How poor sleep can affect mental health

How poor sleep can affect mental health

As we spend one-third of our lives on sleep, it is undoubtedly an integral part of our well-being. Taking care of your sleep habits can not only benefit your body but also your mind. 

When we have poor sleep, it can be difficult to deal with stress, anxiety and the regulation of our emotions. Here, we explain how poor sleep can affect your mental health. 

Why is sleep so important to our mental well-being?

When we wake up every morning after a good night’s sleep, many report feeling renewed both physically and mentally. But, if the opposite happens, our moods are affected and our minds can feel foggy. 

Modern research has given clues as to how sleep is critical to our bodies, especially our mental health. Insufficient sleep has been found to boost negative emotional responses to stressors while driving down positive emotions. 

Sleep directly affects brain and body functions that are responsible for processing daily experiences, and managing emotions and behaviors. Cognitive skills such as learning, memory, and attention can be difficult to cope with even if they are minor when we have poor sleep. 

The psychological effects of sleep deprivation

Not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of mental health disorders. In the past, it was thought that insomnia was a mere symptom of psychological disorders, but recent research shows it can also contribute to them. Anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation can be greatly impacted and worsened when sleep is poor. 

In sleep deprivation studies, healthy people began to experience increased distress levels and anxiety after experiencing poor sleep. For those with existing mental health disorders, chronic sleep problems can make them worse, with an increased risk for suicide. 

Despite the evidence concluding that poor sleep can affect your mental health, there is some good news. With the advancement of technology and modern research, there are more resources to help guide you down the path of better sleep. 

Sleep recommendations by age

The amount of sleep one needs is generally dependent on one’s age. Children and teens are recommended to get more sleep than adults. Teens typically need 8 to 10 hours of sleep, while adults need an average of 7 to 8 hours of sleep. 

Individual differences in chronotypes, the natural inclination of your body to feel more alert at specific periods of the day, can also play a role in the time and length of your sleep. Night owls and early birds are the two most well-known chronotypes that describe when a person is naturally inclined to sleep. 

Factors that influence sleep

Changes to your daily routine, stress, exercise, caffeine intake, and physical health can all influence your sleep. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people began to work from home. Changes in work environments can affect the amount of light-based cues that help keep your circadian rhythm on a regular schedule. More time in bed and less activity or exercise can interfere with sleep as it can reduce sleep drive. 

Sleep disturbances such as problems falling or staying asleep, sleeping for a decreased amount of time, and experiencing low-quality sleep have been reported in alarming numbers since the pandemic started. 

What to do if you are struggling to sleep well

If you are struggling to sleep well, there are many resources that can help you determine the cause of poor sleep. From consulting a sleep disorder physician to creating a sleep plan with the help of a counselor, it is important to consider your sleep as a vital part of your day. For those with mental health struggles, it is important to see a qualified psychiatrist and/or psychologist who can issue medications and therapy to help you manage your mental health.

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