Yasmin Anwar »
Researchers have found that the type of sleep most apt to calm and reset the anxious brain is deep sleep, also known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) slow-wave sleep, a state in which neural oscillations become highly synchronized, and heart rates and blood pressure drop.
“We have identified a new function of deep sleep, one that decreases anxiety overnight by reorganizing connections in the brain,” said study senior author Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience and psychology. “Deep sleep seems to be a natural anxiolytic (anxiety inhibitor), so long as we get it each and every night.”
The findings, published this month in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, provide one of the strongest neural links between sleep and anxiety to date. They also point to sleep as a natural, non-pharmaceutical remedy for anxiety disorders, which have been diagnosed in some 40 million American adults and are rising among children and teens.
Read the whole article at Berkeley News »
Steve Casimiro, writing in Adventure Journal »
A new study shows that national parks worldwide are worth an estimated $6 trillion—with a “T”— in mental health benefits. A team from Australia’s Griffith University, comprised of ecologists, psychologists, and economists, looked at the psychological benefits of national park visits and compared them to the costs of poor mental health. They sampled 20,000 people in three groups, looking at improved cognition, sleep, stress relief, and reduced anxiety and depression. Overwhelmingly, parks made things better.
The researchers were able to attach an economic value on the mental health benefits of national parks, and open spaces in general, by factoring in how much countries spend on mental health treatment and care, while taking into account poor workplace productivity and antisocial behavior. They also examined the quality-adjusted life years of the three groups under study, an economic tool that experts use to measure the value of medical care by reducing a person’s pain, whether mental or physical.
Nancy Clanton, writing in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution »
About one in six adults in England suffer from mental health disorders, the researchers noted. Depression and anxiety are more likely in people from lower income backgrounds. But their findings suggest that “access to the coast could help to reduce these health inequalities in towns and cities close to the sea.”
The Exeter team used data from the Health Survey for England and compared people’s health in relation to their proximity to the coast: from those living about half a mile away to those more than 30 miles away.
“Our research suggests, for the first time, that people in poorer households living close to the coast experience fewer symptoms of mental health disorders,” said Jo Garrett, who led the study, which was published in the journal Health and Place. “When it comes to mental health, this ‘protective’ zone could play a useful role in helping to level the playing field between those on high and low income.”
There are various ways that physical activity helps mental wellbeing, including:
Improved mood – Studies show that physical activity has a positive impact on our mood. One study asked people to rate their mood after period of exercise (i.e. walking or gardening) and after inactivity (i.e. reading a book). Researchers found that people felt more awake, calmer and more content after physical activity. For more information and a link to the study, go to the Mental Health Foundation website.
Reduced stress – Being regularly active is shown to have a beneficial impact on alleviating stress. It can help manage stressful lifestyles and can help us make better decisions when under pressure. Research on working adults shows that active people tend to have lower stress rates compared to those who are less active.
Better self-esteem – Physical activity has a big impact of our self-esteem – that’s how we feel about ourselves and our perceived self-worth. This is a key indicator of mental wellbeing. Those with improved self-esteem can cope better with stress and improves relationships with others.
Depression and anxiety – Exercise has been described as a “wonder drug” in preventing and managing mental health. Many GPs now prescribe physical activity for depression, either on its own or in conjunction with other treatments. It is effective at both preventing onset of depression and in terms of managing symptoms.
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