Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): The Definition
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s characterized by a range of symptoms related to attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity. Based on these characteristics the medical classification into 3 types of ADHD was created.
3 Types of ADHD
While ADHD is often discussed in terms of three primary types, there are also alternative categorizations and subcategories that offer a deeper understanding of this condition.
In this article, we’ll explore the three main types of ADHD and then the 10 subcategories, each with its own set of characteristics.
1. ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Presentation is one of the three primary types of ADHD, as per the ADHD ICD-10 classification. It’s characterized by a predominant display of inattentive symptoms. Individuals with this type of ADHD often exhibit the following characteristics:
This is the second primary type of ADHD listed in the ICD-10. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation is marked by hyperactive and impulsive symptoms. Key characteristics include:
– Restlessness and difficulty sitting still
– Impulsive behavior without considering consequences
– An inclination to act before thinking
– An inability to remain quiet when expected
3. ADHD, Combined Presentation
The third primary type, ADHD, Combined Presentation, combines symptoms from both the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive categories. It is the most common out of the 3 types of ADHD and includes a mix of the following traits:
Depression: Persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and difficulty concentrating.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): Frequent temper tantrums, arguing with authority figures, refusal to comply with rules, deliberate attempts to annoy others, and a tendency to blame others for their mistakes.
Learning disabilities: Struggles with reading, writing, mathematics, or other specific academic skills, which may result in academic underachievement despite average or above-average intelligence.
In conclusion, while the 3 types of ADHD provide a foundation for understanding this complex condition, alternative categorizations and subcategories offer valuable insights into the diverse ways ADHD can manifest.
However, it’s essential to recognize that these subcategories are not universally accepted, but they contribute to a more nuanced comprehension of ADHD and can inform tailored treatment approaches for individuals with specific symptom profiles.
Finally, with ADHD across its various subtypes, a multifaceted approach is essential. This includes considering medication management, behavioral therapy, and educational support. Creating structured and organized environments, emphasizing a balanced diet, and stress management can all play a vital role in symptom management. And of course, good sleep habits and regular exercise are also on this menu, as always! Encouraging participation in support groups and ensuring regular follow-up with healthcare providers completes a holistic strategy.
Disclaimer: The article contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something after clicking on this link, we’ll probably earn a few bucks from it. However, keep in mind that we suggest only products that we use and deserve our recommendation. This is the only way you can support our efforts to stay on track for seeking a better life, backed by science.But, please advise your physician before you make any adjustments to your habits, diet, and or supplementation.
It’s morning. You wake up after a wild night out with friends, and you are hit with a pounding headache, a churning stomach, and a heavy sense of thirstiness. Yep, you’ve got a classic hangover.
We’ve all been there, right?
But what about that other side of the hangover—the one that is less talked about but equally as real?
I’m talking about the hangover blues, that feeling of sadness and anxiety that follows the night of drinking. The hangover depression.
Why does it happen?
What’s the science behind all those depressed feelings of hangover-ed Sundays?
And, of course, how to cope with it!
Hangover Depression: A Hidden Consequence
Alright, let’s get real for a moment. When we think about hangovers, we usually focus on the classic symptoms: the headache, the upset stomach, and the insatiable thirst. But what about the emotional consequences that often come with it? That’s where hangover depression makes its entrance.
Hangover depression is all those feelings of sadness, anxiety, and sometimes even despair that can tag along with your hangover, turning a rough morning into a rough day. And it’s more common than you might think.
You see, all the classic symptoms of the hangover are because your body trying to deal with the aftermath of a night of drinks. In the same way, your brain is trying to navigate the chemical changes caused by alcohol. And believe me my friend, those changes can mess with your mood in a big way.
Hangover Anxiety: A Double Whammy
Did you say something embarrassing? Did you make a fool of yourself? What did you do with your phone?
Apart from physical discomfort, and hangover depression, hangover anxiety is another character in this story.
Sure, not everyone experiences hangover anxiety, but for those who do, it can be a tough addition to an already challenging situation. It’s like your mind is playing tricks on you, making you feel even worse about the night before.
But here’s the kicker: hangover anxiety and hangover depression often go hand in hand. They can feed off each other, creating a not-so-pleasant cycle. Hangover Sundays can be really tough sometimes!
It turns out that alcohol has a significant impact on the levels of brain chemicals responsible for mood regulation. Two neurotransmitters, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), play pivotal roles in maintaining emotional equilibrium.
But, when it comes to depressed feelings of the hangover, serotonin is key. This happy chemical contributes to overall well-being and contentment.
Initially, alcohol can enhance the release of serotonin, leading to feelings of relaxation and euphoria. This initial boost in serotonin is often why individuals perceive alcohol as a mood enhancer. However, alcohol’s effect on neurotransmitters is multifaceted and evolves over time.
How alcohol disrupts serotonin levels
Direct effect on serotonin: As alcohol is metabolized, it disrupts the production and absorption of serotonin which can ultimately lead to mood disturbances. As alcohol diminishes in the system, the brain undergoes a period of adjustment, marked by a resurgence of depression, sometimes referred to as the “rebound effect.”
Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes the body to lose fluids. Dehydration is a common consequence of excessive alcohol consumption, and dehydration can affect serotonin levels. Simple, right?
Sleep Disruption: Alcohol can disrupt normal sleep patterns. While it may initially make you feel sleepy, it can interfere with the restorative REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. Sleep disruption can significantly affect serotonin levels.
The Complex Interaction Between Alcohol and Anxiety
Now, you might have noticed that sometimes, a drink or two can make you feel more relaxed. These initial anxiolytic effects of alcohol arise due to its influence on neurotransmitters such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
However, as your body processes alcohol, it starts to disrupt the very systems that help you manage stress and anxiety.
The experience of hangover depression is a result of this biochemical instability. It is important to note that this phenomenon can endure beyond the resolution of the physical hangover symptoms, contributing to prolonged emotional distress.
So, write this down and put it somewhere that you can see it every time you wake up after some drinks: Never Trust Your Hangover-ed Brain. Period!
Coping with Hangover Depression
Alright, we’ve navigated through the science of hangover depression, hangover anxiety, and the intricate dance between alcohol and your brain chemistry. Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and explore some strategies to help you cope with the hangover blues.
1. Moderation is Key
The most effective way to prevent hangover depression is to moderate your alcohol consumption. It might sound like common sense, but it’s worth repeating. Stick to recommended alcohol limits, and your body and mind will thank you the morning after. Know your limits, and if you’re prone to emotional hangovers, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your drinking habits.
2. Stay Hydrated
Proper hydration is your best friend in the battle against hangover depression. Alcohol is notorious for dehydrating your body, and dehydration can exacerbate feelings of sadness and anxiety. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your night out to minimize the impact of a hangover.
3. Nutrition Matters
While the thought of greasy breakfasts might appeal to you when you’re nursing a hangover, consider opting for nutrient-rich foods instead. Foods high in vitamins and minerals can help replenish what your body lost during the drinking escapade. Bananas, for instance, are rich in potassium, which can alleviate the physical discomfort of a hangover.
Speaking of bananas, we found the best cure recipe for the hangover:
The banana milkshake with honey.
The banana will calm your stomach and, with the help of the honey, will build up the depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk will soothe and rehydrate your system. Thank me later.
4. Support and Seek Help
Coping with hangover depression and anxiety can be challenging, but you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to friends or family who can provide emotional support. Sometimes, just talking about your feelings can be incredibly cathartic. If your hangover depression becomes overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional. They can offer guidance and strategies to manage these emotions effectively.
5. Self-Care and Rest
After a night of drinking, your body needs time to recover. Give yourself permission to rest and engage in self-care. A calm, stress-free environment can help alleviate the emotional toll of a hangover. Whether it’s taking a warm bath, reading a book, or practicing mindfulness exercises, prioritizing self-care can make a significant difference.
6. Learn from Your Experience
Hangovers, both physical and emotional, can be valuable teachers. Use them as an opportunity for self-reflection. Consider what triggered your excessive drinking or emotional response and work on strategies to avoid those triggers in the future. Learning from your experiences can help you make healthier choices and reduce the likelihood of experiencing hangover depression.
7. DO NOTHING
Yes, exactly. Do nothing. You had some extra drinks yesterday, and you feel bad. Now you are caught in thinking loops, and you might see only negativity in the world. Okay, I see you, but deal with it. Sometimes you need to realize one thing: It is what it is! You have to do NOTHING about it.
Believe zero of what your brain is telling you.
Don’t even try to make you feel happier or seek activities that will bring you joy.
Just chill out. Chill out and wait.
Have zero expectations of the day.
Take zero decisions.
The day will eventually pass.
You have to do only one thing: Sleep early!
I promise the next day 90% of this hangover depression will be gone. Your brain will ensure this, to bring the balance. It always does, trust it!
The Perpetual Search for a Hangover Remedy
However, if you are looking for the perfect hangover remedy, you need to know that this quest is as old as alcohol itself! Since the dawn of drinking, people have been on a never-ending hunt for that one thing that can magically erase the pain and misery of a hangover.
