- Relationship Between Sleep and Mental Health: Sleep and mental health have a bidirectional relationship. Poor mental health can lead to sleep disturbances, while sleep problems can exacerbate mental health issues. Stress, anxiety, and depression can make it difficult to fall asleep, and a lack of sleep can worsen mood and emotional regulation.
- Common Conditions Linked to Sleep Problems: Several mental health conditions are linked to sleep problems. These include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and autism spectrum disorder. These conditions can cause insomnia, hypersomnia, or other sleep disruptions.
- Importance of Treating Sleep and Mental Health Together: Improving sleep hygiene and seeking treatment for sleep disorders can have positive effects on mental health. Similarly, treating mental health conditions can lead to better sleep quality and overall mental well-being. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and establishing bedtime routines can help improve sleep and mental health simultaneously.
Staying mentally healthy and balanced has been linked to improve overall well-being. But keeping your mental health in check may actually help improve your quality of sleep. As decreased mental wellness has been linked to numerous sleeping troubles and disorders, the reverse may also be true.
And, the relationship may be reciprocal, meaning your quality of sleep can also impact your mental health. Thus, finding ways to keep stress low and maintaining healthy sleep hygiene are crucial to your overall well-being.
You’ve likely experienced this relationship firsthand, too. How many times have you woken up after a night of poor sleep only to find yourself in a poor mood, stressed, or even down? Likewise, you may have found yourself tossing and turning all night, unable to fall asleep fast because you’re worried about job pressure, family issues, or more. Mental health and sleep are intrinsically linked and when one is out of balance, the other often suffers.
“Our physiological and mental functions are regulated by the interaction between a sleep drive and a circadian process,” notes Dr. Nayantara Santhi. “Hence circadian rhythms play a critical role in our mental health. There is a reciprocal relationship between mood disorders and circadian rhythms.”
“Mood disorders are associated with disrupted circadian rhythms such as sleep and cortisol secretion. However, it is only recently that researchers have started to focus on the relationship between the circadian system and mood regulation.”
The Relationship Between Sleep and Mental Health
Why are sleep and mental health so closely linked? It can help by first understanding what happens to your body when you’re asleep.
There are four stages of sleep — three non-REM stages and one REM stage — which serve vital functions for your body and brain health. Not only does the overall activity in your brain during sleep help improve your cognitive function, memory, and ability to learn, but it also has been shown to have a positive impact on your emotional processing. In other words, restful sleep can boost your mental health.
One of the functions of sleep is to enhance your memories by helping to sift through and evaluate them. While healthy sleep has been shown to benefit your cognitive health, unhealthy sleep can lead to negative side effects.
In fact, poor sleep has been shown to influence your mood and overall emotional well-being — it’s also associated with mental health disorders and in extreme cases, has even been shown to lead to suicidal thoughts.
Mental Health Conditions Linked to Sleeping Problems
Poor sleep quality can impact your health overall. Worse, poor sleep can be both cause of and consequence of a mental health condition, potentially creating a vicious sleep of lost sleep. Here are a few common mental health diagnoses that have been linked to unhealthy sleep.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, your mood is likely to suffer — but a depression diagnosis is more serious than being in a poor frame of mind.living with depression have insomnia symptoms, which means they have trouble falling or staying asleep most nights.
Hypersomnia and frequent daytime sleepiness occurs in roughly 40% of younger depressed individuals — and it’s more likely to impact females.
While depression can lead sufferers to experience insomnia, the reverse is also true.in nondepressed adults can increase their risk of developing depression.
In the US, over 40 million adults experience some form of clinical anxiety (that’s 19% of the population) and it also impacts approximately 7% of children, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. There are different types of anxiety orders ranging from to to and While genetics may play a key role in anxiety diagnoses, sleep is also a trigger.
Research has shown a link between anxiety sufferers and sleeping troubles — from prolonged periods of awakeness to poorer sleep quality. In fact,of all generalized anxiety sufferers claim to suffer from sleeping issues.
Lack of sleep has also been shown to contribute to and even exacerbate anxiety and its symptoms. As a result, doctors may use treatment methods designed for both anxiety and insomnia when treating patients.
In addition, mounting research points to a causal relationship between anxiety and sleep disorders, with fragmented sleep reported by many sufferers, which tends to lead to aanxiety symptoms.
