The Impact of Sleep on Mental Health

woman lying on a bed of grass

Mental health has garnered attention worldwide due to its impact on individuals and communities. In today’s fast-paced world, where stress and demands seem to be ever-increasing, taking care of our mental health has become an important aspect of our overall well-being. If you want to have a better understanding of the connection between sleep and mental health and how it can greatly affect our emotions and state of mind, keep on reading!

What is the relationship between sleep and mental health?

Before we delve into how sleep and mental health influences each other, let’s first discuss what happens when we sleep. During sleep, brain activity fluctuates through different sleep stages, with each stage contributing to brain health and cognitive functions, including memory, learning and thinking. Additionally, the brain’s processing of emotional information, particularly during REM sleep, is vital for maintaining emotional well-being. When we lack sufficient REM sleep, it can affect the consolidation of positive emotions, leading to mood issues, emotional reactivity and even worsening mental health disorders, including an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

Moving onto the correlation between sleep and mental health, the relationship between these two is intricate and goes beyond what was once thought. While it was believed that sleep problems were only a consequence of mental health disorders, recent studies point to a two-way relationship between them. Sleep disturbances can be both a cause and a result of mental health problems, with the connection influenced by various factors unique to each individual. For instance, individuals with existing mental health conditions are more prone to chronic sleep problems, leading to worsened psychiatric symptoms and an elevated risk of suicidal tendencies. On the other hand, healthy individuals may experience heightened anxiety and distress following inadequate sleep.

Common effects of sleep deprivation on our mental & emotional well-being

Below are some common effects of sleep deprivation on our emotional well-being and mental health:

  • Stress

  • Mood Changes 

  • Behavioural Changes

  • Brain Fog 

  • Temporary Psychotic Symptoms (i.e. hallucinations and delusions)

The impact of sleep on mental health issues

Exploring the impact of sleep on mental health issues reveals its profound influence on emotions and cognitive function. Without further ado, let’s delve into the effects of sleep on specific mental health challenges.

#1 Depression

It is revealed that about 300 million people around the world have depression. Around 75% of individuals with depression experience insomnia, while others deal with excessive daytime sleepiness or hypersomnia. In the past, it was believed that sleep issues were just a consequence of depression, but recent studies suggest it’s a two-way street. Poor sleep can worsen depression, and vice versa, creating a cycle that affects both conditions. On a positive note, this discovery opens up new possibilities for treating depression. For some individuals, improving sleep may help reduce depressive symptoms.

“Seasonal Affective Disorder”, another type of depression, is linked to disruptions in our circadian rhythm, affecting our sleep patterns, especially during reduced daylight hours.

#2 Anxiety

People with anxiety often face more sleep disturbances, and sleep deprivation can also contribute to feelings of anxiety. This can create a cycle that worsens both sleep and anxiety issues.

Moreover, sleep problems can increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders. According to VeryWell Mind, a reliable source for mental health-related resources, sleep issues predict the likelihood of generalised anxiety disorder in children and teens between the ages of nine and 16. If sleep problems persist and are not addressed, individuals may be more susceptible to developing anxiety conditions.


People with ADHD often experience sleeping problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings and excessive daytime sleepiness. Rates of other sleep issues, like obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome (RLS), are also higher in individuals with ADHD. These sleep difficulties have been studied mainly in children but can affect adults as well. While sleep problems can be caused by ADHD, they may also worsen symptoms like decreased attention span and behavioural problems. 

#4 Bipolar Disorder

In bipolar disorder, sleep patterns vary with emotional states. During manic periods, people may need less sleep, while during depressed periods, they may sleep excessively. Sleep disruptions can persist even between episodes.

Research shows that sleep pattern changes often precede bipolar episodes. Sleep problems can also trigger or worsen manic and depressive periods. The correlation between bipolar disorder and sleep suggests that treating insomnia can help lessen the impact of the disorder.

Improving Sleep Quality For Your Mental Health

The dynamic relationship between sleep and our emotional well-being highlights the need to prioritise good sleep hygiene. To promote better sleep, consider creating a consistent bedtime routine, allowing your body to prepare for rest naturally. Staying physically active during the day can also help regulate sleep patterns and reduce stress. If you find yourself struggling with sleep or facing mental health challenges, don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist or medical professional for support. Lastly, investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows can contribute to a more restful sleep experience. Let’s take the necessary steps to improve our sleep quality and nurture our mental health with the attention and care they deserve!

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