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Challenge: Get Happy!

If You Want to Be Happy – Sleep!

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If you want to be happy, get some sleep. Sounds simple, but for insomniacs — who know all too well the frustration of not being able to sleep — it's not so easy. The intricacies of sleep and mood are complex; however, there are strategies you can incorporate into your lifestyle to promote better sleep and resulting happiness.

Mood and Sleep

Moods and mental states can affect sleep. Anxiety increases agitation and arousal, which can make it hard to sleep. Similarly, not sleeping affects mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who got only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. The subjects reported a big improvement in mood when they began normal sleep periods again.

Hypocretin and Narcolepsy

In addition, sleep disorders can affect mental states. Studies show a link between depression and abnormal sleep patterns, and chronic insomnia can lead to depression. Hypocretin, also known as Orexin (a neurotransmitter that promotes wakefulness) also has been linked to depression. A lack of this peptide causes narcolepsy, a condition of excessive sleepiness and/or sudden, temporary muscle weakness. Narcoleptics have high depression rates – up to six times the rate in the general population, according to recent reports. Hypocretin has been associated with reward-seeking behaviors, and research suggests it may play a role in keeping people awake for pleasure. Its absence results in a deficit in pleasure seeking, which may explain why narcoleptics have such high rates of depression.

Sleep Strategies

To ensure you get the proper amount of sleep to maintain a healthy, happy life, here are some tips:

  • Establish a sleep time routine (bedtime and wake time) and stick with it — even on the weekends. You will have the most restorative sleep if sleep is predictable.
  • Initiate a calming routine about an hour before bedtime. The routine should include relaxing activities, like listening to soft music, reading or a bath. Avoid using electronic devices close to bedtime.
  • Avoid large meals too close to bedtime, but don't go to bed hungry.
  • Keep the bedroom cool and comfortable. The best temperature for sleep is between 68 and 72 degrees.

Recommended Amount of Sleep By Age

The National Sleep Foundation recommends people get the following amount of sleep:

  • Newborns — 14 to 17 hours
  • Infants — 12 to 15 hours
  • Toddlers — 11 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers — 10 to 13 hours
  • School age — 9 to 11 hours
  • Teens — 8 to 10 hours
  • Young adults — 7 to 9 hours
  • Adults — 7 to 9 hours
  • Older Adults 65+ — 7 to 8 hours

If you're having trouble sleeping, try the above strategies. If sleep and your mood don't improve, consider seeing a sleep specialist. They can delve into your particular situation and offer both an additional perspective and guidance to help you get the sleep you need to be happy.

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