While lack of sleep is a major risk factor for depression, not everyone who tosses and turns at night becomes depressed. According to a study, individuals whose brains are more attuned to rewards may be protected from the negative mental health effects of poor sleep. The findings revealed that students with poor quality sleep were less likely to have symptoms of depression if they also had higher activity in a reward-sensitive region of the brain.
“This helps us begin to understand why some people are more likely to experience depression when they have problems with sleep,” said Ahmad Hariri, Professor at the Duke University in North Carolina, US. “This finding may one day help us identify individuals for whom sleep hygiene may be more effective or more important,” Hariri added.
For the study, appearing in The Journal of Neuroscience, the team examined a region deep within the brain called the ventral striatum in 1,129 college students. Ventral striatum helps regulate behaviour in response to an external feedback as well as reinforce behaviours that are rewarded, while reducing behaviours that are not. The results showed that those who were less susceptible to the effects of poor sleep showed significantly higher brain activity in response to positive feedback or reward compared to negative feedback.
“Poor sleep is not good, but you may have other experiences during your life that are positive. And the more responsive you are to those positive experiences, the less vulnerable you may be to the depressive effects of poor sleep,” Hariri said.
So it comes back to the same point that health experts have been stating for years – the importance of leading a balanced and healthy lifestyle with proper sleep and good diet. One’s diet can also work wonders in boosting mental health and providing sound sleep. A healthy diet can prevent many ailments such as the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. The regular consumption of fruits and vegetables particularly are also beneficial for our mental health. A research study done by the Department of Psychology at University of Otago in New Zealand found that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption may improve psychological well-being in as little as 2 weeks.
The team found that young adults who were given extra fruits and vegetables each day for 14 days experienced a boost in motivation and vitality. According to leading health experts, a healthy diet should constitute of two cups of fruits and about three cups of vegetables daily.