It is well attested that poor sleep damages physical health, but exactly how has been further explored in new research, as reported on the BBC:
"Prof Colin Smith, from the University of Surrey, told the BBC: "There was quite a dramatic change in activity in many different kinds of genes."Bad sleep affects mental as well as physical health
Areas such as the immune system and how the body responds to damage and stress were affected.
Prof Smith added: "Clearly sleep is critical to rebuilding the body and maintaining a functional state, all kinds of damage appear to occur - hinting at what may lead to ill health.
"If we can't actually replenish and replace new cells, then that's going to lead to degenerative diseases."
Anyone can tell you that poor sleep is bad for mental health as well as physical health, so it's worth us pointing out again the role that dreaming has on emotional health, as this aspect of how sleep alleviates mental stress is not generally well known.
Dreaming during REM sleep is nature's way of mopping up left over emotional stresses from the previous day. If we don't get enough sleep to de-arouse unresolved emotional expectations, our stress levels rise and we become very emotional. With very little sleep, we would eventually become psychotic as the dreaming brain becomes activated while we are still awake.
However, it's important to note that the reverse can be just as bad too:
Too many worries leads to more sleep, and that is just as bad as too little sleep
If you've ever woken up feeling tired after a lot of sleep, this fact will make intuitive sense to you.
A brain overloaded with unresolved worries will enter REM sleep earlier in the night in order to de-arouse all these emotions from the previous day.
Too much REM sleep exhausts the body and mind
The increase in REM sleep exhausts the brain's motivation response (the brain during the REM uses as much energy as a brain does while awake) and will also prevent restorative slow wave sleep from refreshing the body.
Someone who has slept too much and had too much REM sleep us likely to wake up feeling very tired and unmotivated. Waking up exhausted is a symptom of depression and plays a significant part in the cycle of depression. Fortunately this cycle can be broken.
So that is a brief explanation of why too much sleep can be as bad for mental health as too little.
Watch this video for a full explanation of how this can happen:
Order Dreaming Reality: How dreaming can keep us sane or drive us mad, the book that explains the role of REM sleep on sanity and describes how Nature has evolved dreaming to de-arouse our unresolved emotions.
why-we-dream.com - the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming sheds light on so many previously unexplained topics from dreaming, and hypnosis to psychosis and why we forget our dreams.
lift-depression.com - focusing on treating depression, this website covers the link between REM sleep and depression.
humangivenscollege.com/courses/cycle-of-depression - effective, evidence based training on understanding the cycle of depression from Human Givens College.