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The Impact of Sleep on Mental Health

Sleep is essential to wellness. Without enough sleep, individuals suffer a range of problems, including physical and mental health issues. It’s easy to recognize the connection between sleep deprivation and physical symptoms, but sleep is also a critical component in your mental well-being.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

If you’re suffering from mental health issues, a lack of adequate sleep could be the cause. If it's not the cause, inadequate sleep will amplify any underlying mental health problems. 

Understanding the connection between sleep and mental health can empower you to make the right choices for optimal health outcomes. 

You probably wake up feeling energized and ready for the day when you’ve had enough sleep. When you don’t get adequate sleep, you may feel sluggish throughout the day, forget things, and even feel moody. The process that occurs while you are asleep is responsible for revitalizing you.

During a good night’s sleep, you can expect the following physical and mental health benefits: 

  • Supports balanced hormones that are responsible for feelings of hunger and fullness. When you don’t get enough sleep, you will feel hungrier. 

  • Keeps your blood sugar level stable. 

  • It helps the body fight germs and sickness. 

  • Heals and repairs your heart and blood vessels. 

  • Reduces your risk of issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and stroke. 

  • Prepares your brain for the upcoming day by forming new pathways, which help in learning and remembering. 

  • Aids in problem-solving, learning, focusing, and decision-making. 

  • Better ability in controlling your emotions. 

  • Greater mental well-being. 

How and Why Does Lack of Sleep Affect Mental Health? 

You probably feel it the minute you wake up from a night of inadequate sleep. You are groggy, and you may experience brain fog. However, that is not all that happens to your mental well-being when you don’t get proper sleep time. Studies show that sleep deficiency affects the activity in certain parts of your brain. Since sleep is crucial for “recharging” your brain, it’s not surprising that lack of sleep contributes to short- and long-term problems. 

Sleep deficiency can lead to trouble making the best decisions for yourself. It also slows your reaction time, which can lead to detrimental consequences. Other issues noted in people who are sleep-deprived include trouble regulating their emotions, which in turn may lead to regretful behavior. 

Additionally, lack of sleep can lead to mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Some studies have even seen a correlation between sleep deprivation and suicide. Without adequate sleep, you are more prone to take risks because sleep deprivation impairs cognitive function. When you cannot think clearly, you have a greater chance of doing something unwise, unhealthy, or risky. 

How the Different Sleep Cycles Work 

The sleep cycle consists of four main categories. These include three stages in the non-REM cycle, and the fourth stage is REM sleep. The three stages of non-REM sleep are referred to as NREM N1 through NREM N3. The final and fourth stage is REM stage (R). 

During the beginning NREM stages, your heart rate slows down, the body begins to relax, and the body temperature decreases. By the time you get to NREM N3, you are in the deepest part of sleep. Your heart rate is considerably slower. During this time, your body and brain begin to rejuvenate and heal. 

REM sleep happens when you dream. You experience rapid eye movement and your heart and breathing increase. 

Are You Getting Enough Sleep? 

You may be unsure about whether you are getting enough sleep or not. If you are not tracking your sleep with a monitoring device, like Fitbit, then you may have questions.

Some signs that you are not getting enough sleep include the following: 

  • You feel tired during the day, yawning frequently. 

  • You are irritable and on edge. 

  • You have problems remembering things. 

  • You cannot focus like you normally do. 

  • You feel like you are going to fall asleep when sitting still for a while. 

  • You need a nap to get through the day. 

  • You fall asleep almost immediately upon going to bed. 

  • You feel more anxious, depressed, and stressed lately. 

How to Ensure You Get Adequate Sleep 

You may be aware that you are not getting enough sleep but are not sure how to get back on track. The following tips can help you get on track with your sleeping goals. 

Make a routine that includes establishing consistent sleep to promote better mental health. You may need to take steps to ensure you can get to sleep at a decent hour. For example, you can set your phone to shut off and turn it back on at specific times. This can help those who use their phones a lot at night. 

Take a hot shower or bath to relax your muscles and relieve tension. 

Use the last hour before bed as a time to relax. Try to avoid doing any work before bed or even discussing work issues. 

If you suspect any sleep disorders, consult a medical specialist to determine what can be done to improve your sleep and overall well-being. 

Sleep For Your Mental Health Needs 

Prioritizing good sleep hygiene is vital for maintaining optimal mental health. Now that you know more about how sleep works and its critical role in your mental health and well-being, take time to assess whether you are getting enough sleep. You can explore the ActiveFit+ blog to learn more about mental health and wellness. 


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