From the infamous “hair of the dog” (taking a sip of more alcohol to cure your hangover) to grandma’s secret homemade potion, the world is full of hangover remedies that promise relief. Some swear by greasy breakfasts, others rely on sports drinks or magnesium supplementation, and a few adventurous souls might even dabble in ancient folk remedies involving pickles and strange-sounding herbs.
Why does this search feel never-ending? Well, partly because everyone’s body reacts differently to alcohol, and what works like a charm for one person might not do a thing for another.
But also because, when it comes to the emotional side of a hangover, finding a remedy is a bit like chasing a moving target. Seeking support, self-care, and a clever selection of your nutrition could be very helpful!
Disclaimer: The article contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something after clicking on this link, we’ll probably earn a few bucks from it. However, keep in mind that we suggest only products that we use and deserve our recommendation. This is the only way you can support our efforts to stay on track for seeking a better life, backed by science.But, please advise your physician before you make any adjustments to your habits, diet, and or supplementation.
In the busy modern world, meditation has come out as a potent tool for achieving not only inner serenity but also remarkable success. This ancient practice has found its way into the routines of countless individuals, particularly among the ranks of high achievers. We have all heard so many stories of CEOs, artists, athletes, successful authors, and visionaries who credit their mindfulness practice, often centered around meditation, as a secret behind their achievements and well-being. So, we wanted to investigate the benefits of meditation, always backed by science.
But first things first!
Meditation: Definition and History
The word ‘Meditation’ stems from a Latin term, ‘Meditatum’, which means ‘to ponder’. It is used to define any practice that involves focusing the mind on a specific object, thought, or activity to attain a psychologically and emotionally relaxed state of mind.
According to the American Psychological Association, meditation is defined as; 
“A profound and extended contemplation or reflection in order to achieve focused attention or an otherwise altered state of consciousness and to gain insight into oneself and the world.”
You will be surprised to know that the discipline of meditation is 2600 years old. People have been practicing it way before the birth of modern civilization.  Once used by Buddhists solely for deepening their understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life, meditation has now become one of the most commonly performed exercises for reducing stress and relaxing the body and mind.
The popularity has tremendously risen over the past couple of decades with the recent surge in research in the discipline of meditation. People are now opening their minds to meditative practices that were once deemed useless by most.
According to an estimate, the number of people practicing meditation has increased more than three times since the year 2012. Currently, 200 to 500 million people around the globe meditate daily.  It has become the second most popular and commonly practiced mind and body relaxing activity in the United States, the first being yoga. 
Scientific Research on Meditation
Thanks to modern research which has unveiled many surprising facts and remarkable benefits of meditation along with the science behind it. The benefits of meditation are not just limited to psychological stress reduction. Surprisingly, there is a wide range of advantages. From improving sleep quality to augmenting memory and concentration, from reducing blood pressure to slowing down the aging process and delaying the onset of neurodegenerative diseases.
Benefits of Meditation, Backed by Science
As you can imagine, this article talks about some of the great benefits of mindfulness practices, such as meditation, and how science explains them.
Benefit No.1: Stress Reduction
One of the most common reasons why most people fall into meditation is stress reduction. According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, mindfulness meditation can decrease work-related stress by up to 31%. 
Even a 2016 study conducted in Southern California, has demonstrated that meditation is equally effective in decreasing stress and depression as vacations; yet the effects are surprisingly longer-lasting. People who meditate continue to observe reduced stress levels for months.
So, how does meditation help with stress?
Usually, mental and physical stress is caused by a stress hormone released in our bodies, known as cortisol. The hormone in turn induces the production of inflammatory chemical mediators which cause fatigue, sleep problems, and other symptoms of anxiety and depression.
An 8-week clinical trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction interventions has shown that practicing meditation inhibits these inflammatory responses and helps in alleviating stress-related symptoms. 
Benefit No.2: Memory and Cognition Enhancement
The benefits of meditation are far-reaching and memory enhancement is yet another one of these fringe benefits. People who meditate have reported a marked improvement in their recall abilities.
Besides, this mindfulness drill also enhances various cognitive functions of the brain, including executive control, emotional regulation sustained attention, etc.
These benefits have been attributed to the changes in the brain structure mediated by meditative practices.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School conducted a study to compare the brains of people who meditate for at least 30 minutes daily with those who did no such activities. Only after eight weeks, they noticed that the individuals who practiced meditation had a significant increase in the grey matter in the hippocampus region.
And this is the very area of the brain that plays a major role in the memory and learning processes. 
Similarly, another study reported an increased thickness of the cortical areas of the brain responsible also for memory and cognition. 
In a world of endless choices, so many people stood at the crossroads of indecision, unable to pick between pizza or sushi for dinner. Well, good news! It seems that people who find it difficult to make decisions can also benefit from meditation.
In 2012, a group of researchers from the University of California found a positive correlation between brain gyrification and the number of meditation years. In simple words, they observed an increased number of folding (gyri) in the brain cortex of the people who meditate regularly.
These folds increase the surface area of the brain and are believed to enhance the processing of neural information rendering better thinking and decision-making abilities to the individual. 
Benefit No.4: Improving Sleep Quality
Meditation can also help in getting control over the jumbled and racing thoughts which often lead to sleep problems or insomnia. It also mediates a relaxation response in the body which creates a state optimal for sleep induction and good quality sleep.
A 2015 study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine analyzed the effects of meditation on sleep. Participants who underwent sessions of meditative interventions for 6 weeks had a relatively better sleep quality and experienced fewer symptoms of insomnia and daytime fatigue as compared to those in the control group. 
Benefit No.5: Reduction in Blood Pressure
You might have heard your doctor saying to modify your lifestyle habits for better control of hypertension. Meditation is one of the excellent and highly effective practices in this regard.
A randomized clinical trial has demonstrated that three months of regular meditation caused a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure of the participants and they were able to reduce the dosage of their anti-hypertensive medications. 
Experts attribute these effects to the release of nitric oxide in the body which is a potent vasodilator. It dilates the blood vessels, and therefore, helps in decreasing blood pressure. 
Benefit No.6: Relief from Chronic Pain
Another amazing benefit of meditation is the chronic pain relief. The perception of pain is somehow interconnected with our mind. Although both meditators and people who do not meditate experience the same course of pain, the tolerance and ability to cope with pain are significantly higher among meditating individuals.
It calms down the somatosensory areas of the brain cortex responsible for pain perception. Therefore, makes you less sensitive to pain. 
Even some researchers from Wake Forest Baptist University have claimed that the pain-relieving effects of meditation are greater than those of morphine. Participants reported a 40% reduction in pain intensity and a 57% decrease in discomfort after meditation. Morphine only resulted in a 25% decrease in pain! 
Benefit No.7: Slowing Down the Aging Process
Although it seems unreal meditation also helps in slowing down the aging phenomenon. There is growing evidence that regular meditation can decrease the pace of senescence at the cellular level.
During cell division, a part of telomeres, DNA, and protein caps which protect the chromosomes, is lost. So, with each subsequent replication of chromosomes, there is a shortening of these telomeres until the time when the cell is no longer able to divide further. This causes cellular senescence and ultimately the cell dies resulting in many age-related phenomenons.
Several factors have been recognized to accelerate this shortening of telomeres, and chronic stress is one of the main reasons.
A 12-week prospective study has claimed that meditation not only lowers the cardinal biomarkers of cellular aging but also increases the activity of the telomerase enzyme which rebuilds the telomeres and increases their length. These results suggest the clinical applicability of meditation in reducing the rate of structural and functional decline with aging. 
Delay in the Onset of Neurological Diseases
Aside from its mind-relaxing benefits, meditation can also help shield the brain from age-related decline by maintaining its structure and functions.This eventually stops or delays the onset of several psychological and neurological diseases, like dementia and Alzheimer’s. 
The benefits and potential uses of meditation are far-reaching and it is difficult to cover each one of them in detail in a single piece of writing. Some other benefits of meditation are listed below. It;
Prolongs attention span
Enables better control over emotions
Alleviates the symptoms of post-menstruation syndrome in women
Helps children with ADHD and autism
Provides relief from symptoms associated with cancer
Increases sex drive and libido – etc
In today’s fast-paced world, meditation is a timeless practice backed by scientific evidence that offers numerous benefits. From stress reduction to enhancing memory, empowering decision-making, improving sleep quality, lowering blood pressure, and even alleviating chronic pain, meditation proves its versatility in promoting well-being. Moreover, it holds the potential to slow down aging at the cellular level and delay the onset of neurological diseases.
With countless high achievers incorporating mindfulness meditation into their routines, it’s clear that meditation is key to both well-being and remarkable success. And the science behind mindfulness meditation approves this.
So, take a moment to ponder the profound benefits of meditation, and consider making it a part of your daily life.
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Happy Chemical is not only our website name, which is very cool, but it’s also referring to a chemical compound that causes a feeling of happiness in a person.
