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How Sleep Affects Your Mental Health

by Reyna Thomas

Sleep and mental health are more connected than some might think. Sleep deprivation can affect your psychological state and mental health. And those with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders. Because of this, in honor of World Mental Health Day, we think it is important to understand how and why sleep affects your mental health and well-being.

Disclaimer:  The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives. 

Mental Health and Sleep

Most people are personally aware of how sleep impacts their personal mental health. After all, there is a reason why the saying "woke up on the wrong side of the bed" exists. As it turns out, sleep has been linked to a number of diseases, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and others. A lack of sleep has also been related to a range of harmful physical health issues. 

In addition, a lack of quality sleep, including insomnia, can contribute to the onset and aggravation of mental health issues. Although many complicated elements affect both sleep and mental health, there is good reason to believe that enhancing sleep can positively affect both and can even be a component of managing many mental disorders.

woman who can’t sleep

Because of the interactional relationship between your sleep habits and your mental health, it's important to consult a doctor if you have trouble getting or staying asleep.

How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Mental Health?

There are 4 stages to our sleep cycle. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep is the first 3, while rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the fourth (rapid eye movement, intense dreaming). Each stage contributes to brain health by facilitating the ramping up or down of activity in various areas of the brain and improving thinking, learning, and memory.

The brain's ability to process emotional information is facilitated by getting enough sleep, specifically REM sleep. The brain works to analyze and retain thoughts and memories when we sleep, and studies show that lack of sleep is especially harmful to retaining emotionally positive information. Studies also show people with mental health disorders often spend more time in the less restorative NREM sleep than REM sleep. This leads to increased severity of mental health conditions, and can impact mood and emotional reactivity. Some of the other symptoms you can see from lack of sleep are:

Brain Fog

Sleep is necessary for our brains to function at their best. Brain fog, which frequently manifests as disorientation or difficulty concentrating, can result from lack of sleep. If you didn't get enough sleep the night before, you could discover that it's more difficult to remember specific memories or to find the appropriate words to express what you want to say. Being productive can also be challenging for you since, when your brain hasn't had a full night's rest, doing certain tasks can feel overwhelming.

woman stressed at work

Stress

Even very mild stress can be quite difficult to handle if you don't get enough sleep. Daily inconveniences can become huge sources of annoyance. There's also a chance that routine events can make you feel agitated. And even just thinking about how poorly you slept might cause stress.

Behavior Changes

A change in mood may also be accompanied by uncharacteristic behavior. Lack of sleep is linked to increased impulsivity, hyperactivity, and emotional outbursts. When you are sleep deprived, you may also find it difficult to interact with other people and see a change in your reactivity.

tired woman at work

Impact of Sleep on Mental Health Conditions

Exploring what is known about how sleep is connected to a variety of specific mental health illnesses and neurodevelopmental disorders demonstrates the link between sleep and mental health even more clearly. Those who experience Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorders, and Seasonal Affective Disorder all suffer from some form of poor sleep as a result of their disorder and often as a trigger or precursor to their disorder. That is why, if you suffer from any of these, it is important to make sleep health a priority. And you can start that by following our tips below.

man frustrated due to lack of sleep

How to Improve Your Mental Health and Sleep

Sleep disorders and poor sleep quality both have an impact on mental health. However, improving sleep does not provide a quick fix or a cure for mental health problems, but it does imply that therapy for both problems can go hand-in-hand.

Speak with a doctor about your treatment choices if you've been having sleep issues or are feeling excessively sleepy during the day. A medical professional or psychiatrist can go over the potential advantages and disadvantages of various treatments, including scenarios when multiple co-occurring sleep or mental health conditions are present.

man in a therapy session

In addition to getting help from medical professionals, there are also steps that you can take on your own to keep improving your sleep and well-being.

Limit your naps. Your capacity to fall asleep or stay asleep at night can be impacted by getting too much sleep during the day.

Create a night routine. Adhere to a routine that will help you wind down each night.

Avoid using caffeine or other stimulants leading up to bed. It may be challenging to fall asleep if you drink coffee, soda, or other caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon or evening.

Turn off your devices. It can be more difficult to unwind and fall asleep at night if you watch television or play on your phone.

Improving sleep hygiene by creating sleep-friendly routines and sleeping environments can help to significantly lower sleep interruptions. So, in addition to these steps, you should also evaluate your mattress and bedding to ensure they are the right fit to help you relax and sleep. If you need help, our experts at Westco Home Furnishings help. We have a great selection of mattresses for you to try and choose from. Give us a call if you have any questions, and we'll gladly help you find a great sleep solution.