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The Sleep-Mind Link: Deciphering How Sleep Affects Mental Health



The Sleep-Mind Link: Deciphering How Sleep Affects Mental Health

For your brain to function at its best, sleep is necessary. Your mental health suffers when you don’t get enough rest.

Have you ever had a few sleepless nights and found yourself stumbling through the day with less focus and a veil of fog? That is insufficient sleep. In order for our brains to continue building memories and learning new things, they need to be rested. Lack of sleep can also have serious negative effects on mental health, affecting mood and concentration.

We’ll talk about the significance of sleep for mental health here. See why you should stop sharing a bed with your pet and when to get a new mattress for further advice on health and sleep.

Why is sleep critical to the brain’s function?

Although everyone should aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night, busy lives might cause sleep disturbances due to early wake-up calls and late evenings. The Cleveland Clinic estimates that 70 million Americans suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders.

There’s more to this than just weariness. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting too little sleep increases your risk of experiencing mental anguish by 2.5 times.

Why does sleep have such a big impact on mental health? It all boils down to the activities of your brain during sleep.

Your brain while you sleep:

  • helps nerve cells communicate with one another.
  • eliminates toxins.
  • absorbs the knowledge you’ve acquired during the day.

You lose brain plasticity when you don’t get enough sleep, which prevents your brain from responding to stimuli in the proper way. This takes us back to the topic of how sleep and mental health are related. You don’t feel well mentally when your brain can’t learn new things or cement old memories.

Six ways that lack of sleep impairs mental health

Let’s examine more closely how sleep deprivation contributes to mental health issues.

Mood fluctuations

Long-term sleep loss impairs your capacity to control your emotions. You may have had the following experience: you feel like you could cry or lose it at any time after having a restless night’s sleep the previous day.

Our moods are adversely affected by sleep deprivation, according to studies. It may increase your vulnerability to rage and overall emotional reactivity. Not only do those emotional swings throw you off balance during the day. They may also affect your capacity for making decisions.

According to a 2017 study, getting too little sleep increases our sensitivity to stressful stimuli and our emotional arousal. Our capacity to control our emotions and cope with daily challenges depends on sleep.

Viewpoint of the universe

It feels harder to interact with the outside world when you’re not getting enough sleep, and that’s because it is. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may even begin to have hallucinations. Nights of insomnia have a direct effect on your perception of the world around you. Lack of sleep might alter your perception of events and, consequently, your reaction to them.

Sleep also affects our perception of reality. A study revealed that our perception of color can be altered by sleep deprivation.

Handling tension

There’s an intriguing relationship between stress and sleep. Not getting enough sleep can exacerbate stress, but not getting enough sleep can exacerbate stress as well.

According to a recent American Psychological Association survey, 21% of adults said that when they didn’t get enough sleep, their stress levels increased. If you’re already under stress, the problem gets worse. A staggering 45% of respondents who claimed they were more stressed before taking the study said that being sleep deprived made them feel even more stressed.

Many responders mentioned additional negative consequences of poor sleep that might cause stress, such as:

  • Sluggishness (53%)
  • Irritability (38%)
  • Trouble concentrating (29%)
  • Lack of motivation (25%)

Focus and mental fog

Your brain finds it more difficult to create memories, maintain concentrate, and pick up new skills when you’re sleep deprived. Brain fog can cause disruptions to your day due to the fatigue that results from inadequate sleep.

In fact, consider examining your sleeping patterns if you’ve been having trouble focusing. Sleep deprivation has been linked to lengthier reaction times and difficulty focusing, according to research.

A further link between sleep deprivation and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is found. There is a complicated and reciprocal relationship between ADHD and sleep: Individuals with ADHD may have disturbed sleep, and people who have trouble falling asleep may have symptoms of ADHD.

Disturbance of hormones

As we’ve previously discussed, sleeping does not always imply that your body and mind shut down. Actually, your body does certain essential tasks while you sleep. That covers a few important hormonal functions.

More specifically, as you sleep, the following hormones start to function:

  • Hormones of growth
  • Melatonin (which regulates your circadian rhythm)
  • Cortisol, a stress hormone, is the thyroid-stimulating hormone.
  • The hormones influencing your hunger

Since your hormones control a wide range of things in your body — many of which directly impact how you feel — this matters for both your mental and physical wellness.

The flip side of this is also true. A hormone imbalance can cause sleep issues, a problem that’s particularly common in women going through menopause. If you’ve been dealing with persistent insomnia, talk to your doctor. In some cases, correcting a hormonal imbalance unlocks consistent, high-quality sleep. 

Exacerbate and contribute to mental illness

Lack of sleep is clearly linked to poor mental health, but sleep becomes even more crucial if you already have a mental disease or are managing some of its symptoms.

Why? Now let’s examine the cyclical association between sleep and a few particular mental health conditions:


Rest is important, but getting adequate sleep won’t make anxiety go away. Anxiety symptoms might be brought on by insomnia. Consequently, anxiousness may impede one’s ability to fall asleep.


While insomnia might increase your chances of developing depression, sleep disruptions are a defining sign of severe depressive illness.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD):

While some people experience depression symptoms throughout the year, most persons with SAD experience them in the winter. Since sleep issues are one of the main symptoms of SAD, doctors look for them when diagnosing patients.

Bipolar disorder:

Whether you have a manic or depressive phase, this illness can severely disrupt your sleep patterns. That’s especially problematic because sleep disruptions might exacerbate your symptoms.

Borderline personality disorder:

Improving your sleep quality is especially crucial if you have BPD, as it increases your likelihood of experiencing sleep issues and exacerbates your symptoms when you don’t get enough sleep.

Speak with a specialist if you have ongoing sleep issues along with signs of a mental health issue.


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