Have you ever thought about what happens in the human brain when feeling happy? What neurotransmitters are secreted when someone is excited? We don’t usually examine our feelings that way but, think about it. How do you feel right now? Are you sad? Are you happy? Do you feel grateful and content? Or maybe you are stressed? Whatever you answered, behind this answer, a chemical profile causes your feelings.
For instance, right now, the exact moment, while I am writing this article, I feel focused, motivated, and a little anxious. This possibly means that my chemical profile consists of higher levels of dopamine (motivation), acetylcholine (focus), and epinephrine (anxiety). Okay, I know, this is oversimplified, yet it’s true!
4 Happy Chemicals
The human body and especially the human brain is very complex. Even though scientists have been trying to deconstruct its function for years, too many things remain in the dark waiting to be found. However, we know the four main compounds when it comes to brain chemicals for happiness.
Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphins.
These are the well-known neurotransmitters/hormones that could be considered the “happy chemicals” due to their effect on our mood. Let’s examine them.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in our brain’s reward and pleasure system, as well as in several other important functions such as motivation, mood regulation, attention, movement, decision-making, and cognitive processes. Produced by dopaminergic neurons in different regions of the brain, including the substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, and hypothalamus, dopamine acts as a reward signal.
When we experience something pleasurable, such as a delicious meal, dopamine is released, creating a sense of pleasure and motivating us to seek similar experiences. This reinforcement mechanism drives behaviors crucial for our survival, such as eating, drinking, and socializing.
A Happy Chemical With a Mulitfaced Role
Dopamine also plays a significant role in regulating our moods and emotions. Low levels of this happy chemical have been associated with depression, while excessive dopamine activity has been linked to mania and psychosis, highlighting the importance of maintaining a balanced dopamine system for emotional well-being.
Beyond reward and mood regulation, dopamine influences attention and movement. It helps us focus on important information and ignore distractions, while also being crucial for initiating and coordinating movement. In Parkinson’s disease, the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra leads to severe dopamine depletion, resulting in the characteristic movement difficulties associated with the condition.
The profound effects of changes in dopamine levels demonstrate the impact of dopamine on behavior. Drugs that increase dopamine, such as cocaine and amphetamines, can induce intense pleasure and euphoria, leading to addiction and harmful behaviors. Conversely, drugs that decrease dopamine levels, such as antipsychotics, can cause side effects such as apathy, anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), and movement disorders.
Recent research has revealed additional roles of dopamine in decision-making, social behaviors, and cognitive processes. Dopamine has been implicated in social bonding and attachment, contributing to forming and maintaining social relationships.
It also plays a critical role in assessing the expected value of different options and influencing our choices accordingly.(What?)
Dopamine and Anticipation
You basically see something (activity, material stuff, or even a state of being) and your brain makes an estimation of the pleasure/satisfaction you might have if you get it. Then based on this estimation, the brain triggers the seeking and the anticipation of thissomething (activity, material stuff, or even state of being).
And if the acquisition of this won’t give the pleasure that your brain has estimated, then your dopamine levels will be crushed.
So if your brain thinks that having the brand new car that just passed by will make you happy, then probably you will be disappointed some days after you buy it!
Understanding dopamine’s impact on behavior is crucial for the treatment of neurological and psychological disorders. Medications targeting the dopamine system are commonly used for conditions like Parkinson’s disease, depression, and ADHD. However, the complex interplay between dopamine and other neurotransmitters means that these drugs can have significant side effects and may not be effective for everyone.
Advancements in neuroscience have expanded our knowledge of dopamine’s role in the brain. Studies have revealed its involvement in learning, decision-making, habit formation, and higher cognitive functions such as working memory and creativity. Dopamine modulates neural circuits underlying these processes, and alterations in dopamine levels can influence their outcomes.
The Most Known Happy Hormone
Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating mood, behavior, and various physiological processes. Produced in the brainstem by a group of neurons called raphe nuclei, serotonin acts as a chemical messenger, transmitting signals between nerve cells throughout the brain and central nervous system. It is not just a happy chemical since its function is diverse and essential for our overall well-being.
At the forefront of serotonin’s functions is its influence on mood regulation. Often referred to as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, serotonin helps create feelings of happiness, contentment, and emotional balance. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression and anxiety disorders, while higher levels are linked to increased happiness and a sense of wellness.
Serotonin also plays a role in regulating sleep patterns and appetite. It helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle, promoting healthy sleep and contributing to a restful night’s rest. Additionally, serotonin influences appetite and plays a part in the feeling of satiety and the regulation of food intake. Beyond these effects on mood, sleep, and appetite, serotonin is involved in pain perception and the regulation of cardiovascular function.
The serotonin guide
Various factors can influence serotonin levels in the brain. First of all, genetics. They play a role in determining the functioning of serotonin receptors and the efficiency of serotonin production and reuptake. Moreover, environmental factors, such as stress, can also impact serotonin levels. Chronic stress can deplete serotonin stores and disrupt its normal functioning.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to boost serotonin levels. Regular exercise increases serotonin production in the brain, leading to improved mood. Likewise, exposure to natural sunlight also stimulates the production of serotonin. Moreover, engaging in activities that bring joy, pursuing hobbies, spending time with loved ones, and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing can all contribute to serotonin levels.
While lifestyle factors can influence serotonin levels, it’s important to note that serotonin balance is a complex process, and individual responses may vary. In some cases, medication may be necessary to address serotonin imbalances associated with clinical conditions like depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed to increase serotonin levels and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. It’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.
Understanding the multifaceted function of serotonin and the factors that influence its levels empowers us to take proactive steps towards enhancing our mood, promoting emotional well-being, and leading happier, more balanced lives. By adopting lifestyle choices that support optimal serotonin functioning, such as engaging in regular physical activity, spending time in nature, nurturing relationships, and practicing self-care, we can positively influence our serotonin levels and overall mental health.
Difference Between Serotonin and Dopamine
Because of our days’ oversimplification, we need to emphasize the difference between the most known happy chemicals. Dopamine and serotonin are two key neurotransmitters that play significant roles in the brain and have distinct functions. While both contribute to our experience of happiness, they have different mechanisms and effects on mental health.
Dopamine is primarily involved in the brain’s reward and motivation system. It plays a crucial role in reinforcing behaviors that are essential for our survival, such as eating, drinking, and socializing. Dopamine is released when we engage in pleasurable activities, creating a sense of enjoyment and motivating us to seek out similar experiences. It also influences our attention, focus, and movement coordination.
On the other hand, serotonin is involved in regulating mood, emotions, and overall well-being. It contributes to feelings of happiness, contentment, and emotional balance. Serotonin helps modulate our sleep-wake cycle, appetite, and pain perception. It plays a significant role in maintaining stable mood states and promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.
While both happy chemicals contribute to happiness, they differ in their specific roles and effects. Dopamine is associated with the anticipation and pursuit of rewards, while serotonin is more closely linked to our overall emotional state and mood stability. Dopamine creates a sense of pleasure and motivation to seek rewards, while serotonin promotes a sense of contentment, emotional well-being, and satisfaction with life.
Oxytocin, the “love hormone”, is a powerful neurotransmitter and hormone that plays a vital role in social bonding, trust, and positive emotions. Its function extends beyond the brain, as it also acts as a hormone released by the pituitary gland into the bloodstream.
In the brain, this happy chemical is primarily associated with social behaviors and interpersonal connections. It is released during various social interactions, fostering feelings of closeness, empathy, and trust. Oxytocin helps to strengthen social bonds, whether between romantic partners, friends, family members, or even between mothers and infants.
One of the key roles of oxytocin is its involvement in facilitating social bonding and attachment. It promotes feelings of connectedness and intimacy between individuals. Oxytocin is particularly important in romantic relationships, as it enhances feelings of love, affection, and trust between partners. It also plays a crucial role in maternal-infant bonding, facilitating the strong emotional connection between mothers and their newborns.
Oxytocin is also associated with prosocial behaviors and positive emotions. It increases generosity, empathy, and cooperation among individuals. Oxytocin even promotes a sense of altruism and the willingness to help others. Oxytocin can enhance feelings of happiness, contentment, and overall well-being, contributing to positive social interactions and a sense of belonging.
Various activities and situations can increase the release of oxytocin in the brain. Physical touch, such as hugging, cuddling, or holding hands, is a potent stimulator of oxytocin release. Positive social interactions, such as spending quality time with loved ones, engaging in meaningful conversations, and showing acts of kindness, can also elevate oxytocin levels. Sharing meals, participating in group activities, and engaging in bonding rituals or ceremonies are examples of situations that can increase oxytocin release.
Oxytocin: 5 Facts You Didn’t Know About The “Love Hormone”
You can find more fascinating facts about the love hormone in our post.
Endorphins, which are neurotransmitters produced in the human brain, have a profound impact on various aspects of our wellness. Derived from the words “endogenous” and “morphine,” these natural chemicals serve as the body’s own painkillers and are involved in promoting pleasurable sensations. Produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, endorphins are released into the bloodstream. Then they bind to receptors throughout the body, influencing pain perception, mood, and overall health.
