” Sleep is a natural, non-pharmaceutical remedy for anxiety disorders, which have been diagnosed in some 40 million American adults and are rising among children & teens”
As the great Shakespeare once wrote: sleep is the “balm for hurt minds”. Indeed, most of us can lay testimony to the same, as when it comes to battling our stress and anxiety, we instinctively know that deep sleep can do us a world of good, and put us in a much more positive frame of mind. In fact, cutting-edge research from the University of California, Berkeley, which was recently published in the journal, Nature Human Behaviour, shows that: “while a full night of slumber stabilizes emotions, a sleepless night can trigger up to a 30% rise in anxiety levels”. So this means that if you are already stressed out, you can score a double whammy with your very detrimental self-inflicted sleeplessness.
Without sleep, it’s almost as if the brain is too heavy on the emotional accelerator pedal, without enough brake
When some of us try to imagine enjoying a deep sleep, it can seem almost unattainable, bearing in mind all the daily stressors around us, and the wholly unnatural environment we find ourselves in. – The fast-paced 24/7 living, societal instability, the pollution, the denatured food, the continually belting out of WI-FI, and our every growing need to be co-joined with our mobiles phones, etc.
The researchers who conducted a series of experiments using polysomnography and functional MRI, in addition to other methods, have now determined that: “the type of sleep most apt to calm and reset the anxious brain is deep sleep, also known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) slow-wave sleep, a state in which [brainwaves] become highly synchronized, and heart rate and blood pressure drop” .
“Deep sleep had restored the brain’s prefrontal mechanism that regulates our emotions, lowering emotional & physiological reactivity & preventing the escalation of anxiety”
One of the study’s authors, UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience and psychology, Matthew Walker, notes: “we have identified a new function of deep sleep, one that decreases anxiety overnight by reorganizing connections in the brain. Deep sleep seems to be a natural anxiety inhibitor, so long as we get it each and every night”. – But there’s the rub, being able to have it every night, and in the case of some people, being able to get it at all…
Eti Ben Simon, a UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Human Sleep Science, remarked: “People with anxiety disorders routinely report having disturbed sleep, but rarely is sleep improvement considered as a clinical recommendation for lowering anxiety. Our study not only establishes a causal connection between sleep and anxiety, but it identifies the kind of deep NREM sleep we need to calm the overanxious brain”.