The first pillar that supports our solid mental health house is sleep. A little anticlimactic, we know, but sleep is one of those parts of our life that we take for granted, at least until we start losing it! Those that have insomnia or other sleep disorders are sagely nodding their head.
Many of us fortunate enough to be free of a sleeping disorder frequently miss sleep because we are wrapped up in social media, television, or work. The fact is that for many, sleep is not on the top of our priority lists. Why? It’s a good question we each have to ask ourselves individually.
The typical answer to this question is that we get caught up in what we are doing at the moment, or we think that we can just “catch-up” on sleep during the weekend. The debate of whether or not a person can catch up on sleep continues today, with some research indicating you can catch up to an extent, while other research refutes these findings.
The circadian rhythm is the natural sleep-wake cycle. It is a complex interplay between hormones such as melatonin and cortisol (our stress hormone). Plus, there are specific genes called “clock genes” that are important for regulating many aspects of our health (including cancer risk, cardiovascular health, and weight/diabetes). These genes are only active at certain times during the day or night (hence the name clock genes), so sleep interruption, shift work, and irregular sleep patterns can interfere with these genes and therefore have many adverse consequences!