Primarily, endorphins function as powerful pain relievers. When the body experiences physical or emotional stress, the brain responds by releasing endorphins, which bind to receptors in the brain and spinal cord. This interaction blocks the transmission of pain signals, leading to a sense of relaxation. In fact, the pain-alleviating effects of endorphins can be likened to those of morphine since they provide a natural and effective means of pain relief.
Endorphins are closely associated with the phenomenon known as the “runner’s high.”
Notably, engaging in intense physical exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which not only diminish pain but also evoke feelings of pleasure. This pleasurable effect contributes to an improved mood, reduced anxiety, and heightened self-esteem. Therefore, activities that induce the release of endorphins through exercise, such as running, swimming, or dancing, can have a profound impact on our mental and emotional state.
The territory of endorphins
Beyond their role in pain regulation and pleasure, endorphins play a significant role in appetite and digestion. These neurotransmitters can influence the release of important hormones such as insulin and leptin. Insulin helps regulate blood sugar levels, while leptin signals feelings of hunger and fullness. Research suggests that endorphins can enhance feelings of satiety and reduce food cravings. Moreover, endorphins contribute to the body’s immune response. By increasing the activity of immune cells and promoting the production of cytokines, endorphins defend against infections and reduce inflammation. This indicates that these neurotransmitters have broader implications for maintaining a healthy immune system.
In the realm of mental health, endorphins have been found to exert positive effects. They possess antidepressant and anxiolytic properties, capable of reducing symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. Additionally, studies suggest that endorphins may offer neuroprotective benefits, potentially helping to prevent age-related cognitive decline and certain forms of dementia.
More Than Feel-Good Hormones!
Interestingly, endorphins are also involved in the brain’s reward system, which influences addictive behaviors. Drugs such as opioids and cocaine can trigger the release of endorphins, resulting in a powerful rush of euphoria. This rewarding effect can lead to addiction as individuals seek to replicate those pleasurable experiences. And this is why understanding the role of endorphins in addiction sheds light on the complex relationship between brain chemistry and addictive behaviors.
To naturally boost endorphin levels, various activities and behaviors have been identified. Engaging in regular exercise, such as aerobic workouts or strength training, has been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins, leading to enhanced mood and pain relief. Practices like meditation and mindfulness have also been found to increase endorphin production, promoting relaxation and well-being. Activities that elicit laughter, such as watching comedies or spending time with friends, can also trigger endorphin release, providing a natural mood boost. Even consuming spicy foods has been associated with the release of endorphins.
Happy Chemical – Takeaway
In conclusion, understanding the functions and roles of serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins provides valuable insights into our overall well-being and mental health. Every happy chemical we talked through has its unique and significant function!
Dopamine: It plays a role in reward and pleasure, motivation, focus, and motor control. Dopamine imbalances can affect motivation, lead to addiction, and impact mental health.
Serotonin: The most known happy chemical which regulates mood, sleep, appetite, and pain perception. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression and anxiety, while high levels promote happiness.
Oxytocin: It promotes social bonding, trust, and positive emotions. Oxytocin is associated with feelings of connection and plays a role in various social interactions.
Endorphins: They act as natural painkillers, reduce stress, enhance mood, and promote a sense of pleasure. Endorphins are released during physical exercise, contributing to the well-known “runner’s high.”
Happy Chemicals in Brain
Maintaining a healthy balance of these happy chemicals is of utmost importance. And if you want some practical tips, check them out below:
Engage in regular exercise: Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, boosts serotonin levels, and contributes to overall mood improvement.
Practice mindfulness and meditation: These techniques can increase serotonin levels, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.
Foster social connections: Interacting with loved ones, engaging in meaningful conversations, and participating in social activities can increase oxytocin levels and enhance well-being.
Seek pleasurable experiences: Engage in activities that bring joy and pleasure, such as hobbies, laughter, and spending time in nature. These experiences can stimulate dopamine release and enhance mood.
Prioritize self-care: Adequate sleep, balanced nutrition, and managing stress are essential for maintaining a healthy balance of these neurotransmitters.
So, remember to incorporate these practices into your daily life. This will help you cultivate a healthy balance of your “happy chemicals”!
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What is sleep? Did you ever try to answer this question? Imagine this: An alien arrives on Earth and wonders what is sleep. “Why are you unplugged for 6-8 hours every day?” He might ask. How do you properly address such a simple question?
Well, firstly sleep is a vital part of life, and it is something that everyone needs. It is a natural and essential state of being for all living creatures, including humans. A time when the body and mind undergo critical restorative processes, allowing us to recharge for the day ahead.
Is this enough? No, I don’t think so!
Sleep is a fundamental aspect of human life, yet it remains one of the least understood processes of the brain. Scientists have long been fascinated by the neuroscience of sleep, as it plays a crucial role in our mental and physical well-being. In recent years, advancements in technology and imaging techniques have allowed researchers to delve deeper into the inner workings of the sleeping brain uncovering new insights into the complex mechanisms that underlie this essential biological process.
In this article, we will provide an overview of the neuroscience of sleep. Based on the latest research and discoveries we will explore the different stages of sleep, the brain areas involved in it, and the neural mechanisms that regulate it.
The Stages of Sleep
There are two main stages of sleep: Non-REM and REM sleep. Non-REM sleep is further divided into four stages: N1, N2, N3, and N4. N1 and N2 are lighter stages, while N3 and N4 are deeper stages of sleep. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is the stage where dreaming occurs.
During N1, which is the lightest stage of sleep, the brain waves slow down, and muscle activity decreases. People in this stage can easily wake up, and they may experience sudden muscle contractions or jerks. N2 is the next stage, and during this stage, brain waves continue to slow down, and the body temperature decreases. People spend more time in this stage than any other. During N3 and N4, also known as slow-wave sleep (SWS), the brain waves slow down even more, and the body is almost immobile. It is difficult to wake someone up from this stage. Even if they do wake up, they may feel disoriented or groggy.
REM sleep is the stage where dreaming occurs, and it is characterized by rapid eye movement and muscle paralysis. In the time of REM sleep, your brain activity picks up, and your eyes move rapidly back and forth. During this stage, the brain waves are similar to those during wakefulness, and the heart rate and breathing become irregular. REM sleep is essential for cognitive function and plays a crucial role in memory consolidation and emotional regulation.
Brain Areas Involved
Sleep is regulated by a complex network of brain areas that work together to control the different stages of sleep. The main brain areas involved in the most vital part of life are the hypothalamus, thalamus, basal forebrain, and brainstem.
The thalamus is a sensory gateway that processes information from the senses and relays it to the cortex. It also plays a role in regulating sleep by filtering out sensory information during sleep. This feature may prevent the brain from being overwhelmed.
The basal forebrain is a group of neurons located at the base of the brain that produces the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine plays a crucial role in promoting wakefulness, and its levels decrease during sleep.
Then it’s the brainstem. A region at the base of the brain that controls vital functions such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. It also contains the reticular activating system (RAS), which is responsible for regulating wakefulness and alertness.
Last but not least, is the hypothalamus. It is a small area at the base of the brain that plays a crucial role in regulating sleep. It contains a group of neurons called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is the body’s master clock. The SCN regulates the circadian rhythms, which is the body’s internal clock that controls the sleep-wake cycle.
Neural Mechanisms that Regulate Sleep
So, how does your brain know when it’s time to turn off? Sleep is regulated by a complex interplay of neural mechanisms that work together to control the different stages of sleep and wakefulness. The main mechanisms involved in its regulation are the circadian rhythm, the sleep-wake homeostasis, and the ultradian rhythm.
Circadian rhythms refer to the internal biological processes that follow a 24-hour cycle and regulate a variety of physiological and behavioral functions. These rhythms are present in almost all living organisms, including humans. A group of nerve cells in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) regulates the body’s internal clock. The SCN receives signals from the eyes that help it determine whether it is day or night. Then it uses this information to regulate the release of hormones and other physiological processes that influence our sleep, wakefulness, hunger, and other bodily functions.
The circadian rhythms play a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being, as they help to ensure that various bodily processes are properly timed and synchronized with the external environment. These rhythms influence the sleep-wake cycle, body temperature, hormone production, metabolism, and immune system function, among other bodily functions. Disruptions to these rhythms, such as those caused by shift work, jet lag, or an irregular sleep schedule, can significantly negatively affect health. These may include an increased risk of metabolic, cardiovascular, and mood disorders.
Either control them or they control you!
The timing and duration of sleep are closely tied to circadian rhythms. The circadian clock regulates the release of the hormone melatonin, which is responsible for promoting sleepiness. Melatonin levels increase in the evening and reach their peak in the middle of the night, and then gradually decrease as morning approaches. This process helps to promote healthy sleep patterns, with the majority of sleep occurring during the nighttime hours.
In addition to regulating sleep, circadian rhythms also play a role in regulating mood, alertness, and cognitive function. For example, research has shown that individuals who are exposed to light at night may experience disruptions in their circadian rhythms, which can lead to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. This is because light exposure at night can interfere with the production of melatonin, which in turn can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle and other physiological processes that are regulated by the circadian rhythms.
