(Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash)

Beyond rest: The benefits of sleep to mental health 

By Chrissy Paul

It has been nearly a year since the opening to the public of the fully operational Mental Health Day Treatment Center in Basseterre, St. Kitts. This action is in line with a growing interest in helping bring mental health awareness to the island.

Unfortunately, it is a fact that one of the planet’s sunniest islands has its share of mental illness. As the economy depends heavily on tourism and keeping tourists happy, keeping natives in good spirits should be a top priority as well. While mental health awareness facilities and public service announcements rise, residents can also help themselves by ensuring they get adequate rest to stay mentally healthy.

Why Sleep Matters

Sleep helps recharge the brain and keeps a person balanced overall. Humans cycle through two sleep categories, each with its own subcategories. The quiet stage of sleep includes four different stages of a deeper and deeper sleep, when the body systems slow down significantly. Harvard University studies prove that the deepest sleep stages help to boost the immune system, and are therefore essential to a person’s health. The other major category is REM sleep, when a human will dream. Studies cited by Harvard suggest that this sleep cycle supports learning, memory and emotional stability. Sleep disruption, or lack of sleep, affects stress hormones and negatively affects neurotransmitters. It is harder to regulate emotions, and therefore stay happy, when sleep is lacking.

Sleep for Every Age

Every person at every age needs adequate sleep to maintain emotional well-being. As the neurotransmitters are in a consistent state of change throughout life, sleep is a must for everyone. However, the young, who are developing brain systems, and the elderly, who are experiencing overall body changes, must be assured especially of adequate rest. The sleep cycle helps elderly and young groups maintain the working brain, and helps uphold mental health. According to a study from the UK, sleep deprivation leads to sharp declines in cognitive functions, including control in the emotion center of the brain. The brain, as it changes with age, needs rest to refuel itself for daily tasks.

Every person in St. Kitts has been called to support the tourism industry that keeps the economy moving forward. This means getting adequate sleep to maintain an upbeat, helpful, mentally healthy outward appearance.

Sleeping is more important than science currently realizes, and studies are currently being conducted. In the meantime, we know that sleep increases mental health. Staying healthy mentally and physically is important to the way of life on the island. Every person must maintain a proper sleep schedule to face every day.