Sleep And Mental Health: How Are They Related? - Mental Health Help - Shorelines Care

Growing up, we all heard from parents and teachers how important it was to get our sleep. However, as we matured and the hustle and bustle and pressures of adulthood took hold, many of us stopped making sleep a priority. The reality is, our brains and bodies need adequate sleep, especially as adults, so we can function at our best. The effects of inadequate or poor quality sleep quickly spill over into our physical and mental wellbeing.

The relationship between sleep and mental health 

The relationship between sleep and mental health is complex. However, past and present research has shown that the two are strongly connected.

Sleep is the time where our minds reset and recharge. When we sleep well, emotions, memories, and new information are processed and stored away for the mind to retrieve later.

When we don’t get enough sleep, our psychological state and mental wellbeing are affected.

In the short term, it makes you feel irritable, forgetful, and exhausted. In the long term, sleep deprivation can cause more severe consequences, such as increased risks of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

What happens to our mental health when we don’t get enough sleep?

Sleep issues can lead to changes in your mental health, but mental health conditions can also make sleep more challenging. Some researchers even believe that lack of sleep can trigger the onset of specific mental health disorders, although more research is still needed on this.

Because of this complicated relationship between sleep patterns and mental health, it’s essential to talk to your doctor or mental health professional if you’re experiencing any issues with sleep. 


If you’ve ever had a tough time getting through the day after tossing and turning the night before, you’re well aware of the disruptive effects sleep can have. We feel more irritable, and coping with minor stressors and inconveniences of our day-to-day lives seem even more difficult than normal. Daily hassles turn into significant sources of stress and frustration. Even getting poor sleep can in itself turn into a source of stress.


Insomnia and other sleep issues can be symptoms of depression. More recently, however, researchers say that a lack of sleep can cause or exacerbate depressive symptoms. Numerous studies have found that people with insomnia have a higher risk of developing depression than those who don’t experience trouble sleeping.


Alongside other mental health conditions, the relationship between anxiety and sleep goes both ways. People with anxiety can experience more sleep disturbances, as symptoms can create excessive fear or worry at night, keeping them up and wide awake.  At the same time, a lack of sleep can also make you feel more anxious. If repeated over time, it can ultimately become a vicious cycle that perpetuates sleep and anxiety issues.

Ways to improve your sleep and mental health

In addition to seeking help from medical and mental health professionals, here are a few things you can do on your own to improve your sleep regime. These include:

  • Avoid or limit napping. Too much sleep throughout the day can affect your ability to fall or stay asleep at night. If you enjoy taking naps from time to time, try to keep them to about 20-30 minutes. This can help you feel more alert and well-rested without interrupting your sleep at night.
  • Establish an evening routine. Come up with a few healthy habits to help you sleep at night. You can choose anything from taking a hot bath, reading a book, or doing a wind-down guided meditation, whatever it is that calms you down and helps prepare your mind and body for rest. The more you practice these small relaxing habits, the easier it’ll be to improve your sleep throughout the night.
  • Avoid caffeine or any stimulants close to your bedtime. Consuming coffee, soda, or anything caffeinated in the evening can make it difficult to fall asleep or affect the quality of the sleep you get.
  • Turn off your devices. Watching TV, playing video games, or scrolling through your phone can keep you up at night and make it more difficult to fall asleep, regardless of how tired you’ve been throughout the day. The blue light emitted from electronic screens interferes with our body’s natural production of melatonin. To avoid this, try to set limits on screen time before bed and opt for a relaxing, non-digital activity instead.
  • Get outside during the day. Spending some time outdoors in the natural light throughout the day can help regulate your circadian rhythm. Also known as your internal biological clock, your circadian rhythm works to regulate your sleep-wake cycle and is influenced by light. So, when it’s darker at night, your body releases melatonin, or your body’s natural sleep hormone.



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