Several strategies can help to regulate circadian rhythms and promote healthy sleep patterns. The best strategy is to maintain a regular schedule, by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This can help to ensure that the body’s internal clock remains in sync with the external environment. Exposure to natural light during the day, particularly in the morning, can also help to regulate circadian rhythms and promote the desired healthy patterns. Conversely, exposure to bright light at night should be minimized, as it can interfere with the production of melatonin and disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.
The sleep-wake homeostasis is a critical mechanism that regulates the amount and quality of sleep that an individual needs. It is based on the idea that the longer someone is awake, the more likely they are to feel sleepy, and vice versa. This concept was first introduced in the early 20th century by the French physiologist, Alfred Batelli.
The sleep-wake homeostasis mechanism is regulated by a neurotransmitter called adenosine. Adenosine levels in the brain gradually increase during waking hours, reflecting the activity of the brain’s cells. As adenosine levels rise, it inhibits the activity of neurons that promote wakefulness. Hence, it promotes the activity of neurons that promote sleepiness. This process builds up over the day until you reach a certain level of sleepiness which send you to bed.
It’s coffee time!
And here is where caffeine comes in. We all know that caffeine is a stimulant that is commonly consumed not only to improve cognitive performance but also to promote wakefulness. The way that caffeine can have this significant impact on promoting wakefulness is by affecting sleep-wake homeostasis.
More specifically, caffeine works by blocking the activity of adenosine receptors in the brain. This means that caffeine can reduce the buildup of adenosine and inhibit its sleep-promoting effects. Hence, when caffeine is consumed, it promotes wakefulness and can delay the onset of sleepiness.
However, the effects of caffeine on sleep-wake homeostasis are not entirely straightforward. While caffeine can promote wakefulness in the short term, it can also disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and lead to long-term disturbances of it. Studies have shown that consuming caffeine close to bedtime can significantly reduce the quality of sleep and lead to increased sleep latency, or the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. This is because caffeine can remain in the bloodstream for several hours after consumption, and its effects can last well into the night.
Also, regular caffeine consumption can lead to tolerance, which means that the body becomes less responsive to its effects over time. This can lead to a cycle of increasing caffeine consumption to maintain wakefulness, which can further disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle. Furthermore, caffeine can also interfere with the timing and duration of sleep. Studies have shown that consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening can delay the onset of sleep and reduce the amount of slow-wave sleep, which is a crucial stage for a night of restorative and restful sleep.
So, remember folks, coffee is a great tool when used moderately!
Back to sleep-wake homeostasis
This homeostasis mechanism is essential for maintaining the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, which is critical for optimal physical and mental health. When an individual sleeps, adenosine levels in the brain decrease, allowing the neurons that promote wakefulness to become more active. This helps an individual to feel more alert and awake upon waking up, and to be able to perform daily activities more effectively.
Disruptions to the sleep-wake homeostasis mechanism can have significant negative impacts on an individual’s overall health and well-being. For example, people who are deprived of sleep for prolonged periods may experience fatigue, decreased cognitive function, mood disturbances, and a range of other negative effects. This can lead to decreased productivity, impaired decision-making, and increased risk of accidents and injuries.
There are several ways to help regulate the sleep-wake homeostasis mechanism and promote better sleep hygiene. Again the best way is to maintain a consistent bedtime schedule. Further to this, remember to avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime. As was already mentioned these substances can interfere with sleep quality and quantity. In addition, engaging in regular physical activity promotes better sleep, as can a comfortable bedroom that is quiet, dark, and cool.
The Ultradian Rhythms
Ultradian rhythms are biological rhythms that occur more than once a day, with a frequency of fewer than 24 hours. These rhythms are distinct from circadian rhythms, which occur once a day. Ultradian rhythms are present in a wide range of biological processes, including hormone secretion, appetite regulation, and of course, sleep patterns. In the context of sleep, ultradian rhythms refer to the natural cycles of sleep stages that occur throughout the night.
In regard to sleep..
During sleep, the body goes through a series of cycles that typically last around 90-110 minutes. Each cycle consists of several stages, including light, deep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. These stages are characterized by different patterns of brain activity, muscle tone, and eye movement. Each cycle typically ends with a brief period of wakefulness before the next cycle begins.
Within each cycle, there are also ultradian rhythms that occur. These rhythms refer to the natural oscillations of sleep stages that happen within each cycle. For example, during the first cycle, there may be a period of deep, restorative sleep (non-REM stage 3) followed by a shorter period of lighter sleep (non-REM stage 2) before entering REM sleep. In subsequent cycles, the amount of time spent in deep sleep may decrease, while the amount of time spent in lighter and REM sleep may increase.
These ultradian rhythms are thought to play an important role in maintaining healthy sleep patterns. The deep, restorative sleep that occurs during non-REM stage 3 is crucial for physical and mental restoration. While REM sleep is important for cognitive processing and memory consolidation.
Disruptions to these ultradian rhythms can lead to sleep disorders and other health problems. Namely, people with sleep apnea may experience disruptions in their sleep cycles due to interruptions in breathing while they are sleeping. These interruptions lead to reduced amounts of deep and REM sleep. Similarly, people with insomnia may have difficulty falling or staying asleep, leading to disruptions in their natural sleep cycles.
There are several ways to promote healthy ultradian rhythms and improve sleep quality. And again the most important way is to establish regular sleep habits and maintain a consistent “going to bed” schedule.
Neurotransmitters Involved in Sleep
Now, let’s talk neurotransmitters the chemical messengers that transmit signals between neurons in the brain. Several neurotransmitters are involved in regulating sleep, including serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine.
Serotoninis a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating mood and sleep. It is involved in promoting REM sleep and regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating reward and motivation. However, it is also involved in promoting wakefulness and reducing the duration of REM sleep. In general keep in mind when you are sleeping dopamine levels are at their lowest. And this might be the reason why you might wake up at night, or before the alarm hits when you are traveling the upcoming day. The anticipation of the trip makes the dopamine levels rise and wakes you up!
Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating attention, arousal, and stress. In this way, norepinephrine acts as an arousal-promoting neurotransmitter that helps keep you awake and alert. During waking hours, its levels in the brain are high, helping to promote wakefulness and maintain our attention and focus. As we start to feel tired, norepinephrine levels gradually decrease, allowing for other neurotransmitters such as adenosine and melatonin to take over and promote sleep.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating wakefulness and REM sleep. It is produced by neurons in the basal forebrain and promotes wakefulness. During REM sleep, acetylcholine levels increase, which is believed to be responsible for the muscle paralysis that occurs during this stage.
Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that affect the quality and quantity of sleep. They can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Some common disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking up too early, and having difficulty falling back asleep. It can be acute, lasting for a short period, or chronic, lasting for three or more nights per week for at least three months. Insomnia can be caused by a variety of factors. In particular, stress, anxiety, depression, medical conditions, medications, and environmental factors such as noise, light, and temperature.
The effects of insomnia can be significant, leading to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and other mood disturbances. Chronic insomnia can also increase the risk of developing other health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and cardiovascular disease.
Treatment for insomnia typically involves identifying and addressing the underlying causes of the condition, as well as implementing good sleep habits and relaxation techniques. This may include cognitive behavioral therapy to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors related to sleep. In some cases, the individual might need prescription medications. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and stress management techniques can also be effective in managing insomnia.
Apnea is a disorder characterized by interruptions in breathing during sleep. There are two main types of apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by a blockage in the airway, and central sleep apnea, which is caused by a failure of the brain to signal the muscles to breathe. Symptoms of apnea include loud snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Untreated apnea can lead to a range of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating during the day.
Treatment for sleep apnea may involve lifestyle changes such as weight loss, and avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bedtime. Even sleeping on one’s side rather than back might help. Continuous positive airway pressure therapy is a common treatment for sleep apnea, which involves wearing a mask over the nose or mouth that delivers a continuous stream of air to keep the airway open during sleep. Other treatments may include oral appliances, surgery, or medications to help regulate breathing during sleep.
Restless leg syndrome
Did you ever hear about restless leg syndrome? A sleep disorder characterized by an uncomfortable sensation in the legs that occurs during periods of rest or inactivity. It can lead to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological disorder that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs. People with RLS may experience uncomfortable sensations in their legs, such as itching, crawling, tingling, or burning. Usually can be temporarily relieved by moving or stretching the legs. Symptoms of RLS tend to be worse at night or when lying down for extended periods, which can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
The exact cause of RLS is not fully understood. It is believed though to be related to an imbalance of dopamine (regulate movement). RLS can occur independently or be associated with other medical conditions such as iron deficiency anemia, kidney disease, or even pregnancy.
Treatment for RLS may involve addressing any underlying medical conditions. Medications can also help to regulate dopamine levels in the brain. Once more time lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and implementing good sleep habits. In some cases, alternative therapies such as acupuncture or massage may also be beneficial.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. It is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, sudden and uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep, and sleep paralysis – a temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up. Other symptoms of narcolepsy may include hallucinations, cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle tone triggered by strong emotions), and disrupted nighttime sleep.
