blog, ‘Is a good night’s sleep the key to happiness?’ you’ll already be familiar with how sleep can positively impact your quality of life, even beating out financial security and socialising! However, just as good sleep can influence your life for the better, poor sleep can have the opposite reaction.
This is in part to do with how sleep affects your brain, particularly the amygdala, the part of your brain which regulates your emotions. Studies have shown that a poor night’s sleep can cause the amygdala to become much more active, making you more likely to respond to negative emotional stimuli.1
Recent research certainly seems to support this theory, with scientists noticing a distinct link between fixating on negative thoughts and poor sleep quality.2 The University of Pennsylvania also found that just 4.5 hours of sleep a night increased signs of stress, sadness and anger3 – a bit worrying when you consider that, according to the Sleep Council, the number of people sleeping less than 5 hours a night has risen to 12% of the population!4
Then you also have to consider the impact that sleep can have on your hippocampus – I go into a bit more detail about this in my blog ‘What happens to your memories while you sleep?,’ but simply put, the hippocampus is the area of your brain that helps to store new memories. If you’re not getting enough sleep, the hippocampus will struggle to consolidate new memories, impacting your short-term memory.
Add this to the fact that sleep deprivation has been associated with less activity in your frontal and parietal lobes (responsible for decision-making and problem-solving) it’s no wonder you’re feeling a bit more vulnerable to negative emotions and low moods!
Can your mood affect your sleep patterns?
Sleep deprivation can take a noticeable toll on your mood, as I’ve discussed, but can your mood go on to impact your sleep quality? The answer is definitely a resounding yes. If you’re more prone to negative emotions, you’re going to be more vulnerable to stress, which, in turn, can have a big influence on your sleep, making it difficult for you to nod off and interrupting your sleep.
Stress is all very well and good but what if you simply feel a bit low? The findings are a bit mixed - there’s considered to be a strong connection between insomnia and depression, insomnia often occurs as a symptom of depression and insomnia patients are usually thought to be more vulnerable to the mental illness.5
Other mood disorders, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are also linked to sleep problems. Sufferers of low moods also frequently feel exhausted and tired, with many being unwilling to leave their bed or engage in more proactive activities.
5 natural ways to boost your mood
It’s important to note that having a sleep disorder in no way means you’ll also suffer from a mental health illness and, if you are suffering from a serious condition like depression, you will need to speak to your doctor or GP about further treatment. However, if you have been a bit sleep deprived recently and noticed a correlation with your mood, don’t worry!
Help is at hand and there are plenty of natural ways you can go about boosting your mood and enhancing your sleep patterns as I discuss below!
1 – Breathe deeply
Practicing natural relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and mindful stretching can really go a long way towards boosting your mood and lowering your stress levels. Studies have found that meditation techniques such as mindfulness can lower your production of cortisol, a stress hormone that can inhibit your production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.6
The good news is, it’s never been easier to practice mindfulness or deep breathing. You can find out more about the latter in my colleague Gillian’s blog, ‘Breathing tips to relieve stress’, or you can now download free mindfulness apps like Headspace and Calm, which provide quick but effective introductions to basic meditation techniques!
2 – Drink plenty of fluids
Unsurprisingly, even mild cases of dehydration can affect your mood, making you more prone to fatigue and less able to concentrate.7Not to mention, not drinking enough plain water can also influence your sleep patterns, irritating your mouth and nasal passages and can even cause nocturnal leg cramps!8
The problem isn’t that we’re not drinking enough liquids, just that we’re not drinking the right liquid, namely good old fashioned plain water. So many of us would rather trade in a glass of water for a cup of coffee, a can of fizzy cola or fresh fruit juice which inevitably takes its toll as none of these properly hydrate you.
My advice would be to try and find new ways to make getting your 1.5-2L of water a day a bit more interesting. Infuser bottles are one of my favourite ways and are ideal if you don’t particularly like the taste of plain water. It’s also important to remember to spread out your water intake – don’t go gulping down a pint glass of water before bed and then complain about having to visit the bathroom during the night!
3 – Get some fresh air
Getting out and about in the fresh air can go a long way towards bolstering your mood and improving your sleep patterns, particularly if you suffer from SAD. Exposing yourself to more sunlight can help to regulate your biological clock whilst increasing your intake of vitamin D, which can help to support your mood as well as your immune system!
It’s also thought that spending some time outdoors can boost your concentration and provides you with the chance to get some exercise. As I discuss in my blog ‘Do you sleep better when you exercise?’ being outside can stimulate the release of endorphins and leave you feeling happier and healthier!
4 – Boost your intake of magnesium
There are a number of nutrients that can influence your quality of sleep and your mood. Magnesium, for example, is thought to responsible for over 300 chemical reactions in your body. One of these reactions includes converting tryptophan, an amino acid, into the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can help to convey positive sensations, helping you to feel satisfied and relaxed as well as positively influencing your sleep cycles.
However, unfortunately, low levels of magnesium are very common which is why I’d recommend looking at your diet. Magnesium is usually found in dark leafy vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and fruits such as bananas and figs so why not try to incorporate more of these foods into your diet? If you really are struggling, though, you could try a magnesium supplement.
5 – Try herbal remedies
If you are finding it difficult to cope with your mood, you could try a gentle herbal remedy. Providing you’re not on any existing medication that affects your mood, if you’re feeling stressed you could try our AvenaCalm remedy. Made using the green leafy portion of the oat plant, it can help to soothe your nervous symptoms, reducing signs of stress and anxiety, enabling you to cope better when you’re under pressure.
However, if you’re feeling low, you could try our Hyperiforce St John’s Wort tablets.
This herb has a long history when it comes to the nervous system and can help with feelings of low mood if you’re prone to anxiety and feel on edge. Just make sure you read the product information leaflet and don’t take with any medication that may alter or affect your mood, including other herbal remedies like AvenaCalm!