The surprising secret to mental wellness

When did it become a bragging right to say that you only get four or five hours of sleep a night? We would think it is ridiculous for someone to brag that their labs came back with only half the normal hemoglobin level as we would recognize that as clearly unhealthy. So when did we start equating sleep-deprivation with some kind of superpower? Does it make sense for our society to celebrate sleep deprivation?

Just because we have 24/7 access to light and technology does not mean our brains and bodies should be awake all of these hours. I am sure that when Edison patented the light bulb, his goal was not to create a society of sleep-deprived zombies. Perhaps society’s lack of respect for sleep is due to the fact that the function of sleep used to be such a mystery. There is still a lot to learn about sleep, but as we learn more about sleep, we are learning how critical good quality sleep, in sufficient quantity, is necessary for optimal physical and mental health.

As a psychiatrist, I ask all of my patients about their sleep. If you ask most everyone who has suffered from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder if they have experienced sleep disturbances during or preceding their mood symptoms, you will hear a resounding “yes” from the majority of these individuals.

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