The cause of narcolepsy seems to be related to a loss of neurons in the brain that produce hypocretin, a chemical that helps regulate wakefulness. Narcolepsy can occur on its own, or it may be associated with other medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders or infections.
Treatment for narcolepsy typically involves medications to help regulate sleep-wake cycles, such as stimulants to improve alertness during the day and antidepressants to help manage cataplexy and other symptoms. And guess what could help to manage narcolepsy symptoms? Yes, exactly, implement good sleep habits, as we discussed before.
All right let’s wrap our heads around the mind-blowing world of the neuroscience of sleep. We’ve delved into the intricate web of brain regions and chemical messengers that regulate the timing and quality of our precious sleep, and we’ve learned about the sleep-wake homeostasis, circadian rhythms, and ultradian rhythms that govern our sleep patterns.
But let’s not forget about the real-world impact of sleep disorders on our physical, mental, and emotional health. Insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy can throw a serious wrench into our systems and can leave us feeling drained and exhausted.
Thankfully, thanks to the wonder of modern science, we have effective treatments for these disorders that can get us back to catching those elusive Z’s. Whether it’s CPAP therapy for sleep apnea, medications to regulate dopamine levels in the brain for restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy, or implementing good habits to ward off insomnia, we have the tools to get the sleep we need.
Keep also in mind that the importance of sleep goes beyond just feeling rested and alert. A good night’s rest is crucial for our physical health, mental clarity, and our emotional well-being. It affects everything from our immune system to our mood to our decision-making abilities. So, whether you’re a sleep lover or a self-proclaimed night owl, it’s important to prioritize and take care of your sleep system.
In short, sleep is no joke, folks. It’s a crucial aspect of our overall health and well-being, and we need to continue to explore the fascinating world of the neuroscience of sleep to better understand the mechanisms that govern its patterns and to develop even more effective treatments for relevant disorders.
So, get cozy, catch those Z’s, and dream big, folks. The world of sleep is waiting for you.
Serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is a neurotransmitter that is widely distributed throughout the body and brain. Its function is complex and plays a crucial role in regulating many important physiological and emotional processes. From regulating mood and sleep to appetite and sexual behavior, it is involved in many different aspects of our physical and emotional well-being.
Serotonin Happy Chemical
In this article, we will explore the function of this happy chemical in detail looking at its various roles in the body. How does it impact our overall health and well-being? Indeed, by understanding the function of serotonin, we can gain insights into how to support its function and improve our physical and emotional health. And this is what we will attempt to do!
Where is located
Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine, is produced in the brainstem by a group of neurons called raphe nuclei. It is then released into various areas of the brain and central nervous system, where it acts as a chemical messenger to transmit signals between nerve cells.
Serotonin in the gut
Despite being well-known as a neurotransmitter in the brain, the digestive system produces the majority of the body’s serotonin. That’s why, abnormal concentrations of this peripheral serotonin have been connected to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.
Its function is complex and involves multiple pathways and receptors. There are at least 14 different types of these receptors, each with a unique function and distribution in the body. The effects of serotonin can vary depending on the location and concentration of the receptors in the body. For example, some receptors regulate mood and emotion, while others regulate appetite and digestion.
In general, serotonin is involved in regulating a wide range of functions in the body, including appetite, sleep, sexual behavior, pain perception, and cardiovascular function.
One of the most well-known functions of serotonin is its role in regulating mood. Therefore you can refer to it as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter since it helps to regulate feelings of happiness and contentment. High levels of it have been associated with feelings of happiness and well-being.Low levels of serotonin, on the other, promote depression and anxiety disorders.
In fact, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of antidepressant medications commonly used to treat depression. And guess how they work! By increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, of course.
When 5-hydroxytryptamine is released into the brain, it travels between nerve cells and transmits signals that regulate mood and behavior. After the signal is transmitted, the 5-hydroxytryptamine is reabsorbed back into the nerve cell from which it was released.
Here SSRIs interfere. They work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin, allowing it to remain in the space between nerve cells for longer periods of time. Consequently, this helps to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, which can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
Serotonin and Sleep
Serotonin plays a critical role in regulating sleep, particularly concerning the timing, duration, and quality of sleep. In the brain, it is involved in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Serotonin is responsible for regulating the body’s circadian rhythms and maintaining regular patterns of sleep and wakefulness.
When serotonin levels are low, it can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle, leading to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, as well as decreased sleep quality. In addition, low levels have been associated with conditions such as insomnia and sleep apnea, which can significantly impact overall health and well-being.
Conversely, high levels of serotonin can promote relaxation and help individuals to fall asleep more easily. This is because 5-hydroxytryptamine is a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles and promote deep, restful sleep.
One of the ways this neurotransmitter influences sleep is by modulating the activity of neurons in the brainstem that are responsible for regulating arousal and wakefulness. Serotonin helps to suppress the activity of these neurons, which in turn promotes sleep and relaxation.
Another way serotonin affects sleep is by influencing the production of other neurotransmitters and hormones regulating sleep. For example, it can increase the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps to promote relaxation and sleepiness.
Serotonin and Sexual Behavior
Our starring neurotransmitter is also involved in regulating sexual behavior and desire. Serotonin has been implicated in various sexual functions, including sexual motivation, arousal, and orgasm.
Low levels lead to a decrease in sexual desire and arousal, as well as difficulties in achieving orgasm. Hence, low serotonin levels have been associated with conditions such as sexual dysfunction and decreased libido.
The relationship between serotonin and sexual behavior is not clear-cut and can vary depending on individual factors such as age, gender, and overall health. However, high levels of serotonin could increase sexual activity and desire!
How? Mainly by influencing the release and activity of other neurotransmitters. Dopamine and norepinephrine, play a significant role in regulating sexual function. So, serotonin can either enhance or inhibit the activity of these neurotransmitters, depending on the specific receptor types that are involved, and make things happen.
More Serotonin Effects
In addition to its role in all the above, serotonin plays, also, role in regulating pain perception. It helps to modulate pain perception in the spinal cord and brain. Increased pain sensitivity is probably due to our star’s low levels. Imagine that, some medications that increase serotonin levels, such as SSRIs, are prescribed to treat chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and migraines.
Do you want more? What about regulating cardiovascular function? Guess which neurotransmitter helps to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, and blood clotting. Good guess, since low serotonin levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
And more? Ok! Serotonin is involved in the regulation of immune function. It helps to modulate the activity of immune cells and can affect the body’s response to infection and inflammation. Moreover, there are shreds of evidence that low levels of it have been linked to an increased risk of infections and autoimmune disorders. In contrast, high serotonin has been associated with allergic reactions and autoimmune disorders.
4 Ways to Increase Serotonin
Thoughts, self-induced or through psychotherapy
The relationship between thoughts, self-induced or through psychotherapy, and serotonin is complex and not fully understood. However, there is evidence to suggest that certain types of thoughts and experiences can increase our starring neurotransmitter levels in the brain. One way in which thoughts and experiences can do this is through the activation of the serotonergic system in the brain.
Exposure to bright light
Exposure to light, particularly bright light, is a known regulator of serotonin in the brain. Specifically, exposure to bright light in the morning can increase the release of it in the brain, leading to a range of physiological and psychological effects.
Exercise is known to have a positive impact on mental health and well-being, in part due to its ability to increase the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin in the brain. Check our articles on this:
Diet can play an important role in regulating serotonin levels in the brain, as serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan found in certain foods. It’s worth noting that while consuming foods that are high in tryptophan can help to increase serotonin levels, simply eating more of these foods may not necessarily lead to significant improvements in mood or mental health. However, incorporating a balanced diet that includes foods rich in tryptophan can be a useful strategy for supporting overall mental and physical health.
In conclusion, serotonin is a multifunctional neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating many important functions in the body. From regulating mood and sleep to appetite and sexual behavior, this happy chemical is involved in many different aspects of our physical and emotional well-being.
It is important to note that while serotonin is a crucial neurotransmitter, it is not the only factor that contributes to the regulation of these functions. Aside from lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and stress, other neurotransmitters and hormones also regulate these processes. However, we can better maintain optimal health and well-being by understanding serotonin’s function and role in our body.
Exercise benefits go beyond increased muscle mass and cardio efficiency. Yes, exercise can enhance your physical health and physique, reduce belly fat, enhance your sex life, and even lengthen your life. But those are not the only incentives that push people to stay active.
Physical activity is an essential part of living a healthy lifestyle. Exercise not only enhances physical abilities and can alter one’s looks, but it also improves someone’s mental health.
Physical activity has several beneficial cognitive effects
It increases heart rate, allowing more oxygen to reach the brain. Thus, more nutrients are delivered to the brain. This process improves, among others, waste removal.
It stimulates the release of hormones that aid in the growth of brain cells.
One of the hormones is the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). It protects and repairs neurons from injury.
