How Mental Health and Sleep are Connected and Its Effect

It is becoming harder and harder for people around the globe to maintain a quality sleeping routine and that is taking a major toll on their mental health. Sleep deprivation can be easily identified thanks to its physical effects such as obesity, back pain, dull skin, puffy eyes, etc. But have you ever imagined that lack of proper sleep can indicate towards certain underlying mental health conditions?

That’s right! Failing to keep up a good sleep health can lead to mental health conditions like stress, anxiety, reduced self-esteem, etc. These conditions in turn can further deteriorate the sleep quality and push you towards a vicious cycle that can become very hard to escape. Let us therefore look at some of the mental and psychological effects of sleep deprivation to try and understand how sleep affects mental health.

1. Stress

Emotional stress can be brought up by a number of everyday worries related to things like money, illness, attachments, time, etc. The stress hormone called cortisol produced by the adrenal glands, sees a spike when the body doesn’t receive the right sleep quality. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are useful for responding to situations that need a heightened level of attention. However, prolonged periods of elevated stress can interfere with the production of melatonin, the natural sleep hormone of the body produced by the pineal gland. Activities like exercise, meditation, yoga, etc., are considered beneficial for combating everyday stress.

2. Anxiety

Sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of anxiety along with other factors like trauma, too much stress, exposure to drugs, etc. Dealing with anxiety and anxiety disorders becomes tougher when your body misses out on the restful night of sleep on a constant basis. Anxiety disorders like panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorders are marked by excessive worrying and heightened response to everyday activities. Such conditions are often accompanied with other physical and mental issues such as excessive sweating, nausea, troubled breathing, etc. Of the numerous studies done on the relation between sleep deprivation and anxiety disorders, this study in particular suggests that people suffering with anxiety disorders are at an increased risk of experiencing insomnia and nightmares.

3. Depression

Depression is a mental health condition marked by feelings of loss and excessive sadness. Apart from reasons like death of a close person, history of physical or sexual abuse, genetic vulnerability, etc., a lack of sleep is also a major contributor of depression. People suffering with depression, especially children, are also at a greater risk of experiencing sleep disorders like insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, sleep paralysis, etc. Some of the symptoms associated with these sleep disorders such as shortness of breath and inability to move while asleep are also observed among people suffering with depression. Researchers in the past have also noticed that people with depression are less likely to respond to the treatments prescribed to them. These patients have also been found to experience reduced REM sleep and slow-wave sleep.

That said, recent studies have shed light on the use of sleep deprivation as a mode of therapeutic treatment of symptoms of depression. The researchers Henner Giedke and Frank Schwärzler write: “Total sleep deprivation (TSD) for one whole night improves depressive symptoms in 40-60% of treatments.”


People suffering with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD, especially teenagers, are known to have trouble falling asleep easily in the night. ADHD is marked by the display of hyperactivity and a heightened level of impulsiveness. This medical condition that makes it harder for people to stay focused at a task for longer periods of time is mostly brought on by genetic factors or an injury to the brain. As children with ADHD continue to grow, they experience more and more symptoms of sleep disorders where they struggle to remain asleep, feel restless, and have a tough time dozing off.

5. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition where people experience rapid mood fluctuations which can range from episodes of mania to episodes of severe depression. People suffering with bipolar disorder are less likely to complete the required 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. This makes sleep disorders like insomnia one of the leading symptoms of bipolar disorder. Although people with bipolar can generally go along with their day-to-day work without feeling the need to complete their daily dose of sleep, it is essential to incorporate healthy sleep tips to maintain proper immunity. Go through this handy list of sleep tips from to achieve a restful night of sleep on a regular basis.

6. Low Self-Esteem

Lack of proper sleep can lead to issues like lack of concentration, reduced work efficiency, impaired memory consolidation and decreased ability to learn new things. All these issues can in turn give birth to a low self-esteem that in turn creates further trouble in falling asleep. According to a group of researchers who in 2013 published their work in the International Journal of Behavioural Medicine, participants who slept less than 7 to 8 hours of night sleep had a poorer self-esteem and reduced sense of optimism.

7. Mood

It is common for sleep deprived individuals to wake up with a feeling of grogginess and increased irritability. Researchers in the past have stated that about one-third of the patients with chronic sleep problems experience mood disorders. Feelings of extreme anger or sadness can in turn worsen other symptoms of sleep deprivation. Considering what one night of poor sleep can do to a person’s mood, it is advisable to create a perfect sleeping environment and work towards building a good body posture.

Bottom line:

With all the advancement that civilizations are making in modern sciences, the impact of sleep on mental health issues are finally getting their fair share of attention. While some mental health issues can only be treated with proper medication and therapy, getting adequate amount of restful sleep in the night can definitely help by facilitating the treatment. We hope that the points mentioned above help you better understand how sleep affects mental health and vice versa.


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