Much like the rest of your body, your brain needs sleep to operate at its full potential. In fact, sleep and mental health have quite a symbiotic relationship. How you sleep affects your mental health, and your mental health affects how you sleep.
You’ve probably noticed that after even one bad night’s sleep, you don’t feel quite like yourself in the morning. You might be sluggish, irritable, unfocused, or just plain down. This is because much like the rest of your body, your brain needs sleep to operate at its full potential. In fact, sleep and mental health have quite a symbiotic relationship. How you sleep affects your mental health, and your mental health affects how you sleep.
The Effect Sleep Has On Mental Health
Sleep is your brain's time to rest, refresh, and renew itself. During sleep, your brain is processing and filtering new memories, gathering and downloading new information, and processing and storing emotions. When you don’t get enough sleep or aren’t getting good quality sleep, it can result in having trouble concentrating, feelings of anxiety, irritability, and impulsivity, or difficulty controlling your emotions and reactions.
Sleep and Anxiety
While sleep can contribute to feelings of anxiety, having an anxiety disorder can directly impact the quality of your sleep, perpetuating the cycle of poor sleep and anxiety. Regularly feeling stress, anxiety, or panic means your nervous system is constantly in a heightened state and unable to calm itself down enough for you to fall asleep, or, once asleep, results in frequent sleep disturbances. You might even start to worry about how little sleep you’re getting, further contributing to the problem!
Sleep and Depression
Sleeping problems can be both a symptom and a factor in depression. Conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea result in poor sleep quality, which can lead to developing depression. Depression itself can result in insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, or even hypersomnia, which is sleeping too much.
Sleep and ADHD
ADHD is very commonly associated with sleep problems in both children and adults, including frequent sleep disturbances, difficulty falling asleep or waking up, or restless leg syndrome. Poor sleep can also exacerbate some symptoms of ADHD, like difficulty concentrating or poor behavior regulation.
How To Improve Sleep and Mental Health
While it may seem like an endless loop of poor sleep that leads to mental health problems that lead to even more poor sleep, the reciprocal relationship between the two also means that focusing on improving your sleep, in tandem with further mental health treatment, can have a direct and positive impact on your mental health. Always make sure you talk to a doctor about mental health issues and sleep problems, as they can recommend therapy, sleep studies, or sleep medication. However, there are ways you can step up your bedtime routine to promote better sleep quality at home. Things like exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, or having a set sleep schedule can go a long way toward finding your best sleep. Use a sleep-tracking app such as SleepWatch to track your sleep rhythm, analyze which habits result in better sleep, and receive smart bedtime and alarm reminders.
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Cherry, Kendra. “How Sleep Affects Mental Health.” Verywell Mind, 30 Aug. 2022, https://www.verywellmind.com/how-sleep-affects-mental-health-4783067.
“Sleep and Mental Health: Why Our Brains Need Sleep.” Primary Care Collaborative, 29 Sept. 2022, https://www.pcpcc.org/resource/sleep-and-mental-health-why-our-brains-need-sleep.
Suni, Eric. “Mental Health and Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 15 Apr. 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health.