BDNF, also, works with the other hormones to grow new interconnections between brain cells, promoting brain plasticity.
Major neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphin, and norepinephrine, are modulated by physical activities, regulating mood and providing mental clarity.1 A single workout is enough to unlock the release of those, and other “well-being” chemicals (endorphins and endocannabinoids).
Proceeding in the same way, this list can certainly be extended. Nonetheless, scientists noticed that the effects of physical activities are more notable when considered in succession.
Technically, researchers define physical exercise as a structured and repetitive physical activity that aims at improving some component(s) of physical fitness.2
With this definition in mind, experts showed that physical exercise is a gene modulator, implying that it can induce changes in brain functioning.3
Following this concept, they have found many benefits of consistent exercise engagement. This includes the activation of pro-inflammatory mechanisms, which ultimately lead to the synthesis of new synapses, blood vessels, and neurons.3
It also contains the release of hormones such as CRH (corticotrophin-releasing hormone) which modulates cortisol and adrenaline levels. And there’s more. Exercise is associated with improved prefrontal cortex-dependent cognition and functional neuroplastic changes.2 That’s why researchers suggest regular exercise to prevent or delay diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkison’s.
Additionally, physical activity maintains a sense of well-being that helps our brain, keeping it young and active.
But what do all these mean in terms of “mental health”?
Exercise and Mental Health
Are you questioning the correlation between exercise and depression?
Huh, consider this.
After one workout, your brain is flooded by endorphins and endocannabinoids which are giving this sense of well-being. Your brain also produces dopamine, the reward and motivation molecule, and serotonin, which, just so to remind you, is the target molecule of the major anti-depressant medications. And this is your post-workout chemical profile, full of “happy chemicals”.
But, even if you only observe it from a psychological view; Name a better way to distract yourself from all these negative thought patterns you are having when you are depressed!
If only one workout could do this to your brain, imagine what will do a consistent workout routine.
Additionally, sticking to exercise encourages a variety of changes in the brain, such as neural development, decreased inflammation, and novel activity patterns that enhance sensations of peace and well-being.
So, what do you say? What else do you need to conclude that exercise will help you with depression symptoms?
Exercise is your number one weapon in fighting depression.
Several research studies pointed out the positive effects of regular exercise on depression.4–6
Stress & Anxiety
Have you ever observed how your body reacts to stress and anxiety?
Your muscles, particularly those in your face, neck, and shoulders, may be stiff, leading to back and/or neck pain as well as excruciating headaches. Muscle cramps, a racing heart, or tightness in your chest could also be noted. Not to mention issues like insomnia, stomach pains, frequent urination, etc.
Your mind and body can become entangled in a vicious circle of stress as a result of all the stress these physical symptoms of stress can cause.
Well, exercise seems to be a powerful tool for interrupting this loop. Since you can’t control the mind with the mind, body movement is your best alternative. The famous writer, entrepreneur, and podcast host Tim Ferris said that when he caught himself in stress, he always hit the gym.
Physical activity helps to relax the muscles and release tension in the body in addition to releasing endorphins in the brain. All of these will help you to feel better!! Believe me, whatever is stressing you out will be easier to lift.
Have you ever heard about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
If not, let me introduce you. ADHD is a condition that affects people’s behavior. Based on recent evidence, an estimated 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD; yet only in the last decades have people started to encounter it as a disease.7
The main symptoms are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Even though the existing treatments, such as medication, behavioral therapy, and counseling services, can relieve a lot of its symptoms, they can’t cure it.
According to research, physical activity opens up a promising alternative or complementary treatment for ADHD patients.8
But why is this happening?
Well, it would be easier to answer if we consider that the most common medication for ADHD is stimulants. The main effect of a stimulant is the increased availability of monoaminergic catecholamines, such as dopamine, in the brain.9
Similarly, exercise increases specific catecholamines and proteins/enzymes that are typically reduced in ADHD like dopamine, tyrosine hydroxylase, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).10
Consequently, these effects of exercise and the enhancement of neural growth are the main reasons physical activity will help patients with ADHD.
Exercise and Sleep
The correlation here is very simple and apparent. Exercise will send you to sleep. Sleep modulates mental health. Consequently, exercise maintains mental health. It’s so simple!!
Alexander J Scott et al. believe that: “Sleep and mental health go hand-in-hand, with many, if not all, mental health problems being associated with problems sleeping. Although sleep has been traditionally conceptualized as a secondary consequence of mental health problems, contemporary views prescribe a more influential, causal role of sleep in forming and maintaining mental health problems.”11
So, please let me elaborate by reviewing what is known about how sleep is linked to a variety of specific mental health illnesses and neurodevelopmental disorders. This will make the relationship between sleep and mental health even more clear.
Depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and ADHD. Those are some mental health issues for which we already have evidence that sleep tremendously influences them.
The research on this field indicates the below:
Optimizing sleep may have a corollary benefit of reducing depression’s symptoms.12
Inadequate sleep can activate anxiety in people.13
Treating insomnia can reduce the impact of bipolar disorder.14
Sleep has potential benefits in treating schizophrenia.15
There are associations between sleep disturbance with ADHD.16
So, back to exercise. Sleep and physical activity have a strong correlation as well. Exercise does make it easier to fall asleep and increases the quality of your sleep, as shown by a plethora of reliable research. 17 So, adding exercise to your daily habits will optimize your sleep. And optimizing sleep leads to the already-mentioned benefits. Remember that, sleep wisely!
Unlock your healthy brain functioning is what the title says. A fancy blog title to attract some clicks, someone might say.
However, the evidence in this article shows that the title is not that fancy at all. It’s just true. Yes, exercise will unlock your ultimate healthy brain functioning.
Physical activity has several beneficial cognitive effects and will benefit everyone’s mental health, in many aspects.
After all, “a sound mind in a healthy body” as ancient Greeks rightly taught us.
Breathing is something we do automatically, without thinking. We often forget about it, but let me remind you of something. Our average respiration rate at rest, as adults, is from 12 to 16 breaths per minute.
As we all know, this homeostatic process allows the oxygen in the air we inhale to enter the blood. At the same time, CO2 leaves the bloodstream and reaches our lungs which are ready to discard it via exhaling. And yet there’s much more than that.
Does breathing shape our brain?
In the last few years, researchers have been studying how breathing is related to our emotions, one uncharted territory of scientific psychology. They eventually started to investigate how breathing shapes the brain.
Brainwaves as a tool to examine the influence of breathing in brain.
The key to understanding this link is to look closely at the gamma oscillations. These are a special type of so-called ‟brainwaves”; rhythmic fluctuations that are generated by neural tissue in response to neural activity. The various kinds of oscillations differ in frequency. Gamma oscillations span the range of 25-100 Hz.
When we are learning something new, our brains produce gamma oscillations.
It has already been noticed2 that respiration affects the modulation of odor-evoked gamma oscillations. The same is true4 for emotion-induced oscillations, especially fear and anxiety.
It seems that the center for such outputs lies in the amygdala. Stimulating the amygdala increases the respiratory rate as a result of delta oscillations production in the olfactory bulb. If one electrically stimulates a particular spinal nerve region (the C4 ventral root), which is connected to the limbic system where the amygdala lives, it is possible to burst our breath.
Yes, it does!
A natural question that arises is whether the olfactory system is somehow special in this regard, or if these astonishing results remain true when considering other brain areas. It turns out that4 the olfactory system does have a certain importance, mainly due to evolution.
The cerebral cortex has always maintained a link with the olfactory system, and only later did it adapt so as to expand its influence on other sensory systems. Our nose has acted as a fast way to perceive eventual damages coming from the environment surrounding us since prehistoric times.
Nonetheless3, breathing also shapes other areas of the brain. Measuring at the same time the breathing rhythm and the neural activity in awake mice, researchers have found that both delta oscillations and gamma oscillations influence the barrel cortex.
A crucial role in this is still played by the olfactory bulb, which when is removed3 causes a notable decrease in the respiration frequency. In particular, the delta oscillations are reduced by 80-90%.
New outstanding evidence
A group of scientists followed the road that these seminal achievements paved. They consideredan additional factor – the neural gain – to develop a model that describes the influence of breathing rhythms on our cognition, emotions, and perception. Loosely speaking, the neural gain is an amplifier of neuronal activity; augmenting the gain leads to an increase of the electrical activity along the nerve cell (an action commonly defined as ‟neurons firing”), and vice versa, decreasing the gain inhibits neurons.1
According to their most recent paper on this topic1, delta oscillations modulate sensory inputs and responses. Depending on the neuron firing rates, there are alterations in blood temperature and oxygenation, as well as arterial pulsation. The significant aspect here is that, even for small changes in visceral rhythms, the perception of external stimuli sensations (such as smell, sight, etc.) is highly influenced.
Moreover, since gamma oscillations can alter synaptic plasticity, the way we breathe might have a tremendous effect on our brain. Intranasal or intraoral breath, deep or shallow, and so forth – might have a long-term effect on our health.