Formerly known as manic depression,is a mental health disorder categorized by large swings in temperament. Patients with bipolar disorder often experience extreme highs in emotion (called ‘mania’) and extreme lows (depression).
This mental condition has beenIn fact, sleep disturbances may be a key biomarker of bipolar disorder. In addition, poor or fragmented sleep leads to a worsening of bipolar symptoms. Improving sleep quality has been linked to a lessening of mania symptoms, while poor sleep can serve as a predictor for manic behaviors in individuals with this disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
AlsoSAD, is a form of depression that’s linked to the changing of seasons. Americans diagnosed with SAD may also feel the impact of sleep deprivation during depressive episodes.
Those who suffer from SAD in the fall and winter months frequently report hypersomnia episodes. In fact, a recent survey found that 80% of participants reported hypersomnia in the winter, However, unlike some other disorders, SAD sufferers might report sleeping longer in months when their depression is occurring — although their quality of sleep might still be poor, despite spending more hours in bed.
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder has been linked to increased periods of inability to focus or pay attention and impulsivity. This disorder is more often diagnosed in children, impacting over(just over 9% of the population) and under 3% of adults. were found to have higher instances of nighttime breathing trouble, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and circadian rhythm problems. Suffering from sleeping disorders has also been linked to increased ADHD symptoms, like changes in mood, behavior, and attention span — making ADHD treatments less effective.
One of the most severe mental health disorders, schizophrenia,of the population across the globe. This mental condition also has a relationship to sleep. A majority of those suffering from schizophrenia report sleeping issues, such as insomnia.
Many of these sleeping disruptions have been found to occur before diagnosis (and are thought to occur before onset of the disorder). Thus sleep disturbances may serve as a predictor for a future schizophrenic diagnosis.
And of course, insomnia. These sleeping disorders can also exacerbate symptoms of schizophrenia.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)is a mental health condition characterized by intrusive, persistent, and distressing thoughts, images, or urges (obsessions) that are typically followed by repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) aimed at reducing anxiety or preventing harm.
Poor sleep quality is a common symptom among individuals with OCD, and research suggests that there may be a bidirectional relationship between OCD and sleep problems.
On the one hand, OCD symptoms can interfere with sleep by causing significant distress, anxiety, and arousal that make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get restful sleep. The repetitive behaviors or mental acts associated with OCD can also consume a significant amount of time and interfere with bedtime routines.
On the other hand, poor sleep quality can worsen OCD symptoms by impairing cognitive functioning, increasing anxiety and stress, and disrupting emotional regulation. In some cases, sleep deprivation can even trigger or exacerbate OCD symptoms.
OCD can also overlap with other conditions, such asor
Are Sleeping Disorders and Autism Connected?is technically not a mental health condition, but many people mistake this developmental disability for one. And yet, there’s a link between this neurodevelopmental disorder and sleep that’s quite similar to that between mental health and sleep.
An underlying cause for why some individuals develop autism has not been uncovered — but a connection between poor sleep and autism diagnoses has been revealed. Athat there’s a possible link between children experiencing poor sleep and an increase in the likelihood of an autism diagnosis.
Research also shows that those with autism are more likely to encounter sleep disruptions and trouble initiating sleep. Athat the correlation between autism and DIMS (difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep) may have biological origins and the etiology of each may be intertwined with one another.
Psychological Effects of a Sleeping Disorder
As established, there’s a strong link between poor sleep and mental health or psychological disorders. While chronic sleep issues impact roughly 10% to 18% of the general population, they impact roughly 50% to 80% of psychiatric patients, according to a
Athat inadequate levels of sleep was also found to be linked with increased bouts of mental distress. Insomnia, most specifically, has been tied to higher levels of stress, difficulty remembering and focusing, and has been established as a risk indicator for mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and even suicide.
And while improved sleep can lead to a decrease in mental health disorder symptoms, can it also lead to improved overall mental health? According to recent medical research — yes. Athat by improving sleep, participants with mental health disorders reported significant “medium-sized” improvements in the overall mental outlook, as well as a decrease in mental health disease symptoms.
While more research is called for to determine if improving sleep can effectively work as a treatment or as an aid to mental health disorders (and vice versa), working to improve one’s sleep has been demonstrated to show positive side effects for the other.
