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World Mental Health Day: Five things on the benefits of a good night’s sleep

Posted on 3 October 2017

With a state-of-the-art, three bedroom sleep laboratory, researchers at the University of York use a combination of experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience and neurophysiology to understand what happens in the brain when we sleep.

Sleep is universal, at every step along the evolutionary pathway

Dr Lisa Henderson, from the University’s Department of Psychology, discusses five important things about the role of sleep in maintaining positive mental health:

To study and learn: It’s easy to learn something new, but knowing how it fits with the knowledge you already have, whether it’s relevant for future use, and how to use it in different contexts, is where sleep is important.  When we learn new information our memories for it are stronger after sleep than after the equivalent time awake. 

To enhance immunity: Sleep also plays a restorative role and may even be important for our immune systems. For example, sleep deprivation after receiving a vaccine means that lower quantities of antibodies are made.  

To moderate emotions: Emotions are tempered and stripped away during sleep, leaving you more balanced the next morning. Studies have shown that we are more likely to have creative insight into a problem after sleep. 

To have quality sleep: Eat in the kitchen; watch television in the lounge; sleep in your bedroom! Create your own sleep sanctuary and sleep nowhere else. Research tells us that people who avoid sleeping during the day or evening have better sleep quality during the night. 

To recharge and restore: Get to bed before midnight. Sleep researchers have shown that our deepest, restorative sleep occurs in greater abundance during the first half of the night.  

The Secrets of Sleep lecture will be hosted for staff and students, led by Dr Scott Cairney, Department of Psychology, on the 26 October, 7:30pm, and forms part of a programme of activities to mark World Mental Health Day.  

Other events include mental health research talks, where researchers discuss some of the diverse and innovative mental health studies taking place at the University, and The ‘Living Library’, where a number of volunteers will be available to have short conversations about mental health from their own experiences.