For example, intranasal breathing specifically modulates hippocampal theta rhythms as well as performance on memory and emotion tasks.modulates hippocampal theta rhythms and5 Based on these findings, Allen, M. et al. suggest that intranasal respiration plays a dominant role in modulating slower neural oscillations associated with top-down computations, and in particular those that regulate affective and motivational processing.1
The post-COVID-19 hypothesis
Although more research is needed before drawing precise conclusions, there are already some relevant elements supporting this hypothesis. For instance, there’s the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed1, of the more than 600 million people who recovered from COVID-19 as of November 2022, it is estimated that about 15% have suffered (or are still suffering) from long-covid effects despite the absence of any physiological damage.
The reasons are not completely clear, but scientists suspect that many of these consequences may be related to how the patients’ ways of breathing have been changed by this infectious disease.
The good news is that one can learn to regulate and control the rhythm of the breath, as soldiers and snipers do during their training. This could lay1 the foundation for new insights that could help doctors treat some kinds of illnesses, psychiatric disorders, and mental health symptoms such as depression, panic attacks, and anxiety.
In a sense, this is not so different from what physical activity does to our brain: when we exercise, our body releases endorphins, chemical signals that ‟cheat” our brain and make us feel happier, also reducing our pain.
We can therefore conclude that this discovery is opening the doors to plenty of yet-to-be-answered questions. Questions that will surely shed some light on the relationship between our breathing and seemingly unrelated matters. It will take some time to elaborate on the new hypothesis and apply the results in the medical field. However, in the end, the world will feel the difference by using more strategies to cure a range of illnesses.
Physical exercise can influence our lives in many different ways. From basic activities, like walking an hour per day, to more intense exercises, like lifting weights at the gym; our body and brain experience a sense of well-being that induces numerous biological benefits, which are not only related to mass growth, blood flow increase, or fat loss.
The situation, indeed, is more interesting than it might appear at a first glance.
It is known that1 insufficient physical exercise can lead to diverse issues, such as obesity and osteoporosis, just to cite a few.
However, new studies have proven that even normal level of exercise is not only useful to reduce the risks of developing some diseases, but it is also important to produce positive effects on our brain and mental health.
Exercise and Mental Health
The link between physical activity and healthy life has caught scientists’ attention for years. Although the neuroscience of exercise is a growing area of research, and there is still a lot to discover, many interesting results have been demonstrated in the last two decades. 2
Even though more studies are mainly conducted on animals, they still provide essential achievements that can be adapted to humans.
When we talk about exercise and its effects on our brain and mental health, we shall distinguish between two distinct categories:
the effects that a single session of exercise has on our brain, and
the effects of chronic engagement in exercise.
Today’s topic is the effects of a single session.
What happens to our brain when we exercise?
Are there any effects of training in our mental health?
What is the chemical profile of a single workout?
The Chemical Profile of One Workout
In general, someone can claim that an acute session of exercise relieves anxiety and makes us feel more alert. This is because major neurotransmitters, especially dopamine, serotonin, endorphin, and norepinephrine, are modulated by physical activities.2
However, we need to dive deeper to have a better understanding. So, let’s create the chemical profile of a workout.
We all acknowledge the importance of keeping the levels of serotonin balanced. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter whose deficiency causes the main “bad-mood” feelings.
Just so you know, people who are depressed often have low levels of serotonin. That’s why most anti-depressants medications are based on raising serotonin levels.3
So here it is, the first piece of our puzzle. Serotonin; this happy chemical is released during, and after physical activity, even with a 15min walk.
So, even on days that you don’t feel like getting out of bed to pump iron; if you do it, most probably it will cheer up your spirit and energy.
During and after an exercise session your dopamine levels are raised. You will benefit from this increase in two ways:
Dopamine release as a physical reaction during the workout4, and
Dopamine release as a reward after finishing your target (=workout).
The production of dopamine then leads to a sense of well-being. You now walk through a more motivated, positive, and meaningful state. I am sure that ma fitness junkies out there will relate to this experience.
Exercise and especially high-intensity exercise triggers the production of Norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine (or Nor-Adrenaline when it’s released from the adrenal glands) is responsible for alertness during and post the training session.
Moreover, improves focus, attention, and even boosts memory retrieval. Just in case you wanted some good reasons to start your day with a good workout.
You know opioids, right? The substances, such as morphine, methadone, and oxycodone, that bind to special brain receptors and as a result block pain signals.
But, did you know that your body can produce its own opioid-like substances?
Well, endorphins are the products of your opioid production line. They are not opioids but they act like them since they bind to the same receptors, relieving stress and pain.
When you are exercising your body is flooded with these feel-good substances which not only cheer your mood up but they are also painkillers.
In the same context, it has been shown5 that exercise (and, in particular, endurance exercise) activates the endocannabinoid system. It is the lipid system that acts as a modulator in the brain, immune and endocrine tissue.
You know the famous “Runner’s High”, a deep euphoric state following an intense exercise that lasts so little. For many years scientists believed that it was an effect of endorphins release, but now it seems that is not true. Endocannabinoids appear to have the main role here.5,6
I usually experience runner’s high after a good 5km run at a nice location during sunset. Believe me, that short-lasting moment is unforgettable!
The serum concentration in endocannabinoids increases during physical activity, therefore triggering the brain’s reward system.7 And what triggers the brain’s reward system, you, now, know that causes the release of dopamine with all the related benefits.
How magnificent it is, huh? So many things happen to our body and mind during just a simple exercise session. And we even didn’t take into account all the long-term effects.
Just remember, mental health matters and exercise is one of your best tools…
To conclude, a single workout will:
enhance your mood
boost your energy
relieve you from pain and stress
make you more alert and focused.
And you might be lucky enough to experience the euphoric state of “Runner’s high”.
So, Covid-19 and mental health. In the previous post, we talked thoroughly about the direct effects of Covid-19 on the brain. We saw how SARS-Cov-2 manages to penetrate the brain and cause damage, leading to severe neurological issues and even depression. As we mentioned back then, to understand the relation between Covid-19 and mental health we need to examine two main questions:
What are the direct effects of Covid-19 on the brain and mental health?
What are the indirect effects of Covid-19 on the brain and mental health?
The one is already answered (if you haven’t read it yet, do it now!). In this post, we are going to reveal the indirect effects that might Covid-19 have on the brain and mental health.
A careful approach
Switching to the effects of restrictive measures, we must be careful about the kind of approach we employ in the study. In contrast to the biological question of the previous post, here there are many more variables that play an important role and hence modify the results, making them less reliable, if not treated properly.
Even though quarantine, social distancing, and other restrictive measures appear to be good reasons for causing issues in mental health, still it’s difficult and tricky to give results and conclusions about their effects.
Let’s dig in
The first distinction we could make involves data gathered from European countries; from those with the most severe measures, such as Germany, to those with the mildest measures, like Lithuania. It appears that exposure to lockdown did not significantly increase the cases of mental health issues. Less than a fifth of the adult population showed signs of depression and anxiety.1,2
As might be expected, though, the risk was higher for those who for any reason were staying alone at home. For instance, those who were not married and were passing their days lonely had tougher times than people who had company. Hard times, also had, and still have the ones who were subject to stressing factors like the unemployed ones and people with lower income or any disadvantaged setting.2
Moreover, if we conversely look at adolescents and children, we discover that for 70.2% of them, mental health conditions have worsened in at least one of the following categories: depression, anxiety, compulsions, and irritability. In particular, the deterioration of such issues was related to the presence of pre-COVID conditions of the same kind. Social isolation and ethnicity are the major factors in this aggravation.3
A foggy landscape
Generally, we could say that the pandemic has had a tremendous impact on our lives. For the sake of the truth, it is observed a major increase in the number of U.S. citizens who report symptoms of stress, insomnia, anxiety, and even depression during the pandemic, compared with the times before the pandemic. Something that could be proof of this statement, it’s the increase in the use of substances (alcohol and prescription and non-prescription drugs) during the last year.4
But, as you can see, we cannot have a lot of clear evidence about the indirect effects of Covid-19 on mental health. However, by combining the two scenarios (direct and indirect effects), we can see that the risk of developing neurological issues after the infection by COVID-19 is non-negligible. This is why scientists collected lots of data to give an indicative percentage that measures these manifestations.5
Such papers prove that fatigue (58%), headaches (44%), and attention disorders (27%) are among the most probable long-term effects; while anxiety (13%), depression (12%), sleep disorders (11%) and psychiatric illnesses (6%) tend to last less. The good news is that has been observed severe depression lasting more than twelve weeks only in a small number of cases (3% – 12%).5,6
To sum up the two posts, we could say that Covid-19 seems to have some effects on mental health either direct or indirect. The effects, though, don’t last for long periods and are usually reversible.
The truth, though, is that Covid-19 has changed completely our lives. I, personally, experienced a lot of ups and downs in my mental health over the last two years. I have no idea if Covid-19/pandemic was the reason for that, even though, I was infected twice with Covid-19. However, I strongly believe that the paranoia of the past years contributed to my any piccolo mental issues. And so did to many other people.