How to Improve Your Sleep and Mental Health
Whether you suffer from a diagnosed mental health disorder like depression or anxiety, or if you simply notice your mood deteriorates due to an inability to fall or remain asleep, here are some tips to help improve your sleep hygiene. Better quality of sleep may also lead to better mental health, after all.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
These aren’t just for children. A bedtime routine is important to help prepare your body for sleep. This can be particularly helpful if you find it difficult to fall asleep fast each night.
While most scientific studies incorporating bedtime routines focus on infants or young children, research indicates that establishing a nightly regime not only improves sleep, but it can improve your overall sleep health rather quickly.
If you don’t already have a set bedtime, try establishing one and aim to be in bed by that time each night. It’s important to pick a time that makes sense for your schedule and that you can stick to consistently — yes, even on weekends. Use a sleep calculator to help you if needed.
Creating an evening routine and doing the same things — brushing your teeth, unwinding, or even reading — right before bed can help your body prepare for sleep.
Invest in a High-Quality Mattress and Pillow
Sometimes the cause of not falling or staying asleep can be cured by simply trading in your existing mattress and pillow for better options. Back pain and sleeping disorders are closely linked, and alleviating triggers of back pain may be able to resolve or improve your sleep woes. Old mattresses have many health effects, including worsened back pain.
There’s not one solution to which type of mattress or pillow is right for everyone. Most people sleep better on different softness levels, which some preferring firm and others opting for soft. That noted, medium-firm mattresses are often identified as helpful for those with back trouble.
Changing your sleep position may also help. Sleeping on your side or stomach could cause spinal alignment issues, which lead to back pain, and promote waking up throughout the night.
Unplug from Electronics
Shut off electronics at least one hour before bed. While establishing a bedtime routine is key to improving sleep hygiene, this tip only works well if you’re also unplugging before going to bed. Disconnecting from screens is particularly important since many of us spend our entire days looking at them.
Exposure to light-emitting screens in the evenings has been found to disrupt the circadian rhythm, and cause sleeping issues for many Americans. While disconnecting completely in the evenings may not be possible, unplugging an hour or two before bed can help minimize blue light exposure.
Setting blue light filters on your phone in the evening may also be beneficial, particularly if you use apps for sleep. But try to make it a habit to put your phone away before bed — and try to avoid scrolling social media if you can’t fall asleep right away.
Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This valuable program may help sleep — andis also used in the treatment of many mental health disorders. While treatment methods can vary and may be individualized, in general, this treatment focuses on identifying and rectifying behaviors that may worsen your sleep quality.
Cognitive therapy is often used to treat insomnia and other chronic sleeping disorders. If you’re interested in trying out this method, talk to your doctor to find out next steps.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does sleep affect mental health?
Sleep plays a critical role in maintaining good mental health. Quality sleep allows the brain to process and consolidate memories, regulate emotions, and repair and restore the body. A lack of sleep can result in mood swings, irritability, and a higher risk of developing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
What mental illness makes it hard to sleep?
Many mental health conditions can make it hard to sleep, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Sleep disturbances are often a key symptom of these conditions and can exacerbate their severity.
People with one of these conditions may need to treat them with cognitive behavioral therapy or medication to address their sleep woes.
Is lack of sleep linked to mental illness?
Yes, research has shown that a lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing mental illness, including anxiety disorders, depression, and bipolar disorder. In some cases, sleep disturbances may even trigger the onset of certain mental health conditions. Conversely, insomnia, hypersomnia and fragmented sleep are often symptoms of mental conditions such as depression or anxiety.
What is the relationship between depression and sleep?
Depression and sleep are closely linked and capable of greatly impacting each other. Many people with depression experience sleep disturbances, including insomnia, excessive sleepiness, and disrupted sleep patterns. Poor sleep quality can also worsen symptoms of depression, leading to a cycle of sleep deprivation and worsening mental health.
How can anxiety affect sleep?
Anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. People with anxiety may experience racing thoughts, heightened arousal, and muscle tension, all of which can interfere with relaxing and fall asleep fast. Chronic sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety symptoms, leading to a vicious cycle of anxiety and poor sleep quality.
There’s a distinct connection between sleep and mental health. Poor sleep or mental health often has negative ramifications on the other. In turn, improving one also tends to improve the other — or at the very least, decreases some of the negative side effects.
Both sleep and mental health are vital for an overall healthy body. So taking steps to address them, such as a new mattress and seeking medical treatmet, is important in improving your general well-being.